My firstborn, Marit, loved snuggling up with Mommy and a pile of picture books from the time she was just a wisp of a thing. She would make a great big ol’ stack of books and happily sit while we read every one.
Erik, the next in line, was not big on sitting still for any reason whatsoever. We could make it through Where’s Spot, with his eager fingers opening those flaps the instant the page was turned, but nothing longer and wordier for quite some time.
One day, when they were about 6 and 4, I was reading The Children’s Homer to Marit. This is a long, pictureless chapter book, with the ancient stories told masterfully by Padraic Colum. Erik was playing in the vicinity, but showed no sign of paying us the least attention. That evening at dinner– surprise, surprise! — he launched into a detailed, faithful account of all we’d read that day, even nailing the tricky Greek names. Well!
I’ve learned many things from all of my kids, but here is what I learned from 4-year-old Erik that day: some kids listen best when they’re not sitting still.
In our family, where we’ve read extensively aloud, this has meant I make sure to provide fidgeting options for the fidgeters during stories. We have tried to outlaw Excessively Distracting Fidgeting. This includes, for example, roughhousing with the dog. Sorting through bins of clickety-clattering Legos. Building and collapsing Jenga towers. Foosball. As well as Activities Which Zap Listening, such as computer of any kind or complicated jigsaw puzzles.
Here, however, is a list of some of the fidgeting options we’ve come up with:
coloring books of all sorts
cutting out paper dolls
whittling (around the campfire)
rubber band geoboards
pre-dumped -out Legos
tracing pictures out of books
bouncing a tennis ball off the wall…softly!
setting up gazillions of toy cars in various configurations
folding the clean laundry
Today, I want to encourage you to have mercy on the fidgeters in your life, who truly listen best while their hands are busy. Collect some fidgeting options, get them out before story time, and make ‘em all happy!