The Fantods: When Kids’ Brains Explode

Certain times a year, kids devolve into psychotic maniacs. Except kindergartners, who are always maniacs. Halloween, Christmas, and if you’re superstitious, a full moon can cause our miniature werewolves to howl until their vocal chords give out. Last week, a bunny hopped around giving these spring-fever-infested barbarians free candy. Who decided that was a good idea?

Fortunately as a speech therapist, I see children in small groups instead of managing an entire class of monkeys at once. Sometimes I like to just watch them for a minute. I would never think to put my arms through the opposite sleeves, break into song, or stand on one leg while the other does a pretzel twist behind my back, but I’ve seen kids do these things simultaneously. Makes teaching them to produce a /k/ sound challenging.

The kids have no clue they’re being ridiculous. I once asked one of my first-graders why he stretched his shirt over the back of his chair. He didn’t even know he’d done it. Our charges aren’t trying to make their teachers’ lives miserable. They’ve just got the fantods.

Weird Words and Why They Matter: The Fantods

The fantods are “a state of extreme nervousness or restlessness, also known as the willies or the fidgets [1].” The term has no reliable etymology, but may be a jocular formation based upon the word “fantasy.” This humble noun arrived in English in the 19th century [2]. One of the most famous early uses is when Huck is hiding on Jackson Island in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).

Why it Matters

Anyone who works with children will tell you that if they could bottle “the fantods” in an energy drink, they could retire tomorrow. The closer we get to summer, the more children get the fantods. The adults continue teaching, but they spend half their time just ensuring little Jimmy keeps his shoes on and stays away from the wobbly bookshelf.

As frustrating and exhausting as work becomes when kids get the fantods, I can relate. Who wouldn’t go bonkers for three months of free time? That’s way more fun than memorizing irregular past tense verbs.

This time of year, I remind myself to be patient because, to be honest, I’ve got the fantods too.

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[1] “Word of the Day – Fantods | Dictionary.Com.”

[2] “Word of the Day – Fantods | Dictionary.Com”; “Fantods | Search Online Etymology Dictionary.”

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