How to Calm Hyperactive Children

Hyperactive children may fidget, have difficulty concentrating, be unable to sit still, or generally be overexcited. This can result due to overexcitement or unmet needs, or it can be a sign of a condition like ADHD. Start by following a healthy lifestyle, developing routines, and giving your child "kid time" to get their energy out. If this doesn't help, talk to your child's doctor about their hyperactivity.


[Edit]Following a Healthy Lifestyle

  1. Develop routines. Kids thrive on routine, and knowing what activities will be happening in the day can help give them a sense of stability. Schedule wake-up time, mealtimes, activities, free time, and bedtime. Routines for each activity—for instance, bedtime routines—will help your child feel more secure and can help them wind down.[1]
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    • You don't need to plan out every moment of your child's day, but having a schedule can help them feel more secure.
    • Be careful not to overschedule. Having too many activities in a day can be exhausting to your child. Give them downtime, too.[2]
  2. Feed your child a balanced diet. There's no special diet to decrease hyperactivity in children.[3] However, all children benefit from eating healthy foods, drinking enough water, and cutting back on the amount of junk food they eat. Make sure that your child is eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as grains, proteins, and omega-3 acids.[4]
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    • Foods high in omega-3 include fish, chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, and soybeans.[5]
    • Some people recommend cutting out food additives and dyes. While studies are inconclusive on whether this is effective, it may help children with food allergies or sensitivities, so it doesn't hurt to try.[6]
  3. Ensure your child is getting enough sleep. While it sounds contradictory, if your child isn't getting enough sleep, that can actually cause them to become restless and hyperactive.[7] Getting enough sleep can reduce their hyperactivity, and is important for their health in general. Try to make sure that your child goes to bed at a reasonable hour and sleeps through the night.
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    • Toddlers between 12 months and two years old should be getting around 11 to 14 hours of sleep, including their naps. Children between 3 and 5 years old need between 10 and 13 hours of sleep per night.[8]
    • Kids between 6 and 12 years old need between 9 and 12 hours, and teens need between 8 and 10 hours.[9]
    • If your child frequently has difficulty falling asleep, often wakes in the middle of the night, or shows signs of a sleep disorder, make an appointment with their doctor.
  4. Make sure your child gets exercise. All kids need an outlet for their energy, and exercising can help reduce hyperactivity.[10] The World Health Organization recommends that all children ages 5 and older get at least one hour of exercise per day, and there's many ways to work this into your child's schedule.[11] You can:
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    • Walk with your child to school, if you live close enough.
    • Take them to the park to play on the playground or ride their bike.
    • Go to an indoor play area with your child.
    • Practice yoga or tai chi with your child.
    • Try sports that they enjoy. (Keep in mind that some kids may dislike organized sports and prefer playing on their own or with friends.)
    • Look for extracurriculars that get them active, like martial arts or dance classes.
    • If you're stuck inside, try hopscotch in the hallway, playing volleyball with a balloon, or dancing to music.[12]
    • Consider downloading or buying exercise games or apps.
  5. Reduce screen time. While computers, phones, and TV can be beneficial to kids, too much use of these can cause inattention and potentially increase hyperactivity.[13][14] Overuse of electronics and social media can also keep your child away from exercise, socialization, and other necessary lifestyle components. Reducing your child's time on electronic devices can help them settle down.
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    • Allow your child a set amount of screen time for necessities, like schoolwork, and limit the amount of time they spend online, texting, or watching TV. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under 18 months, one hour per day for children ages 2 to 5, and to set "reasonable limits" after that age.)[15]
    • For younger children, use "tech time" for educational programs or apps and seeing family or friends on video chat. Encourage their play to be in real life, not on the screen.[16]
    • Don't let anyone watch TV or use phones or computers while eating. Use this time for talking instead. (You may also want to ban electronic devices from certain rooms, such as bedrooms.)[17]
    • Have your child get off their devices at least an hour before they go to bed. (You may also want to use a blue light filter on their devices.)[18]
  6. Minimize stress. If your child is under stress, or detects that you're under stress, they might become rambunctious. Make sure that your child is getting any needed support at home and school, give them downtime, and work on reducing any stressors in the household that might be affecting them.[19]
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    • Life stressors—like moving house, parents separating, a birth or death in the family, financial issues, or starting a new school—can cause hyperactivity in children. Check in with your child regularly and help them cope.[20]
    • Avoid exposing your child to things that might frighten them, such as scary or violent movies or news stories involving violence.
  7. Spend time with your child. If your child feels ignored or neglected, they may become hyperactive or noisy to get your attention.[21] You can reduce this by giving your child your full attention for set amounts of time per day, and letting them spend time with you.
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    • Eat meals together.
    • Play together. Learn about what your child likes, and let them talk about it and explain it to you.
    • Read books together, and read them bedtime stories.
    • Let your child come to you when they need to talk, and give them your full attention. (Don't force them to talk if they don't want to, however.)

[Edit]Planning Activities

  1. Consider what your child is capable of. Young children are energetic by nature; a first-grader isn't ready to sit at a desk for an entire day. Some children are also just more energetic than others. If your child is young, you may need to readjust your expectations of what they can do.[22]
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    • Younger children generally need to move more; three-year-olds can usually only sit still for around five to ten minutes, while five-year-olds can only sit for around 15. By the time they're seven, they should be able to sit still for around 25 minutes.[23]
  2. Communicate your expectations clearly. Without clear understanding of what's okay and what's not, your child might act in a way that appears hyperactive, when they simply don't know better. Clearly explain what's expected of them, so they know what they should be doing.[24][25]
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    • "We walk when we're in the doctor's office."
    • "Indoor voice, please."
    • "Be gentle with your friend."
    • "Feet on the floor."
  3. Allow non-disruptive fidgeting. For some kids, making them sit still and hold in their energy can actually increase their hyperactivity, and can also reduce their focus. If a child's fidgeting isn't bothering anyone, let them fidget. (This is especially important for kids with conditions like ADHD, sensory processing disorder, or autism.)[26]
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    • Some kids stay calmer with stress balls or quiet fidget toys, while others end up distracted by them. Let your child try them and see if it helps.[27]
    • If the fidgeting becomes disruptive, gently remind your child to rein it in, or offer an alternative.
  4. Choose calm activities. Kids can end up overexcited by energetic or fast-paced activities, so you might want to pick activities that aren't likely to get them riled up. Examples of quiet and calming activities can include:
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    • Reading books
    • Coloring or drawing
    • Making crafts
    • Singing calm songs
    • Playing with toys like play-dough, slime, or bubbles
  5. Offer positive feedback, and ignore minor disruptions. Praising your child for what you want them to do will have a better effect than constantly scolding or punishing them for doing the wrong thing. Focus on giving praise, and ignoring behavior that isn't positive.[28]
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    • Praise specific behaviors. Instead of "Nice work!", say, "I'm proud of you for working so hard on your homework, and taking a break when you got frustrated." Instead of "Thank you," say, "Thank you for raising your hand and waiting until I called on you."
    • Only intervene with negative behaviors if it's actually causing a problem (for instance, if your child starts roughhousing with others or distracting other children).
  6. Make time for breaks. Anyone benefits from taking periodic breaks from whatever they're doing, and this is even more important for hyperactive kids so that they don't get restless. Plan breaks into your child's schedule so they get some downtime to relax, run around, or do whatever will help them burn off their energy.[29]
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    • Breaks may not need to involve physical activity. Your child might prefer downtime where they can just do something relaxing, like drawing or listening to music.
    • In a classroom environment, your child might benefit from being a classroom helper—for instance, helping to pass out papers or wipe off the whiteboard.[30]
  7. Learn to curtail overexcitement. Some kids are high-energy and excitable, which can result in hyperactivity that upsets others or boils over into frustration. If you notice your child getting overexcited, there are ways to calm them down.[31]
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    • Give warnings before changing activities. Make these warnings tangible (like "One more round and then we're moving on").
    • Redirect your child's attention if you notice them getting excited or frustrated, and guide them to another activity.[32][33]
    • Separate them from the situation for a moment so they have a chance to wind down.[34]

[Edit]Encouraging Calming Activities

  1. Encourage mindfulness. Mindfulness is a strategy that helps keeps anyone—kids and adults alike—in the moment. It's particularly useful for hyperactive kids, who might be struggling with strong emotions or self-control.[35][36] You can find many mindfulness techniques for children online, depending on their age.
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    • Have your child focus on their breathing. Encourage them to focus on how their breath feels going through their nose, down into their chest, and then how it feels when they release their breath.
    • Take them to a calm place outdoors, if possible. While walking with them, encourage them to pay attention to the sounds, physical feelings, and smells they might be experiencing.
    • When your child is feeling a strong emotion, encourage them to pay attention to how they feel.
  2. Create a calming space. Dedicate a corner of a room, a nook, or other small space to making a space that the child can sit in by themselves. Put pillows, stuffed animals, books, fidget toys, and other cozy items in this space. This is not a time-out space where they go when they are in trouble. Instead, this is a space where they feel safe and can get a chance to relax.[37]
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    • This space can also be used to help children learn how to take a break when they're angry, sad, or otherwise emotional.
  3. Use guided imagery and meditation. Meditating is, for any age, a good way to calm the mind and body. When children are unable to handle thinking about stressful situations, you can help them visualize how they can respond to those situations. This can help calm them down. Search online for examples of these, or find a book at your local library on meditation and guided imagery for children.
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    • For example, have the child sit and close their eyes. Ask them to imagine a calm space, like a beach or a forest. Have them pay attention to the sounds that they hear, the wind they feel on their face, and the details they see around them. Using a regular imagined calming space can be helpful.
  4. Practice breathing techniques. Teach your child how to take deep breaths to relax. Take a deep breath in through the nose and slowly breathe out through the mouth. This simple strategy can be used by your child to calm down in almost any situation, and can even be used before bed to help your child wind down.[38]
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    • Have your child think about their legs while breathing deeply and rhythmically. Have them tighten up their leg muscles when they inhale, and relax those muscles with every exhale. Go through different parts of the body until the entire body is relaxed.
    • Have your child curl their hands into fists. Have them inhale slowly, and then as they slowly exhale, have them uncurl a finger. Repeat until all of their fingers are uncurled.[39]
    • Have your child imagine a warm color or light that surrounds them as they breathe. Imagine this color or light wraps them up to calm them down.
  5. Give your child a journal to write in. If your child is old enough to write, go to the store with them and have them pick out a notebook or journal for themselves. Journaling allows for your child to express their feelings and reflect on situations they might have had trouble with. This is particularly helpful if you suspect your child is under stress or is having a difficult time, but it can be useful for any child (especially preteens and teenagers!).[40][41]
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    • Do not read your child’s journal. They should feel that they can be totally honest in their journal, and respecting their privacy will help them feel safe enough to write what is really on their mind.[42]

[Edit]When to Seek Medical Care

  1. See a doctor if your child also has trouble focusing. Lots of activity can be normal for kids, but if your child also seems daydreamy or is so hyperactive that they can't focus, it's possible there could be something else going on. See a pediatrician if your child is showing signs like:[43][44]
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    • Forgetfulness, difficulty paying attention, not seeming to listen, or disorganization and messiness
    • Blurting things out, talking excessively, often switching activities without finishing them, or physically impulsive behavior
    • Losing things frequently, or not turning in homework assignments
    • Avoiding certain activities or school subjects, or misbehaving when it's time for these
    • Difficulty with school, academic subjects, or poor grades
  2. Look for a doctor if you notice unusual sensory responses. If a child is undersensitive to certain stimulus, they might be hyperactive as an attempt to fulfill that need. Some kids may also become restless when exposed to sensory stimuli that's painful or stressful to them, which can look like hyperactivity.[45] Sensory processing issues might look like:[46]
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    • Not noticing sounds, smells, tastes, visuals, or physical sensations (like injury)
    • Being overly sensitive to sounds, smells, tastes, visuals, or physical sensations
    • Seeking out a lot of activity, and/or being too rough while playing
    • Loving swings or car rides—or, conversely, getting dizzy with these
    • Repetitive behaviors (also called stims) like hand-flapping, rocking, or spinning
  3. Talk to your pediatrician if you notice signs of stress. Some kids might struggle with hyperactivity if they have an untreated mental health issue, like anxiety, or are struggling with abuse or a traumatic event.[47] Your pediatrician will be able to advise you on how to help reduce your child's stress, and can determine if your child might be struggling with their mental health.
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    • Your child might benefit from therapy if there's a stressful life event going on.
    • Mental health conditions like anxiety disorders are typically treated with therapy, and a doctor may suggest medication for adolescents.
  4. Get your child tested for other health problems. Some physical health problems can increase hyperactivity in kids, whether as a symptom of the condition or as a side effect. If your child's hyperactivity seems sudden, unusual, or excessive, or your child doesn't seem to be feeling their best, it's best to get a doctor involved. Conditions that can cause hyperactivity in kids include:[48]
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    • Deficiencies in certain nutrients
    • Sleep disorders
    • Overactive thyroid
  5. Take your child to a doctor if their hyperactivity is dangerous. Some children are so hyperactive that they injure themselves frequently, and may even break bones, sustain head injuries, or need stitches. If your child's hyperactivity is to the point where they're frequently in the ER or doctor's office, talk to their doctor to determine the cause and how to treat it.
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  • You might have luck with making a hand signal between you and your child that reminds them to calm down.[49]
  • Some kids benefit from listening to music while they work on homework, but others find it distracting. You might want to give it a try.
  • A few studies on children with ADHD found that regular massages helped decrease hyperactive behavior. While massages haven't been suggested as an official treatment for hyperactivity, it might help.
  • A child who's excitable or energetic doesn't necessarily have ADHD. Young kids are naturally on-the-go. However, you should consider the possibility of ADHD if their hyperactivity is making it difficult for them to function at home or school.[50]


  • Some resources may recommend nutritional supplements to treat hyperactivity. However, if your child doesn't actually have any deficiencies, giving them supplements can be harmful to their health.[51] Get them tested for deficiencies before giving them supplements.
  • There's little evidence to suggest that essential oils will help hyperactivity, and they can potentially cause problems for kids with breathing issues such as asthma. Talk to a doctor before using them.[52]

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[Edit]Quick Summary

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