In the bustling world of classrooms, have you ever wondered why some children struggle to sit still and focus?

Do you know a child who is constantly in trouble at school for doodling in their workbooks?


As a mother, I’ve witnessed my own son grapple with these challenges. Each day after school brought a new tale – sometimes he would have a good day, with a certain teacher, other times, he would tell me how he got in trouble for tapping him pencils, or zipping his pencil case zips because he had a different teacher that “didn’t like him”.


We assumed it was just as everyone says – some teachers can make your child shine and other teachers just didn’t!  It wasn’t their fault, it was just that they weren’t right for him.


As he got older, we noticed that sometimes he could recall all the amazing things he learnt and tried at school, and other times he couldn’t even remember what the subject was they were learning about that day.


Over time, a pattern was emerging. He seemed to excel when given the freedom to fidget but would forget what he learnt when expected to sit still. It struck me that the key to unlocking his potential lay in allowing him to engage his hands while learning – a realisation that mirrored my own journey through high school.


Flashback to high school math for me, and I was failing. Badly. The teacher had all but given up and allowed me to do my art assignment in math class, because it was really the only thing I concentrated on. Imagine their surprise when during the next test I got a B!


The simple act of engaging my hands transformed my learning experience.


As an extracurricular art teacher today, I’ve encountered numerous kids with similar stories.

But why does this phenomenon occur? Let’s explore some insights backed by studies and experiences.

Doodling in class

  1. Tactile Experiences Enhance Memory:


Studies, like the one conducted by the University of Tokyo, reveal the impact of tactile experiences on memory.


When volunteers were tasked with scheduling using pen and paper versus digital devices, the former group exhibited increased brain activity in areas associated with language, visualization, and memory storage.


The tactile nature of paper, with its irregularities (the folded corners of the pages, the random bumps in the paper) and even the drag of the pen,  contributes to a stronger retention of information.


Read more about this study here



  1. Reducing stress can help a child focus more on what is in their immediate environment.


In my interactions with parents and children, a common thread among fidgeting kids is an underlying anxiety about meeting expectations.


Most of us know about the fight or flight response that our brains enter when we experience high stress. Once our fight or flight response has been engaged our system floods with cortisol and one of the first functions to “switch off” in this situation is our ability to form long term memories.


For some children just the thought of potentially being called on, or letting their teacher down can create a highly stressful situation. For children who’ve been previously reprimanded for fidgeting, the struggle to sit still crates even more stress; their brain is trying hard to focus on trying to be still, while their cortisol dosed body is telling them to run! They can disconnect from their body, in an attempt to ease the discomfort and their mind no longer focusses on what is happening in the room.


Doodling or fidgeting creates a reconnection to their body and the classroom. The link created between their brain and their hand can create an anchor that keeps their focus in the room around them.

Doodling to improve memory

  1. Hands-On Activities Boost Memory Recall:


Engaging in low-focus activities, such as doodling, while forming memories enhances the strength and recall of those memories. I’m sure we can all recall at least one class in our studying years which was memorable because something else happened in that class to create connected memories.


The University of Waterloo’s conducted experiments to highlight the importance of creating connections between memories.


Focusing solely on one thing results in stand-alone memories, which are easily forgotten. Doodling creates alternate memories that intertwine with learning memories, fortifying them and making them more accessible.


Read more about this research




This has been a long post, but one so close to my heart that I really felt the need to share it. The number of parents who are asking me about this are increasing consistently and in an age where so much of our learning is digital, it’s certainly something we can look at if we feel our child is having trouble with their learning.


If you sense that your child could benefit from doodling in class, initiate a conversation with their teacher and I’ll add some more research links below so you have something to discuss! Together, we can embrace a holistic approach to education that recognises the diverse ways children learn and thrive.


For more articles on this topic, check out these resources:

The surprising benefits of doodling – Meredith College

Doodle your way to improved focus and concentration – 

The thinking benefits of doodling – Harvard Health