Control Your Wiggles

Control Your Wiggles

And be the BOSS of your ants. In I Have Ants in My Pants, Julia Cook helps normalize the feeling many kids have when they struggle to control their wiggles and provides strategies for improving impulse control.



Julia Cook knows it can be tough for kids to sit still. So she’s written a new book, which parents and teachers can use to help kids learn to control their wiggles.

Cook, who lives in Fremont, is the author of 113 children’s books. More than 3 million copies of her books have been sold. Her newest book, I Have Ants in My Pants,” is designed to help children learn how and why to sit still.

“Most children get the wiggles and that’s OK,” Cook said. “This book helps children understand when they need to sit still and offers practical ways to control the ants in their pants.”

The book focuses on a wiggly character named Louis, who’s been featured in three other books. Cook can relate to Louis, who has trouble interrupting people.

“I was that kid who had a hard time,” she said. “As a child and even as a grownup sometimes, if I have something to say I find myself just saying it, and interrupting is a problem that people have all over the world.”

So 15 years ago, Cook featured Louis in her children’s book called, “My Mouth is a Volcano.” This book is designed to teach kids a technique to help them manage their thoughts and words. It shows the value of giving others their turn to speak. The book has proven popular.

“There’s about 700,000 copies out there,” she said.

The book also became a musical. Stars Within Reach Productions of Queens, New York, which performs across the country, produced and performed a musical adaptation of Cook’s story, even staging it at Bell Field Elementary School in Fremont in 2018.

In the meantime, Louis was featured in other books. One was “Personal Space Camp,” in which Louis learns about giving other people the room they need and respecting their boundaries. The National Center for Youth Issues published this book in 2007. Today, schools all over the world are using “Personal Space Camp” to teach kids about personal space bubbles for safety reasons.

“I never planned on writing that book for personal safety,” Cook said. “I never would have dreamed I would write that book and it would work for social distancing.”

Louis appears again in “It’s Hard to Be a Verb,” which is about children learning to stay on task. In this book, Louis has trouble focusing. He’s always doing something and usually the wrong something. The book, published in 2008, is designed to provide hands-on ideas to help those who struggle to pay attention.

Louis will have another learning experience in Cook’s most recent book. This story involves a bouncy Louis. Everyone keeps saying Louis has ants in his pants, but he doesn’t see any. His mom says this means he wiggles a lot and teaches him a special tool to control the wiggles. After some practice, Louis will learn to become the boss of the ants in his pants. Cook knows she walks a fine line in writing this book.

“There’s a lot of kids out there who have to wiggle to learn,” she said. “They have to be moving something in order to focus.”

A recent study from The National Academy of Medicine, formerly called the Institute of Medicine, also indicates that children who are more active show greater attention and have faster cognitive processing speed than those who are less active. Yet there are times when sitting still can be very beneficial.

“There are definite advantages for people — even people who wiggle a lot — to sit still sometimes, because when you truly sit still you can absorb at a higher level,” she said.

One tip involves having kids play the statue game, where they freeze for a minute or two. Another tip has kids practice sitting quietly and being bored for a couple of minutes each day, followed by a celebration of their success.

“One of the things I like about this book is that we need to teach kids how to be bored sometimes, because there are times when being bored and doing well with it is a huge skill—and our kids these days feel like you have to be entertained 24/7,” Cook said.

Parents and teachers can learn much from the book.

“Most kids are squirmy and that’s OK,” Cook said. “Oftentimes, the best learning takes place when a kid’s in motion, but there are times when knowing how to sit still—like at a restaurant, visiting an elderly relative, at a movie theater, during short, direct instruction — can be a huge asset.”

Cook said her new book will tell parents and teachers what to say — and how to say it effectively so it’s not demeaning. She added that the books’ purpose isn’t to solve kids’ problems, but to give them skills to solve their own problems. The book serves as the vehicle to get the information to the kids, who can learn and remember the skills.

“Then when they’re in that situation, they can begin to solve problems from the inside out as opposed to the outside in,” Cook said.

Some kids naturally have an easier time sitting still than others.

“But as long as the expectations are someone realistic having control of the ants in your pants is a skill that will serve kids for life,” Cook said.

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Photo credit: @mrsschrock4

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