Is it normal for toddlers to flap their hands?

Is it normal for toddlers to flap their hands?

Arms flapping, also referred to as hand flapping, refers to the typical autistic behaviors that children manifest. Still, it does not necessarily mean that the toddler in autistic if he/she does it occasionally. Healthy children may also flap their hands when they are excited, frustrated, or just for the fun of it.

However, in case you are worried about these autistic behaviors, you can always have the toddler evaluated by a pediatrician to determine whether they have autism. You can also try watching for other classic signs that children with autism typically have. However, you should know that autism is a rare condition, and only one in approximately one hundred and ten children fall in the autism spectrum. 

Hand flapping is usually observed among preschoolers and toddlers, and it seems as if the toddler is waving the hand at the wrist while at the same time keeping the arms bent at the elbow. You can think of this as the case of an eaglet trying to take off on its maiden flight. Most people agree that toddlers flap their hands when they are at a heightened emotional state. In most cases, when they are excited, anxious, and in some cases, when they are upset.

Is it normal for toddlers to flap their hands?

Parents get worried if they see a toddler flapping his hands since this is among the most commons signs observed among children who are autistic.

Most children who are later diagnosed with autism flap their hands as self-stimulatory behavior. However, for one to tell that their child is autistic, hand flapping is also accompanied by other self-stimulatory actions such as rocking and spinning.

Does hand flapping mean that the toddler has autism?

Toddlers with autism do this so that they can stay calm and also for regulation of their emotional state. The critical thing for a parent to note is that arm flapping can be typical when the child is upset or excited. However, in autistic children, this behavior is repeated over and over again since it is a form of self-stimulatory expression.

It is usual for kids to flap their hands. This is often the case when they are excited, and when the excitement overflows, they usually flap their hands. Sometimes also, when they get hurt, and they are under a lot of pain, for instance, they have stubbed their toe, they can overflowingly flap their hands to get your attention and let you know that they are under a lot of discomforts.

However, all that you need to know is that toddlers do not flap their hands solely for the sake of it. They are either excited, under pain, or autistic. When you see the toddler flapping, their hands take time to know what is causing this behavior since extensive hand-flapping is not something that toddlers do for no reason.

All in all, hand-flapping does not necessarily mean that your child is autistic. Autism spectrum disorder is accompanied by other telling signs such as problems in language development, poor social skills, and other notable symptoms such as speech-related problems. When you see these signs, kindly engage a pediatrician for a full diagnosis so that you can know how to care for your child properly.

Hand flapping and rocking at the same time. Is this normal?

Another point to note is that children can flap their hands and rock at the same time, even when they are not autistic. This is because it is also healthy for toddlers to rock. This is a carryover behavior from when they were in the womb.

Children were rocked as infants, and they may continue to do so as they grow older. The main thing you need to consider is how often it happens and the circumstances under which it occurs. For instance, can you distract your child with other things when they start rocking and flapping their hands? If they are not immersed in it, and you are able to distract them, then this is just normal behavior.

When you notice that the toddler hand-flaps occasionally for a few second when he or she is scared and excited, and when you ask them what they are doing they turn it into a fun game, this show that the toddler is entirely normal. They maybe wanted to catch your attention. They may continue to do so for a while, but the point is that you are able to distract them from engaging in the behavior.

Moreover, typical kids often rock at some time in their development. They may rock when they are bored, or simply to soothe themselves, when they hear music playing or when they are simply watching television. However, as they progress in their development, they learn not to rock when they are talking with someone.

Hand flapping in typical toddlers who are normal

In the case of developmentally typical children, such toddlers flap their hands similar to how autistic children do when they reach a heightened emotional state. In this case, it is, however, for a different reason. It is not a means to calms down or regulate their behavioral cues, and toddlers can easily be distracted from doing this as opposed to children who have autism.

Significance of arm flapping

Arm flapping is an odd and repetitive act that signifies autistic disorders along with other known symptoms such as walking on the toes and continues spinning, which is bound to catch the parent’s attention. It, therefore, means that you should be worried about arm flapping if it is accompanied by other typical signs, which are symptoms of autistic behaviors.

 These additional signs of autism include a disinterest in other people and objects that children often play with, unusual speech patterns, problems in developing social cues, emotional irregularities, which all show that there is something wrong with the toddler. However, before jumping into conclusions. You should also know that many normal children also flap their hands when they are excited on various occasions.

It is inconclusive and also impossible to diagnose a child with autism spectrum disorder just because you have seen them flapping their hands.

Possible reasons why your toddler may be flapping his or her hands

Toddlers may flap their hands when they are excited, especially when they have not learned how to express their emotions using words verbally. It has also been observed that they can form a habit of flapping their hands when they feel excitement even when they have learned how to walk properly.

Physicians note that children with autism spectrum disorders use hand-flapping as a form of self-stimulation, and this is repeated more often than a child who does not have autism.

How to assess when your toddler’s hand flapping is a normal gesture?

Know that you understand that hand flapping can be a normal behavior among toddlers, there are ways that you can use to evaluate whether your toddler is just excited or is manifesting signs of autism. First of all, hand flapping is hard to miss, and it is easily noticeable.

If speech-related disabilities accompany this as they progress in their development, and in most cases, an inability to directly answer questions after they reach a certain age, then there is a need for further evaluation for autism spectrum disorders by a physician. They may also respond to inquiries rarely, and you need to observe for such signs so that you do not end up worrying when your toddler is perfectly normal.

How often do normal children flap their hands?

If you notice that the toddler hand flapping continues for a few months or it is intensifying as time goes by, then there is a need for further evaluation by a physician. Medical practitioners concur that it is difficult to diagnose autism before the child attains three years.

The only thing that you can do at this point is to see a pediatrician and also observe and take note of all the behavioral cues that make you think that the toddler is not behaving normally. 


After reading this article, you will understand under which circumstances it is normal for a toddler to flap their hands. Normal toddlers flap their hands when they are at a heightened emotional state, such as when excited, upset, or under a great deal of pain. Autistic toddlers do flap their hands but do so more repeatedly as a form of self-stimulating response.

For more information, scroll through this article, and you will gather more information about hand-flapping and other behaviors that toddlers often engage in. This insightful article will be sure to help you understand what normal routine is and what is not normal. So make sure that you read through for further information.

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