Kinetic kids

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Last week we once again attempted story time at the library. All the young kiddies were sitting perfectly quiet while listening to the nice lady read various stories about animals. My child politely attempted listening, but couldn’t contain herself. She jumped up every time the librarian turned a page, moved her body like each animal, and loudly made all those animal noises.

While enduring some of the “quiet your child” looks from the other mamas, I attempted some quiet shushing, and then just let it go. Why should my tot sit staring silently like the other kids? What’s so wrong with an active child?

After an extremely rousing rendition of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” I scooped up my child and we headed home. Along the walk, I was reminded of an article I was invited to write for  Funderstanding and figured it could benefit from a re-visit.

Kinetic learners are active learners and being active is important. Teaching kids to sit quietly and stay put is part of learning, but it is often forgotten that movement is an essential part of emotional and developmental growth, as well as being healthy, for kids of all ages.

Kinesthetic Learning  Style and the Young Child

Kids are active, some more than others. And, occasionally, those active kids are labeled as difficult students or challenged learners. This is not always the case. Those wiggly kids might need a bit more attention due to being kinesthetic learners, or children that best understand new information when learned in a physical way or by working things out tactilely. Kinetic learners are also considered tactile learners, which means the act of touching and using the hands and body is additionally beneficial to learning.

There are three different types of learning – visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Visual learners learn through visual activities, auditory best through listening, and kinesthetic through movement and activity. Characteristics of a kinesthetic learner include enjoying participating in sports and physical activities, having good coordination skills, using hands to gesture often, and enjoying spending time outdoors. These are wonderful characteristics for a child along with a motivating force to keep active with a child. But, along with having positive attributes, being a kinesthetic learner also has some aspects that can be demanding

Kinesthetic learners are often easily distracted by others, have difficulty sitting or staying in one place long, and find moving while learning to be beneficial and even necessary in some cases. Educators and parents may tag these traits as problematic when in actuality the child’s learning style has not been taken into consideration. Once it is understood that the child is a tactile/kinesthetic learner, there are easy ways parents and educators can adapt teaching and parenting moments to aid in learning and development.

Kinesthetic Learning in School or Home

According to, most school-aged children benefit from kinesthetic learning activities where touching, feeling, and experiencing is allowed, especially at the preschool and kindergarten level. As the child develops, her personality and learning style evolves, and parents and educators can specify through observation and interactions what type of learning style best fits the child.  But, even if a child is a visual or auditory learner, tactile and kinesthetic learning experiences are still beneficial just as visual and auditory activities also benefit kinesthetic learners.

When teaching and learning with a kinesthetic child there are simple ways parents and educators can tap into the child’s inner need to move and touch. Try tactics such as:

Take Five: Kinesthetic learners can easily be lead off track by what is happening around them. Within the classroom, create a spot where kinesthetic learners can go to take a break when they are feeling overwhelmed or distracted. They can count and do ten jumping jacks, set a timer for one minute and see how many times they can hop in place, or rock in a rocking chair for an allotted amount of time. Allow for breaks during the day or moments when transitioning for kids to sneak off for a quick movement break. Or, if at home, take short study breaks often with your child and do a quick dance party or game of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.

Take Notes: Either at home or in the classroom, offer a pencil and paper to the kinesthetic learner to take notes or draw while learning. This offers the child the opportunity to stay active but in a contained and controlled way. Also, the act of writing encourages the child to remember learning facts and stay motivated. Along with a paper and pencil, offer a colored marker for the child to underline facts they find most important or interesting while writing. This way when she goes back to take another look at her notes, she’ll focus on the items that she highlighted.  When in the classroom, take into consideration that the doodling child may not be daydreaming, but finding ways to encourage her concentration. It may not seem that she is actively listening when in actuality, she truly is.

Stay Active: Integrate movement activities or hands-on opportunities while introducing information to the kinesthetic child. Playing physical games are a wonderful way to learn math concepts. Try throwing and catching a ball while counting, or adding and subtracting the amount of baskets a child can make. Within the classroom, integrate clapping while singing the A,B,C’s or saying the multiplication tables. At home the child can head outdoors and jump rope while being quizzed on spelling words for an upcoming test. It’s all about staying active and tying in learning.

Kinesthetic children are tactile, vivacious, energetic, and enthusiastic. They just need a helping hand to lead them in learning and offer opportunities to move their bodies within the environment.



3 thoughts on “Kinetic kids

  1. I just found your blog and love it! This kinesthetic post really hit home with me because my tiny cousin (I’m 31 and she’s 11) was always treated as a special needs learner by teachers. In fact, she is a kinesthetic learner. My aunt is awesome about taking the time to really work with Katherine, using touch to stimulate a learned response. I found this amazing — Katherine has come a really long way since kinesthetics were introduced.
    Great blog!

  2. Thanks, Christa! I have worked with many kinesthetic kids in the classroom and so agree that they are often misunderstood. It’s all about learning about stimulus and response, and encouraging lots and lots of activity! And, it doesn’t matter how you learn, getting active is beneficial for everyone.

  3. Dear Sarah… So glad I can find this blog ;0) I just had a conversation with my son’s teacher. She explain to me that my child is a kinesthetic kid. So, I try to search about the topic to find out more about it. How to make study more bearable to him *lol….

    Love the tips, definetly going to try….. Thanx a lot 🙂

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