“Why are you being so physical?”: and how might we be more physical?

I’ve realized that I say something sort of awful to Noah, fairly often. When he’s throwing himself around, in constant motion, apparently all body, and I’m finding it overwhelming in a too-much-sensory-input sort of way. I’ve realized I sometimes say: “Why are you being so physical?”

As though you can not be physical, right? Like, why are you inhabiting a body right now, huh? ’cause that’s really annoying!

So, okay, I’m training myself not to say that anymore. But two underlying realities remain:

  1. I’m beginning to suspect that perhaps I’m a little on the prone-to-sensory-overstimulation side of things, and that being sensitive to high levels of motion, noise, multiple simultaneous social interactions, and so forth doesn’t … mesh well … with the early years of the parenting gig.
  2. It’s the freaking winter in freaking Minnesota! So we all went from two or three long walks a day plus other outdoor activities, to basically nothing. No wonder he’s “being physical” (aka moving in ways that feel full of weird energy). The only person in our home getting enough exercise right now is the baby.

So, maybe you can help? Or commiserate? Here’s the scoop on #2 (hahaha like poop … sorry): Noah went through a liking yoga phase in the spring/summer, but he’s utterly uninterested in it now. We have no money, live in a small and cluttered apartment, and can only pursue physical activities that either involve the baby (at least in a carrier) or are quiet enough to occur during his naps. What to do? How have others dealt with this stuff? This article has some neat ideas, but we’ve found them difficult to implement very often in reality.

[Meanwhile, 15 minutes before this post is scheduled to go up, Noah has spent much of the morning running circles around our coffee table in an odd outfit while chatting nonstop about triathlons ... so I guess that's one idea?]

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  1. Posted 23 January 2013 at 2:04 PM | Permalink

    I have a very active 4-year-old. He’s in full-time daycare, and some days they get out and get enough exercise to satisfy him, but other days they don’t and he’s fractious and giddy and weirdly clumsy (ordinarily he is very well-coordinated) in the evenings. Sometimes when I’m tired out but he clearly needs to go out, we go out with a ball or a hula hoop and play a game where he has to chase it all over the little patch of grass beside our apartment. If he won’t get running on his own, then I have a timer and we time how long it takes him to run from one end of the little yard to the other. Good time! Can you beat it? And so on. I throw the ball or hoop and he gets to guess how many steps it would take to get to it, and then check. This is clearly not a rocket-science-level suggestion, but it can be surprisingly effective in 20 minutes. In general, I just try to keep him running constantly until he suggests going in. I could imagine doing this with a baby in the carrier inside my coat since I try to keep it less exertive for me and more for him, but it’s probably less cold where we are (Vancouver, BC). Though possibly more rainy.

    • Molly
      Posted 24 January 2013 at 11:18 AM | Permalink

      Along these same lines, having Noah ride his bike while we take leisurely walks in non-icy weather is great: he goes ahead and back, ahead and back, biking circles around us … Your thoughts are great for warmer times when we can go to parks, but the yard here is covered in ice/snow all winter and it’s currently -1 degrees F, so outside is sort of a no-go.

      “fractious and giddy and weirdly clumsy” is a great description of the phenomenon!

  2. Posted 23 January 2013 at 2:12 PM | Permalink

    Inside, we share a bedroom. I have a king-size bed on the floor, and a single bed at the foot of it vertically, which (unintentionally) made this long bouncy path and some days he’s content to run shrieking from end of it to the other endlessly, while constantly inventing new games about what he’s doing. He’s allowed to throw a beach ball in the bedroom since it can’t do any harm, and sometimes I sit on the floor and throw the beach ball at him as he runs back and forth (this was his suggestion). He has to fend it off, as Shover-Man, his superhero identity of the day. With the shrieking it’s probably not good for nap time, but I can imagine in our house it working with a baby rolling/crawling around on the floor and the kid in some constrained section of the room (on the beds in this case) not running over them.

  3. Posted 23 January 2013 at 7:57 PM | Permalink

    Oh sister, I hear you! Our apartment is 500 square feet and it’s been chilly! A couple things I do with V are day-time baths…she loves being in the water, I let her splash and flail like a maniac (some towels on the bathroom floor are a good idea)….we turn out the lights and use glow sticks in there…we use dish detergent and make bubbles to the ceiling…we paint with fingerpaints all over the shower walls. I also do yoga videos with her, which I know Noah isn’t into right now…but what about something like Zumba or some other dance-like aerobic activity? I just get on YouTube and find something to follow along to!

  4. Posted 23 January 2013 at 8:13 PM | Permalink

    I don’t have kids, but I nannied two very energetic boys all through grad school! To get their energy out we did lots of races in the backyard – races against each other, timed races, counting steps, you name it! We also played hockey/soccer/baseball in the driveway. But, of course, all of these things are outside! So in the winter we would do yoga and also exercise sets – push ups, jumping jacks, air punches (there is probably a real sports term for that), running in place, karate kicks, etc. We’d come up with numbers or let them count each other and for whatever reason they seemed to think it was exciting. Sometimes we’d also come up with “new” ballet jumps, which is surprisingly exhausting. Bear crawls and crab walks were also frequent. And sword fighting – on the violent side, but the parents had no problem with it and it kept them busy for ever! Sometimes we’d play music and just dance like crazy people. None of this is particularly novel, but it seemed to work.

    We also read the Little House on the Prairie books, so we would pretend like we were stuck in a log cabin and boil milk and make butter and do “prairie-esque” things. :-)

  5. Posted 23 January 2013 at 10:07 PM | Permalink

    From the having-no-money angle, when I was in AmeriCorps and we got paid a very minimal stipend, we all signed up for the YMCA and applied for their sliding scale program. I think the Y in general tries to be accessible for everyone regardless of ability to pay. I’ve lived close to various Ys with various levels of kid-play opportunities, but they often have indoor jungle gyms or open gym time, etc. Just depends on how logistically accessible the Y is to you, sometimes they are a pain to get to.

  6. Lara
    Posted 24 January 2013 at 8:01 AM | Permalink

    Oh, I know exactly what you mean! My 8-year old likes to jog laps around the dining room table while I’m sitting there having a snack or trying to do a little work. He chatters to me the whole time, and I get dizzy trying to follow him. And I flinch a little every time, since it’s a tight space and sometimes he sort of runs into me. But I let him do it, if it’s too cold or dark to send him out into the yard. His 5-year old brother gets his wiggles out by wrestling, which gets tiring for all of us, because it often turns into something closer to fighting. Sooo physical! And then I feel guilty that it bugs me because compared to their friends who come over to play, they’re super-calm and super-non-destructive. I second the calesthenics idea. My older one can get into that. How many push-ups can you do in a row? How about jumping jacks? I don’t know what motivates Noah — my older one would love to make a chart and then log his progress, and then make a few different graphic representations of it afterwards. My little one would like it better if we made a Pokemon adventure that required the movement to move through the adventure. Both of those ideas are repeatable — you could build on it each day, so that you get some wear out of the idea! (hopefully ’til spring!)

    I also have compromised by letting the kids play on the couch, which I will admit is slowly destroying it. But it is, in fact, a fabulous piece of equipment for climbing, tumbling, headstands, etc. I figure, my husband and I never get a chance to sit down there really, anyway. By the time we would really have time to hang out on a couch, the kids will be grown and we’ll get a new one. It makes us less able to host guests comfortably (my mom comments on the saggy couch every time she visits), but we get daily use out of the couch as play equipment, and only occasional guests. Not a perfect solution, but then, what is? If you have a futon, you could potentially try arranging it different ways as a tumble platform, without actually destroying it, I think.

    • Molly
      Posted 24 January 2013 at 11:30 AM | Permalink

      We do have a futon … interesting idea to use the mattress that way.

      It’s comforting to hear other parents are out there flinching at the rapidly-circle-and-talk move, too. Ergh.

      • Lara
        Posted 24 January 2013 at 9:27 PM | Permalink

        My husband paces while he thinks, so I wondered if foot-powered brains ran in our family! (At least he doesn’t run into me while he does it. And it’s back and forth, more than circular, which is less dizzying.) But maybe it’s a kid thing more generally. Funny. Have you read Knuffle Bunny Too? I can picture preschool Trixie doing it, too.

  7. Erin
    Posted 24 January 2013 at 12:16 PM | Permalink

    Yes, yes, yes. I realized that I’m prone to overstimulation, and I’ve even started saying to them ” I’m overstimualted! I’m overstimulated!” I need a way that a 4 y.o. can understand that. For a while, my eldest started coming up to me, putting his hand quietly on my arm when he wanted my attention. THat’s what they do at school. It was awesome, but short lived. I have to figure out a way of implementing it, because now that I have 4 and 2, it’s too much – too many shrieking voices demanding my attention and jumping up and down. Wow. It *too much* for me. I had no idea.

    We let them jump on the bed. One can move the mattress to the floor, and pile some pillows on one side so that they can jump. We also take the cushions off the couch and let them jump on it.

  8. Lara
    Posted 25 January 2013 at 7:35 AM | Permalink

    This morning after breakfast, during the time they’d normally be walking to school (if it weren’t very cold by NJ standards), my kids put on a Steve Songs CD and sang and danced around the living room. That’s a good way to get some movement. I know not everyone enjoys kid-oriented music, but my kids definitely connect to it more than to my music, so we have some. I like They Might Be Giants (esp Here Comes Science), Steve Songs, and Dan Zanes (billed as “family music;” more general folk that “kids”). You’d probably find at least some of those at your local library. If my kids can sing along, they’ll dance for half an hour. At least if my little one doesn’t get wound up and turn it into a wrestling match.

  9. Sarah
    Posted 26 January 2013 at 1:12 PM | Permalink

    One site that I go to often is playathomemom3.blogspot.com. They use quite a bit of supplies but many of the activities can be adapted so you can use what you have on hand. They have a TON of activities so at the very least it may spark your imagination. Good luck!

  10. Posted 27 January 2013 at 12:53 PM | Permalink

    My daughter and I like the Koo Koo Kangaroo dance along videos when we need to do something physical in our small apartment. It isn’t a quiet activity, but maybe it would be an option when quiet isn’t necessary.


  11. A'Llyn Ettien
    Posted 27 January 2013 at 7:51 PM | Permalink

    I’m having flashbacks to winter in a tipi in the woods in South Dakota, with three kids under 10 and a baby. My poor mother.

    If I recall, she used to regularly make us go outside and run around for a while, even if it was really cold. “If you’re moving, you won’t freeze,” was the idea, and of course we’d be all bundled up. We’d go back inside when our fingers and toes were numb, and then be calm enough to play cards or something. Ideally.

    This works better if there are multiple kids, though, since they can chase each other around. A lone four-year-old is going to have a harder time, and of course adults carrying babies are rarely the best players in Tag.

    Also, we didn’t have indoor plumbing or anything, so we’d get outside to the outhouse several times a day if nothing else. Maybe you could look into that? Ha. But along those lines, I guess, are there short tasks that could be done outside for a few minutes on a daily basis…running to check the mail, or make sure the nose is still on the snowman, or something?

    I have near-zero desire to go outside in the cold myself these days, but sometimes it seems like that was the only thing that burned off some of that energy when I was a kid.

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