Top activities for children with ADHD
In the UK it is estimated that around 2%-5% of school aged children have ADHD. However, in England only 0.35% of girls and 1.5% of boys are being treated for ADHD compared to the global average of 5.3% of children.
A lot of children with ADHD struggle to concentrate and complete tasks, including activities. Here we list the best activities for children with ADHD.
What is ADHD?
- Hyperactivity - Can't sit still, fidgeting, trouble sleeping
- Inattention - trouble concentrating, forgetful, struggle to complete tasks, unorganised
- Impulsivity - Speaking without thinking, acting without thinking, struggle to wait their turn, interrupt others
These symptoms are usually noticed at an early age, the most noticeable time is when a child starts school. Most cases are diagnosed in children under 12 years old and people of any intellectual capability can be diagnosed with it, however it is more common in children with learning disabilities.
However! It's not all negative, people with ADHD have strengths that they may not even realise, some of these include
- Quick thinking
It's important to remember that every child is unique and will have their own individual likes and dislikes that should be considered. Planning and catering the activities to their needs is vital for the completion and enjoyment of the activities, they will be more likely to take part in activities that they enjoy or have some interest in. The child's skills should also be taken into consideration, ask yourself: what can they do? Would they enjoy this?
Usually children enjoy activities with an outdoor element or one that involves physical activities, so make sure the weather is nice and they are wearing suitable clothing! Physical activity increases the production of dopamine and noradrenaline, this helps to increase attention and ease symptoms of ADHD (e.g. hyperactivity). However, it is important to monitor their energy levels and don't overwork themselves to the point of over-tiredness or burnout.
Other factors to consider is that the child is always supervised and even if the activity includes friends, there is always a parent or guardian involved.
Taking part in a team sport helps build social skills, boosts their self-esteem and helps them feel accepted, whilst also developing their physical ability. It's important to consider which sport is best for them as certain sports may not be constantly stimulating. Some great team sports are:
- Football - a great way to make friends, burn of energy and teaches them about sportsmanship
- Basketball - involves constant movement and focus, no time is spent being idle, perfect for children who struggle with inattention
- Hockey - endurance focused with lots of activity
- Dance - requires focus and coordination
Individual sports where children can be taught individually with a coach, mentor or teacher means they get the attention they require. Some great examples are:
- Martial arts - this teaches self control, self discipline and focuses on concentration.
- Swimming - this is a valuable life skill but can also aid children with maintaining focus (Michael Phelps, olympic champion and one of the worlds greatest swimmers, says that swimming helps him manage his ADHD symptoms)
- Tennis - great for working on coordination and burning off energy
- Gymnastics - requires a great deal of attention and focus, routines can help children develop a sense of balance.
Some children with ADHD show a lot of curiosity and creativity, involving them in a creative class such as an art class or music class may benefit them greatly. On the other hand they may not want to be in another class based environment after spending 5 days a week in the classroom.
But fear not!
It is always doable from home! Get some art and crafts supplies and let their imagination run wild, let them write and come up with stories, or build something. Alternatively if they prefer the musical route, see if there is an instrument they may want to learn to play or even just put on some music and let them dance!
The more time spent in “green environments”, the better. A green environment may be a park, a garden or a farm and can inspire a whole range of activities:
- Walking/hiking - make it more exciting by setting challenges or little games such as finding cool rocks, pointing out flowers, looking for animals
- Bike riding
- Treasure hunting
Every child loves to play games or “play pretend” and invent new magical realities, mostly with other friends their age. Meet up with other parents and their children at events or just for a casual playdate!
If they are busy or no events are taking place then do not despair, some activities are great for the whole family, involving siblings, parents, relatives etc…
Some of the games you could play are:
- Puzzles (jigsaws, card games, find the difference, chess, battleships, number games etc…)
- Board games (nothing too long such as Monopoly, this will cause them to lose focus and get bored)
- Dress up/story games
- Hula hooping
- Jump rope/skipping rope
- Cooking/baking (always ensure they are supervised and safe)
Events and days out
Getting them out of the house altogether is a great idea and a great way to let them experience new and exciting things, some ideas are:
- Museums - they offer children with ADHD an interactive experience, as well as a chance to explore and learn in a stimulating environment
- Theatre - assisted performances may offer services such as a more relaxed or chilled performance, creating a less overwhelming environment and experience.
Some extra tips
Although they may not be classed as “activities” there are a range of toys and devices that can help children with ADHD:
- Fidget spinners
- Rubiks cube
- Fidget bubble poppers
- Play dough
- Stress balls
Living in an increasingly digital world can make it difficult to keep children away from technology, gadgets and the internet. Where possible it is more beneficial to reduce their screen time as too much time in front of the screen can elevate their symptoms. Setting restrictions or time limits may be beneficial for them.
In the end, no one knows your child better than you. You can plan, structure and cater around their specific needs, likes, dislikes and what they want to do or what they would excel at.
Let their strengths and skills shine!
For more information on ADHD visit: What is ADHD? | CDC
For more information on diagnosis of ADHD: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) - Diagnosis - NHS
For information on treatment of ADHD: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) - Treatment - NHS