Monday, July 18, 2011


One of the things I find to be essential with high energy kids is acceptance. It is all too easy to get in the mode of hushing them, trying to get them to "settle down", and getting in a pattern of frustration and dead ends. It is kind of like telling me to not be so tall... it is something I can't really do much about, unless I scrunch myself and that kind of makes it more obvious - plus, it has the chance to make me feel badly about being "so tall".

Little things can help. High energy kids are usually high *volume* as well: ear protectors, ear plugs and even headphones can help take the edge out of the high energy soundtrack.
All of these "noise reducers" filter out the volume, but still allow the wearer to hear, so they can talk and hear requests and such. Taking the edge off helps me focus and accept that this is who they are, just as I am tall.

Part of that acceptance is knowing that some places can be tricky or need to be postponed until such a time when they can manage their energy better. Sometimes, we can attend a classical quartet concert in a church - not frequently, but for special occasions. If we do head to something that is not a high energy-friendly place, I need to take along occupiers (for my kids, DS games and drawing notebooks & pencils fills the bill), and I need to accept that we may not be able to stay for the full event. If energy builds and threatens to burst, we need to leave early. Sometimes, there is an intermission or the ability to take a break, where we can walk around to help use some of that energy, or maybe we can take a run outside and that can help us stay for more of the event. Sometimes, we need to go somewhere beforehand and use up large amounts of energy and/or after the event. Sometimes, sitting close where I can rub a back or an arm or get in a hug or a snuggle will also help diffuse the energy. The key is knowing your kid, having lots of options and solutions in your "toolbox", and the ability to be flexible. This is far easier than taking a high energy kid somewhere and then trying to "conform" them into a "sitting quietly" kind of kid and possibly being embarrassed or disrupting other people's experience in the not-high-energy-friendly place.

Acceptance also means knowing that my energy doesn't match theirs and can't always keep up. I *do* need ear protection sometimes, to keep my nerves from jangling with the volume. I can make modifications where I can help out or be a watcher or participate in a small way when my kids need me to be *in* their action. Sometimes, I need to take a few minutes and go to a quiet place and lay back, do my deep breathing, close my eyes and let all the demands on my senses fall away, and refresh myself.

Acceptance means snacks. :~D My kids use up a *lot* of energy, so, most everywhere we go, I need to take water or drinks and some sort of snack. Wyl's blood sugar gets off if he doesn't eat regularly and that can make him grouchy or even nasty and he can't think well when his blood sugar is off. For a while, we traveled such distances, that I kept non-spoiling snacks in the car with us, but we're closer to home now and so used to taking things with us that I usually have at least a can of nuts or granola bars or crackers or even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with us. Depending on where we're headed, sometimes we can take a little picnic or even some fruit or raw vegetables, but nuts and breakfast/energy bars are easy and appropriate for almost anywhere.

Being the calm in the eye of the "energy storm" takes a certain kind of energy, and it is much easier to do once "acceptance" is learned. Practicing thinking outside the box and being prepared come easier with time.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bedroom JungleGym

I've been talking about doing this (blog) for a while, and was inspired by my youngest, today. It is winter here in Ohio, and not as easy to zip outside and use some of that built-up energy. We thought about trampoline, but as last night was below zero, Storm nixed that idea. He was tempted by the bedroom, though.

In our family bedroom, we have a progressive set up that has ended up being like a mini gym. First, our oldest, Wyl decided he didn't want to sleep alone anymore, so we got a free double bed from someone who was giving one away. We didn't have a frame for it, so my handy husband, Dave, constructed one from 2 x 4's and plywood. We crammed it in between our queen size bed and the wall. There is *just* enough room for the door to open with a hair's breadth of space between the edge of the door and our bed. Storm's crib was across a narrow area of walking space between 2 dressers & a closet on one side and a dresser on the other side. You couldn't fit anything else into that bedroom!

As Storm grew, the need for more sleeping space became apparent - especially since he has consistently been taller than other kids his age. So, when someone else we knew was giving away a loft bed, we grabbed it, quick! Dave modified the plywood that Wyl's mattress lay on, drilling/cutting holes just big enough for the legs of the loft bed to drop down into.
(just like this picture, but the opening for the ladder is on the left, rather than the right)
So, now we have a single, loft bed above a double bed, so the ladder wouldn't sit in the opening (double bed in the way - I'll try to get a picture and post it at some point), so we put it at the end. I wasn't worried about the opening, because the pillow is at the other end, and if they choose to go out through the opening, there, they come down on the double or the queen bed.

This is has given my children ideas of bedroom jungle gyms: They hold onto the bars and do all sorts of flipping, hanging somersaults, one-armed twisting and all sorts of interesting body contortions. It gives focus to that large energy, uses large muscle groups, gives them exercise, builds muscle and balance, stretches muscles, and best of all: is *fun*! I never realized what we had on our hands when I thought we were just putting in another sleeping spot, but my kids figured it out pretty quickly.

The bedroom has become a favorite winter place to play. Not only do we have our bed-gym, but it is also loads of fun to roll oneself up in a comforter like a burrito and inch around the beds like a caterpillar. We also have long tickle sessions, there - always stopping *immediately*, when requested. Sometimes, there is rolling and somersaults and wrestling on the big bed surface.

When this sort of use of the loft bed first started, we made sure to remind them about their past gymnastics lessons and how to tuck their chin in and drop onto their shoulders, rather than head or neck, and not to use the beds as a trampoline (some families do allow this, but as we have a 14' tramp in the back yard and have had 4 mattresses reduced to shreds of material and springs, we redirect jumping sessions outside.), and we're there 95% of the time when they're using up big energy in that room, so it's "safe". I put that in parenthesis, because there's always a chance of accidents: shins crashing, a wild arm whacking someone's face, a distance misjudged and a head bonking the headboard, but we've had very, very few of these, and those that we have had were very minor.

It's a bummer that not everyone can manage this setup for their high energy kids, but there are folks who have options *we* don't have (like basements with blow-up bounce houses! :~D ), and I'm really glad this worked out the way it did. Yay for kid ingenuity!