How to Get Hyperactive Learners to Like Reading

Updated: May 7

The hardest part about trying to teach hyperactive kids is to get them to sit still long enough to hear what you are trying to say to them. OR, if you do get them to sit still… to get them to actually hear what you are saying. Most of the time when my own kids finally are sitting still it’s because they are off in their own world, and don’t hear anything I am saying. This, however, doesn’t mean that it is hopeless. In fact, be happy, as studies have shown that hyperactivity at young ages can actually be giftedness later on.


But right now, you just want to make sure they can learn their ABC’s or how to count to 100… so how do you get the to pick this up? have you ever heard of “if you can’t beat them join them?” well that exactly what we recommend here at Tabletop Teaching… stop trying to get your kids to do what you want. Get loud, get hyper, get moving… just add literacy to the games you kids ALREADY want to play. Now, you have their attention. And now, finally, after so very very long, they are ready to hear you.


chalk activities for hyperactive kids

Literacy Games with Chalk for Hyperactive Toddlers


Create chalk drawings outside with random letters or groups of letters in different spots. Jump on certain “sounds” in the form of a letter. You can also have your kids create a letter pattern where they must jump on the correct “sounds” to reach the end of the trail. If they fall they’re in lava!


Optionally you could write out the entire alphabet and throw rocks at it, when the rock lands the person whose turn it is must identify the letter and the sounds it makes. Add in the “Every Letter Makes a Sound” song if your child loves to sing as well.


yoga for hyperactive kids

Active Toddlers Love Yoga and Dance


Play a yoga or dance game where you draw a card. No one else can look at it, and you try to bend yourself into the shape of that letter. Get everyone else to guess which letter you are. If anyone gets stuck then it’s okay to give clues by saying words that start with the drawn letter as you bend. The bending can be done lying down or standing. This is a fun and silly way to build understanding of letter and sound recognition. 


racing games for hyperactive kids

Racing Games that Build Literacy


What hyperactive kids don’t like to run? I’m sure there are a few, but for the most part, allowing your child the opportunity to run and read at the same time will be beneficial. Get a bunch of sticky notes or cards. Set a timer. Race around the house or backyard to see who can put the most sticky notes or cards onto objects that start with or have that letter in the word. Repeat as many times as you have the energy to play this fast paced game!


building block games for hyperactive kids

Building Blocks for the Young Engineer


Building blocks and other building toys are fun to play with for all kids. It’s sometimes the only kind of toy a physically active or hyperactive children can sit down and play with. So take advantage of this! For example, take a block set and divide them into three categories. One with a set of nouns written on them, one with a set of regularly used sight words, and one set with a group of verbs.


Then, have your child build a story by putting the blocks together to form sentences. Similarly use a ball and basket, throw one ball from each category into a basket and read the silly sentence created by the game. This can also be done by jumping onto the words that are taped to the ground, or simply have them read whatever words they jump on. Repeat again and again. 

movement moments for hyperactive kids

The Importance of Movement Moments


Expectations and how we think about learning needs to change. Children learn through many different facets, movement is one of them. Many children are tactical learners, and need to touch, play, and do. Movement moments are now a big part of preschool learning. Even high school teachers are learning that brain breaks with stretching and dance time help children refocus and learn.


If you grew up during a time where it was instant trouble or punishment for not being able to sit still, know times are changing. Neuroscience is backing movement moments. So, don’t think you need to teach your children to sit still and learn while you talk or read. Making story time, writing time, fun and interactive is what’s best for your young learner. They like to play and be active? Find what they love to do, talk to them about it, have them do art project about what they love and tell you a story about their picture.


Let them be silly. Let them stand instead of sit while they trace and write letters, words, and sentences. Get them up and moving for your letter recognition and reading lesson time. Why force them to sit and be still? They will always break that rule and it isn’t their fault.


A Time for Everything


There is a time and a place for sitting and being still. Usually after you’ve finished your movement moment and allowed them to get out their pent up energy. As a parent and a teacher I allow my kids to get their wiggles out, stand by their desk or table. I set timers for time where kids must sit and timers for being out of their seat moving around.


I never make my high school students stay seated unless they have a test or I’m teaching a lesson at the front of the class. When I teach, or lecture I limit the time I’m allowed to speak. However old your child is, divide their age in half. That is how many minutes you’re allowed to explain or teach them something. Once you’ve hit that time limit, stop talking and let them repeat to you what you are trying to teach them or let them do the thing you’re teaching them about.


This even applies to adults! Neuroscience has recently learned that this formula mirrors our attention span before we start daydreaming or get distracted. It is also how long we can listen and actually retain information. Take this into consideration as you’re teaching your active kids, and forgive them when they have trouble focusing.


Chunking Activities Reduce Boredom


If your child gets bored easily, make everything into a game or a competition. Maybe offer incentives or prizes for winning. This means you might have to practice writing your letters too, and whoever does the nicest job by the time the timer goes off wins. Be creative and think about what motivates your child the most. Also think about how this could be fun for you as well! If you are having fun, your kids will have fun as well. Have a letter of the week? Everyone can dress up as something that starts with that letter. The options are endless.


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