“Sitting is my least favorite part of school,” said my 4-year-old daughter, Capri, when I asked her about preschool. She rarely sits at home and while I understand there are certain times when sitting is necessary (eating meals, for example) I don’t think we should have our children constantly sitting in school. Most children are naturally curious and therefore they need to explore. Children are also natural movers so they are unsurprisingly wigglers. They have to move their little bodies because they have so much pent up energy. And think about the kids that have been diagnosed with a hyperactive disorder. They are always wanting to move but are told to just sit still for long periods during class.
Wiggle Chairs and Exercise Balls
I came across the video below online and thought now this is something that Capri would love to have in the classroom. In this classroom, students are not sitting on typical chairs (but they are still available for those children who prefer them). Instead, students are sitting on exercise balls or wobble chairs that move back and forth like a big spring toy you’d find at the playground. They also have the option to sit on floor pillows or plush bath mats on the floor with lower tables. What a concept!
I shared this video on my Facebook wall, not thinking much else about it. But I woke up to a couple of comments from my friends. One friend is a preschool teacher and mom to two young men, one now in college and the other a high school senior. She started the conversation by saying that her youngest son would’ve benefited from these chairs or balls in elementary school because his teacher’s always said he just couldn’t sit still. “Actually, come to think of it, he could still use them now!” she said.
Another friend said her son’s 3rd grade teacher just purchased big exercise balls for her classroom because she agreed that the kids just had the wiggles.
And finally, another friend, also a teacher, was concerned about teaching children to just sit still when necessary. “Isn’t that what recess is for, getting the wiggles out?” he asked.
Better Focused Equals Better Learning
When children are too busy fidgeting in their seats, they are typically not paying attention to what is being taught. However, if children have the ability to wiggle in their “seats” then they will be able to listen better, with a clearer mind. Multitasking at its finest!
While there are not any studies completed about the difference in children who sit in regular chairs versus children in wiggle chairs, teachers who do use them say they are seeing a difference in their learning.
Children are eager to learn, but typically want to do so in a way that works best for them. There are visual learners, oral learners, hands-on learners, and those, like my daughter, that like to learn on the run. She learns best when we make things into games where she can move around. So by allowing her the opportunity to technically be moving while she is learning, I know this is how she would learn best!
Children Need to Release Their Energy
A 2015 study by researchers at the University of California, Davis MIND Institute found that fidgeting for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder may actually help them think. This doesn’t mean that every child who does better in a non-traditional sitting chair has a disorder, but it does make you think a bit deeper into the active child.
Children are typically on the move from sun up until sun down most days. I know most parents would agree with me that we all wish we had the energy our children have! But today, we are witnessing children being told to sit still more often, especially now that technology is even more accessible and hands-on for the younger child.
But when children sit still a majority of the day, they haven’t had the opportunity to get the wiggles out, to get their blood pumping and get that pent up energy out! There is no way around traditional classroom sit and learn situations, but there are obviously new ways to help children experience innate physical movement that their bodies crave while still learning!
A Worthwhile Expense
The wobble chairs in the video above are not cheap. They sell for almost $70 on Amazon.com. Most teachers who have these in the classroom have done fundraising or have started Go Fund Me pages to raise enough money to make the purchase themselves. Same with the exercise balls.
But can we truly put a price on our children’s best way of learning? I know that I will do whatever it takes to make sure that I can teach my son and daughter in the ways they learn best. I know there are obviously limitations to this, but I would hope that if teachers and parents agree that something as simple as letting children pick a “chair” they want to sit in can help with learning, that schools would support this concept for use in classrooms.
Have you seen or heard about these different kinds of chairs prior to reading this post? If you have children, or are a teacher, I’d love to know what you think about them and if your children would do better sitting in them versus a regular chair.