Why Is Your Toddler So Hyper? Science Explains

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If your toddler is active, high-spirited, energetic, and, frankly, exhausting, you might think that you're looking at a child that's out of the norm. You may wonder what's going on, if there's something wrong, and why they are the way that they are. While, sure, it's normal for you to ask these questions if you're worried, chances are, there's not actually anything wrong. Science explains why your toddler is so hyper and it's probably not as exciting or revelatory as you might think. If you suspect it could be attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it's a good idea to chat with some experts who can either help you manage the condition or rule it out as the cause of your toddler's hyperactivity. That being said, according to WebMD, if they truly have ADHD, the signs will manifest over a long period of time, not just show up in fits and spurts. But, if they don't have ADHD, then what gives?

In an interview with Parents, Dr. Kyle D. Pruett, one of the magazine's medical advisors and a clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale University's School of Medicine, said that toddlers are hyper because they're exploring the world around them. They can move and climb and want to tap into their fierce curiosity about a world that's still somewhat foreign to them. They're energetic naturally, which, like the battery-powered Energizer bunny, keeps them going all day long (and sometimes into the night, as well).

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They're also excited, which can make kids act more hyper too. "At Halloween or a birthday party, kids are just really, really excited," pediatrician Dr. Ivor Horn told the Washington Post. "If you take a kid to a party and you have cake and then you come home and they are all over the place, you might attribute it to all the junk they ate, but it may be that they’re just really excited about the fact they just came from a party with all their friends or family, or they’ve been really active at the party and now they’re tired, and that’s contributing to behavior.” Even if the occasion isn't special or out-of-the-ordinary, if your kids have gotten themselves all worked up and excited about what's to come, that could potentially make them more active and hyper than they maybe would be otherwise. Think about how you react to unexpected good news. It doesn't have to be earth-shattering to have an effect. Excitement perks people up.

Not only that, but they're constantly learning new things and new skills that they can then explore or put to use. That's exciting too and it can be difficult to tamp that down and move more calmly. Susan J. Schwartz, clinical director of the Institute for Learning and Academic Achievement at the New York University Child Study Center, told Parents in the previously-mentioned article that it's difficult for toddlers to slow down or stop because they haven't yet developed the self-control that older kids or adults might have that keeps them from running off, climbing all over things, and otherwise performing real-life experiments to see what will happen, what they can do, and how far they can go.

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While it's not exactly clear if there's a definitive cause and effect link, NPR reported that a study published in Pediatrics found that babies who were breastfed for at least six months weren't as hyperactive as toddlers as those kids who were exclusively formula-fed or breastfed for less than six months. "However, it's worth noting that the benefit of less hyper-active behavior was documented at age 3, but by age 5 it had faded away." That information might not have a real effect on if you choose to breastfeed your baby or not, but if your currently-hyperactive toddler was exclusively fed formula as an infant and not breastfed, it's possible that it could help explain some of why they are that way.

Bottom line: If you have what you think is a hyperactive toddler, you're far from alone. That doesn't mean that you don't have rough days, however. There are many tips and tricks for dealing with hyperactive kiddos out there if you find you could use some help on that front. And if you have an inkling that their hyperactivity might be a sign of something more serious, it can't hurt to get that checked out.

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