Hand flapping

Playgroup NSW

Categories: Repetitive and Restrictive Behaviours

You may have noticed your child flaps their hands in certain situations. If you are wondering why this can happen, read our section on hand flapping.

Hand flapping

Bianca is often flapping her hands and turning around on the spot. When asked to join in a game with other children, her hand-flapping behaviour becomes more exaggerated.

Why does this happen?

 Hand flapping is a form of vestibular stimming. Children may be doing this when they are feeling strong emotions, such as being excited to play a game. This behaviour may also be self-soothing when they experience overwhelming anxiety.

What can I do?

  • Allow children to retreat to a quiet space when overwhelmed. However, do not use the quiet space when children are excited, only when they are becoming very stressed/worried.

  • Gradually increase children’s participation by getting them to play with a parent or older child, then gradually add another group member until they feel comfortable playing with a small group of children.

  • If Bianca is flapping her hands when excited, try holding her hands firmly and labeling the emotion. (“Oh, wow! You’re really excited! Bianca is really excited, everyone.”)

Play activities

  • Open, Shut Them

  • Play clapping games or Hi Fives when child is stressed rather than excited

  • Music and movement


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