When do kids start sitting still?

By Tara Drinks

At a glance

  • Most young kids can’t sit still for long periods of time.

  • Sitting still is a skill that kids develop over time.

  • Some kids have a harder time sitting still than others.

When it’s story time in the pre-K room, how many kids sit still until the end? Some? Most? All?

What about second grade? How many kids would be able to sit quietly then?

Sitting still isn’t a natural state for lots of young kids. Many of them can’t sit still for more than a few minutes. But in school, they’re expected to do it for longer stretches of time.

So when can most kids sit quietly without fidgeting, squirming, or moving around? Read on to learn more.

When do kids usually start to sit still?

Sitting still is a skill that develops over time. You can expect only so much of kids at certain ages. For example, very few 4-year-olds could get through an hour-long school concert without needing to move around. Ten minutes is more like it. But most 9-year-olds can make it at least halfway.

Not all kids develop at the same rate, especially young kids. But there are typical ages when kids are able to sit still for certain amounts of time:

  • 3-year-olds: 5–10 minutes
  • 5-year-olds: 15 minutes
  • 7-year-olds: 25 minutes
  • 10-year-olds: 40 minutes

Some kids have a harder time sitting still than others. That’s not unusual. But knowing why can help.

Why some kids have trouble sitting still

There are lots of reasons why kids might have trouble sitting still. Sometimes it’s because they’re worried or anxious about something. Other times, they’re excited about an event that’s coming up soon, like a birthday or a trip to the toy store. They might also be tired or hungry.

When kids often have trouble sitting still, hyperactivity is a common cause. Trouble with focus can also be a factor.

Taking short breaks for physical or quiet activities can sometimes help — especially when kids have trouble sitting sill for homework or classwork. Learn about how these “brain breaks” work.

Key takeaways

  • At age 5, kids can usually sit still for about 15 minutes.

  • As they get older, kids can typically sit still for longer periods.

  • Anxiety, excitement, and trouble with focus can make it hard to sit still.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Tara Drinks is an associate editor at Understood.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Bob Cunningham, EdM serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.