When I was doing Know Your Child Teacher Training, my instructor asked us if we knew the reason why kids have so much energy.
None of us really knew the answer, but we all agreed that kids have ridiculous amounts of energy.
A Child’s Mind
One reason why children have so much energy, is because kids under the age of about 7, live in the present moment. When your mind is in the present moment, you experience much less anxiety, worry, regret and sadness. Experiencing a lot of negative emotions, that most adults do when we get older, has a taxing effect on the energy levels of the body and it makes us feel tired. I’ve heard (and experienced) that just one hour of extreme worry is as exhausting, or more, as 8 hours of physical labor! When the mind vacillates between the past and future, it makes you feel tired and stressed. Basically, since a child is more in the present moment, they get less tired from worrying!
A Child’s Breath
The other, and biggest reason why kids have so much energy is because of their breath.
If you observe the breathing pattern of a young child when they are sleeping (if they’re awake, they’re probably moving so much, you won’t be able to notice), you will see that the chest rises and falls without any inhibition. When a child breathes in, their whole body moves; their shoulders, their abdomen, all move freely. Children, under the age of about 7 or 8, utilize their entire lung capacity, whereas most adults don’t.
Physiologically, it’s simple. Kids get more oxygen, so they have more energy. On a more subtle level, you could say that kids have very little energy blocks in their system because their breathing is so full and complete. The energy reaches all the parts of the body that it needs to. Because they breathe more easily, they also release the stress and tension that they need to (toxins and stress are released through the breath). With less stress in their system, they have more energy.
If there is no outlet for this energy…
Then, the child can start to exhibit undesirable behavior. A very common report I hear from parents is that their children start doing better in school right about the time they turn 7 or 8. I’m never surprised when I hear this because I know that kids under that age need copious amounts of exercise and they should not be asked to sit still for long periods of time!
After the Age 7
As children get older, around the age of 7, they will slowly start to lose this ability to breath freely and to stay in the present moment. The rate at which this happens varies. At this age, a child may start to become dull, inactive and stressed if they are not encouraged in the right direction. The process of losing child like tendencies happens naturally, but there are ways to help a child maintain his or her mental and physical awareness and health. If we can encourage just a few habits (and maybe get rid of a few old ones) as our children grow older, they can be more healthy and energetic as teens and adults.
Free Expression of Emotions
Because young children are so much in the present moment and they have very little ego (they’re unafraid of what other people think of them), they laugh and cry freely if the need to express an emotion comes bubbling up. Expressing these emotions are a child’s way of releasing stress from their system. If a child is crying over something that cannot be avoided (for example, if they stub their toe or get upset), it’s important to allow them to cry freely and support them in their emotional release.
Often, we try to do everything we can to stop a child from crying, but by not allowing a natural emotional release, those negative emotions get ‘stuck‘ in the child and can come out later as undesirable behavior. If a child is constantly not allowed to express his or her emotions freely, then the child will have even more difficultly being natural and in-tune with themselves when they grow older. The child might become more insecure and start to look for distractions, like compulsive eating, screens, etc. for dealing with unpleasant emotions.
You will notice that if a child is allowed to cry freely, the second they’re finished crying, they will have a big smile on their face. That tension will not be stored in the body. It’s important that we do our best to support a child’s crying and raging, if the situation allows. Its also important to never punish, ignore, or isolate an upset child.
Ever wonder why kids start jumping on the bed? Sure it’s fun, but the truth is that kids need lots of exercise. Copious amounts. Way more than you think.
Remember, kids are using their entire lung capacity. They have so much energy and if they don’t get enough exercise, they literally bounce off the walls (or the bed). Even babies and toddlers can get exercise by crawling and wriggling around. My 5 year old daughter can easily withstand 1-2 hours of vigorous exercise a day (meaning that she is puffed almost the entire time) and she enjoys it. On the days that she receives a lot of exercise, she is much more pleasant to be around.
The exercise requirements for every child is different. Just like every child has different requirements for sleep and for food, we also have to be aware of every child’s exercise requirement. If you live in a climate where you’re stuck indoors frequently, you’ll need to find creative ways to get your child more exercise. It’s also important to note that sometimes a child can even use exercise to distract themselves from unpleasant emotions. So, it’s finding that balance.
If a child is allowed to express his or her emotions freely when they are younger, they will grow up to be more emotionally aware adults. Their minds will be more healthy because they have less pent up stresses. As a child naturally stops living so much in the present moment, around the age of 8 or so, teaching meditation and breathing techniques will help the child to be able to do deal with stress brought on by the constant vacillation of the mind between the past and future. Maintaining good exercise habits when kids are younger, will ensure that kids continue to use a more full lung capacity as they grow up. The more freely they breathe throughout their life, the more tension is released and the more oxygen can reach the parts of their body that needs it most!