Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
5 Activities for Kids With ADHD: How To Parent & Support Them
Published Oct 15th, 2021 & updated on Jan 17th, 2022
So, you’re spending time with a child with ADHD, and you want to know how to keep them stimulated. Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher, or babysitter, you’ve come to the right place! (We’re gonna call you a caretaker because that list is a biiiit of a mouthful.) Let’s go over a few activities for kids with ADHD that will help you structure their interests and keep them engaged.
There are a few signs of ADHD in kids that you can look for. Symptoms can include being inattentive, hyperactive, and/or impulsive, to the point that it disrupts everyday life. These symptoms can make it difficult to focus in class, listen to instructions, sit still for long periods of time, be quiet, and stay organized. FYI, if you’re wondering about the difference between ADD or ADHD, they’re now combined to all be covered under ADHD. The more you know!
Kids with ADHD can struggle with low self-confidence, have trouble making friends, and have a tough time in school. But it’s not all bad! They can also see boosts in creativity, spontaneity, energy levels, and the ability to hyperfocus. These benefits, if left undirected, won’t do anyone any favours. This is where some caretaker guidance comes in.
Let’s dive into some ideas for activities to keep a child displaying ADHD symptoms busy, build their skills, and direct their energy into fun things!
1. Get Outdoors
There are soooo many benefits to exploring the great outdoors, and reducing ADHD symptoms is one of them. A 2011 study looked at children’s time playing outdoors versus indoors. Turns out, playing outdoors helped reduce symptoms of ADHD more than indoor play areas. The kids with hyperactivity benefited more from wide-open green spaces. So skip the indoor play place and head to your local green space! (Totally rhymed. Nailed it.)
2. Make Your Home More Exciting
We can’t always be out in nature, so sometimes indoor stimulation will have to do. Any game that has some physical activity will be beneficial to a child with ADHD. Indoor scavenger hunts are great (I mean, even as adults, that sounds pretty fun). The Floor Is Lava is a good choice, so long as your furniture can take it and everything breakable is put away. If you wanna get involved, look up some videos of parent/kid dance workouts and follow along! Bonus points if there’s matching ‘80s workout outfits to go with it.
3. Try a Sport, but the Right Kind of Sport
Sports can provide a kid with ADHD some structure, routine, and a healthy release of pent-up energy. All good things, right? Well, with ADHD, caretakers should pay attention to how kids react to certain sports. A study from 2000, which focused on behaviour from boys with ADHD while playing team sports, found that the boys struggled with frustration, emotional reactivity, and disqualification more, relative to the other kids.
That’s not to say that team sports are totally out! But individually-focused sports may be more beneficial for a child with ADHD. Try out wrestling, swimming, or martial arts. Unleash their inner Karate Kid!
Working with a child’s ADHD symptoms can be a challenge, but you’re trying, and that’s pretty great. In the DiveThru course “Parenting Kids With ADHD,” child psychologist Dr. Carrie Jackson goes through so many more aspects of raising ADHD kids, like building their self-confidence, how to work with the school, and creating a routine. Check out the DiveThru app to watch the course!
4. A Little Screen Time Can Be Good
Screen time with children is a hot topic in mental health discussions. A 2018 study concluded that too much screen time for kids can lead to long term physical, psychological, and social issues. Mental health professionals recommend no more than two hours per day for children. Less is best!
Kids with ADHD are at risk of developing an attachment to screen time, becoming hyper focused, losing interest in other activities, and getting irritable when screen time is taken away from them. We’ve all had that spike of anxiety when our phones aren’t in our eyeline, and kids can develop that digital dependence, too.
But we also know that getting rid of screen time altogether would be difficult in today’s digital world. Monitored screen time can be a good tool to find out what your child is interested in and use that to suggest other activities. Their first-person shooter obsession might transfer well into archery. Open world games could get them excited about an outdoor adventure. Play around and see what sticks!
5. Try Some Music Therapy
Do they show an interest in an instrument? Fantastic! Music therapy has been used in the past for kids with ADHD, and has been helpful in developing their attentiveness. This therapy is often combined with other kinds of treatment, such as medication, but usually has a favourable outcome.
You don’t need to get private lessons or an expensive instrument just yet. If your child shows an interest, you can test the waters with a cheaper instrument first, like a recorder or ukulele. YouTube has some great follow-along videos for beginners. Try it out!
Provide Structure For Any Of Their Interests
This is a pretty general rule, but a big one. Maybe your child shows an interest in playing the drums, cooking, gymnastics, art, hiking, or any other activity. What’s important to consider as the caretaker is providing freedom within structure.
Because of a fun little phenomenon called hyperfocus, they might pick up things quickly and drop them just as fast. By structuring their interests, you can help focus their mind and build their self-confidence. Positive feedback goes a long way for kids with ADHD, so encouraging their hobbies can be super helpful! They stay occupied and happy, they’re proud of themselves, and you’re helping them build fun skills. Everyone wins!
All these activities are one piece of the puzzle. As we explain in our DiveThru course, helping kids with ADHD is so much more than just keeping them busy. It may include working with a therapist, managing their school life, and building a daily routine, along with all the other everyday stuff. Taking care of a child with ADHD can definitely be stressful, but reading this article is a great step to take! What really matters is doing whatever fits for you and your child.
Go have a workout dance party/nature hike/jam session and find out what you both need. We’ll be over here, cheering you on.