You know that really wiggly kid you have in your ministry? The one you immediately pictured when you read that sentence? You love them like crazy, but they tend to make noise when you tell stories, giggle during prayer, and take way more bathroom breaks than their friends. They still hear you when you teach, and your mentorship and love are important to them. They just can’t sit still during any of it. Here are five ways to help wiggly kids be successful!
1. Permission to Wiggle. First, it’s okay to let wiggly kids be a little wiggly. You don’t have to scold them every time they breakdance to the music instead of doing the carefully crafted song motions, or when they turn back and forth in their chair during the Bible story. Give yourself permission to give them permission to wiggle a little. It’s cool. Kids wiggle.
2. Something to Wiggle With. Try making some manipulatives available to keep little hands and feet busy. Try a stress toy (not a ball, so there’s no temptation to bounce it) or chenille stems (you know, those things we used to call pipe cleaners?) that they can twist around their fingers. For their feet, you can buy rolls of resistance bands to cut and tie horizontally around the legs of a chair so they go across like footrests. Kids can sit and bounce their feet on them. It’s quiet, and it keeps them moving! Keep a tub of manipulatives in each of your children’s ministry rooms.
3. Wiggles for All. Manipulatives don’t have to be just for wiggly kids. Make them available to any kid who wants one. This way, they aren’t seen as rewards for wiggling, nor are they used to single out the rowdy kids. If a wiggly kid needs a notepad and a pencil to keep their hands busy while you talk, give a less wiggly kid permission to do the same. Also, it’s okay to have rules around your manipulatives. Don’t let them become distracting. If the manipulatives are used to divert the attention of other kids, they might need to disappear for a while.
4. Wiggly Schedule. Plan your morning, evening, or service schedules in a way that doesn’t keep kids sitting for too long. Set kids up to be successful with planned breaks, stretches, or activity shifts.
5. Responsible Wigglers. It’s okay to give your wiggly kids some responsibilities every once in a while that get them up and moving. Maybe they could be ushers during worship, or erase the white board in Sunday school. These are positive ways to allow them to release their natural energy. Wiggly kids likely spend a lot of time being punished for their excessive wiggling. How great would it be if, in church, they got to be the ones helping instead of the ones in trouble?