Pregnancy and baby
All young children are active, and it’s normal for them to have lots of energy. Children should be active on a daily basis; getting lots of exercise is good for their health and it’s fun. For tips and more information, go to Get active: ideas and advice.
Many children are overactive. Some (around 3-9% of school-aged children and young people) suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is what used to be known as hyperactivity.
A lot of children who have behaviour problems and difficulty concentrating are not overactive, or they may be suffering from only a mild form of hyperactivity. The challenge for parents and health professionals is to recognise the difference between normal behaviour problems and ADHD symptoms, which require early treatment.
Tips on coping with an overactive child
Keep to a daily routine. Routine can help if your child is restless or difficult. It can also help you to stay calm and cope with the strain.
Dedicate time to your child. Because your child may be demanding your attention for most of the day (and sometimes the night too), you’ll often have to say no to them. That will be easier to do and easier for your child to accept if there's a time each day when you give them all your attention.
Avoid difficult situations. For example, keep shopping trips short.
Try to go out every day. Go to a park, playground or other safe, open space where your child can run around and use up energy.
Avoid giving your child cola drinks, tea and coffee. These all contain caffeine, which can make children hyperactive. Sugar can have a similar effect.
Set small goals. Help your child to sit still or be controlled. Encourage them to concentrate for a very short time, then gradually build up. Remember, you can’t transform your child’s behaviour overnight.
If these tips don’t help, talk to your health visitor or GP. You can also get information from the National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service (ADDISS).
Health A-Z: ADHD
Physical activity guidelines for children under five
Get active: ideas and advice