A lot of parents of toddlers and preschoolers complain that their child does not sit during circle time in school. My SIL complained that her son's pre-nursery teacher was forcing her 2-year old (now 3) son to sit down during circle time. I've also seen a few teachers who force kids this age to sit and listen to them read a whole book or to sit and watch a 4-minute video. It's simply not possible for most kids aged 2-4 or even 5.
Even when he practices writing, he prefers to stand up
I have never seen my son sit down for more than 15 seconds. First, it's because he is only 3 years old. Second, he is twice-exceptional - ADHD/gifted. You may argue that it's because of ADHD that's why I don't force him to sit still while studying. Even before this diagnosis, I knew, instinctively that I should not force him to do something he does not like. I did not like sitting down for long periods when I was in kindergarten up to Grade 3. So why would I force my son to do something he doesn't like? From observation, I know that he is a more effective learner when he is standing up or moving around. When he was several months old, I would read a book to him and he would play or walk around. I thought he wasn't listening but when I asked him questions, he would answer. Sometimes a few days would go by and then he would remember something from the story and blurt it out. From that moment on, I knew he wouldn't really sit still.
Studies have also shown that toddlers listen better while they are playing or walking around so it's really not just my son.
Tips to try
Kids who are not ADHD, especially those of schooling age, can actually sit down and pay attention to the teacher. Sometimes, they are just too fired up from the meal they ate (especially if they had sweets or juice) or they just have too much energy bottled up inside. When my son keeps running around in Sunday school, I take him outside and let him run back and forth for at least 10 times. When he gets tired, we will go back to the classroom and he will be still for a while. That's enough for me.
If you homeschool, give your child a few minutes of play time first. For us, I usually allow my son to play while he is eating breakfast. After that, he is ready to study. If he does not want to study yet, we read, at least 3 books, until he settles down.
If your child does not want to focus on lessons, try another activity. This is the reason why I always integrate learning with play. To your child, it may seem that you are playing but in reality, they are getting their lessons done. You can also jump around, sing and dance and just be plain silly. We usually do this when I am frustrated with his behavior already. Before, I would get really mad but I realized that I should just laugh it off.
I am guilty of not having enough exercise for both my son and I. I wish we could go out more often but that's not our reality. We do some exercises at home but for me, nothing beats running around and getting some fresh air.
Another thing that I've noticed is that when the classes are mixed, meaning the older kids join our Sunday school class, my son gets more fired up. This is because he loves being in the company of older kids and adults. That means if the older ones are running around, fooling around, not listening to the teacher, etc. then that is what he will do. This happens when their teacher is absent. One Sunday, my son was the eldest in his class. Wow, I was amazed because he became a leader and a role model to the younger kids. He participated in the activities, listened to the teacher during story time and was focused on craft time that he even wrote his name on his paper all by himself for the first time! So, the problem might not always be your child. Someone might be influencing him/her.
Dealing with teachersWith my son's teachers, I tell them right away that he is 2E so they will not be able to do anything to make him sit still. Believe me, I've tried. They've accepted that fact. I am always present during Sunday school and on days when we do visit his school. When I see that he is being disruptive, I interfere. If he just runs around, I let him be. His Sunday school classmates seem to have gotten used to him as well.
If your child's teacher gets mad or reprimands your child every time he/she does not sit at circle time, then it's time to be an advocate for your child. You should talk to the teacher and explain your child's unique situation. Yes, every child is unique and their energy level is different from each other. Tell the teacher what works for you at home. Maybe they can direct the child to do another activity if they really can't sit still. As a general rule, 2-year olds will have an attention span of 2 minutes, 3-year olds, 3 minutes and so on. If, after all your efforts, the teacher still punishes your child for not sitting still then I suggest you find another school that has teachers who will understand you and your child.
To end, the harder kids play, the quieter and more relaxed they will be at school or homeschool. Just use up that excess energy and both of you will have a better day.