Preschoolers Won’t Stop

Dear Dr. Ann,

My son, Paul has just entered preschool. I spoke with his teacher this morning and she said that he is doing a great job in the classroom but when it comes time for the students to get in line and go outside he wants to play and not listen to the teacher.

Do you have any suggestions on how I can work with Paul? I have to admit that most often when we are out in public he is either in the stroller, the shopping cart, or holding my hand. He likes to twist around when he’s holding my hand (like it’s a game). I want to fix this before it becomes a bigger problem.

I’m worried this will only get worse, Sarah


You are so not alone; tons of preschool kids can’t get into a line to go outside.

That is one of the reasons we call it ‘preschool’, because they have to practice these skills before they enter elementary school. It is normal for preschoolers like Paul to not stop long enough to line up.

Their brains are telling them to go-go-go all the time in order to stay stimulated. Listening is very hard because whatever kids feel and think they respond to.

So in order to help kids learn how to stop you need to play games with them. So, whenever your son is stopped, like when you read to him, turn to him, look in his eyes and put your arm around him and say,

“You are sitting so still, you know exactly how to stop, it’s just like when your teacher tells you to stop and not move in line”. Then say, “Guess what, I am going to read you another story because you are so good at using your ears and listening to Mommy and your teacher”.

Then when he does hold your hand and is NOT trying to twist it out tell him how good he does at holding hands tightly and staying right where you told him to stand.

On your walks with him play a game called ‘school get in line time’. Get him to walk along the edge of the sidewalk, where the grass meets the pavement and tell him it is just like the school line. As you are walking along, every once in a while say, “Red light, stop freeze”.

When he stops say, “You are the best line walker and stopper I know, I bet you cannot wait to show your teacher what you know how to do”.

Hang in there, Dr. Ann

My husband and I have been working on it with Paul and he is doing much better. We even went to the outdoor mall and he walked beside us most of the way. Then last Sunday we went on a walk to Starbucks and he walked the whole way (1 mile) without us having to put him in the stroller. What a difference.

Thanks again for your advice, Sarah