This list of activities for children with ADHD is meant for helping parents keep their ADHD child happily occupied, as well as help work on different skills the attention deficient hyperactive child may need improvement on. Many kids have several strengths in different areas – for some it may be athletic for others it may be more creative. Other children may need help learning ways to calm down, relax, work on self esteem and handling emotions, or become more organized. This list will help you come up with some great ideas that foster both their strengths but also give them the opportunity to develop areas where they need improvement.
25 Activities for Children With ADHD:
1. Create a Calendar: Make a schedule together for the family, such as a weekly or monthly calendar of events. Decorate it using markers, stickers, or crayons. Set time aside each day where you review what you will do that day or the next day together, and cross off days that are over if you wish. This activity allows for some creativity, as well as helps with organization.
2. Build Something: Whether you use clay, blocks, or even cardboard boxes out of your pantry cabinet, many kids with ADHD enjoy building things. It is very rewarding to see something go from start to finish. Try to choose something the child is interested in – for example a child that really likes birds would enjoy building a bird house, a child that is into Star Wars might like to build a model spacecraft. Choose age appropriate activities – a 5 year old would love building a fort out of cardboard boxes – a 12 year old may prefer building a model car or something out of a kit. Also keep in mind your child may be better off with something that can be done in 30 minutes as opposed to three hours. This activity helps with both self esteem and focusing to see a task to completion.
3. Make Music: It doesn’t matter if you have any talent, music can be a great way for kids to express themselves. Make your own instruments such as shakers or use pots and pans for drums, or see if you can find something such as a harmonica or kazoo. Older children may enjoy playing piano or guitar, or you can encourage them to write a song and sing. This activity allows for creativity, expression, and just some plain old fun!
4. Exercise: Kids who are hyperactive have a hard time sitting still for any activity – so an activity that gets them moving will help them feel great about moving around. You can jog, do aerobics, take a bike ride, or go swimming. (Swimming is probably one of our favorite, as it really tires them out since many will enjoy swimming for hours!)
5. Touch Stuff: Many children with ADHD have the need to impulsively touch stuff, which in many situations can lead to frustration when they can’t or shouldn’t. Create an activity where they can touch things and describe how the object feels, or take them to a children museum that has a lot of interactive displays. This helps with sensory recognition.
6. Cook Something: Most kids love helping out to cook something, especially when it is one of their favorite foods. Whether you’re making jello, fruit salad, or lasagna, kids can help prepare and measure out the ingredients, place them in the bowl, and make something they can eat afterward. Make sure you do one step at a time. This activity helps with following directions and seeing something through from start to finish.
7. Take a Nature Walk: Going outdoors for a nature walk is a peaceful and yet stimulating adventure. You are constantly moving while hiking, which greatly helps with using up all of that energy – and you can also take some time looking at all the distractions and enjoying them, such as birds chirping or different plants and flowers you see.
8. Make a Book: This activity helps with both writing skills and study skills, but is fun enough that it allows for a lot of expression of creativity. Use a blank journal or staple several sheets of paper together. Choose a theme for the book, for example “My Favorite Things”. Have the child work on one page a day unless they are really interested in it, then they can do it all in one sitting if they want. You can draw, collage, scrapbook, etc. etc.
9. Plant a Garden: Many kids with ADHD love gardening and it is a fun activity for parents to do with them. Even those who do not have a yard suitable for a garden can grow smaller plants in containers indoors. Let them get as messy as they need to get, but also make sure they clean up. Remembering to water the garden and check on it will help them build responsibility.
10. Sort it Out: Organization for many children is a problem area, so any activity that involves sorting things or pattern building will help them with sorting and organizing, as well as feed their ability for problem solving. You can sort out toys they no longer play with, color coordinate their belongings, or sort through a large box of buttons.
11. Play Concentration: Concentration, also known commercially as the game Memory is a game where cards are flipped over and you have to find the matching pair taking turns by flipping only two cards over at a time. The game is fast enough paced if played with only 2-3 players and will help your child focus on remembering where the cards are to gain matches.
12. Keep a Journal: Many kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have a hard time expressing their feelings or remembering what they did from one day to the next. Make it a point for each day or a few times a week to write something down in a journal about what they did and how it made them feel.
13. Simon Says: This is a better game played with several children, but it can be done with just two people, especially if you take turns being “Simon”. Never played it before? You can find the directions here. This activity builds listening skills.
14. Deep Breathing Exercises: This activity will help learning how to calm down and relax as well as deal with anger or frustration. Practice taking deep breaths together, and then as you take deep breaths also move a part of your body. For example, you can take a deep breath while you wiggle your toes, then while you bend your knees, then while you bend your elbows, etc. etc. You can also teach your child to recognize when they are angry if their fists are clenched for example and to breathe deeply in those situations.
15. Spa Day: Learning to relax and be calm is very important. Take some time for spa like treatment with massage, bubble baths, soaking your feet or other spa activities, even if it’s just done at home.
16. Treasure Hunt: This is an activity that will help build focus as well as pay attention to detail. Depending on the age of your child, you can do very basic by hiding different objects in a room for them to find, much like an Easter egg hunt. For older children, you could give them clues that lead to other clues that take them to the treasure. (Though for older children, you probably won’t want to call it a treasure hunt – just tell them you have a surprise for them!)
17. Put on a Show: Many children struggle with emotional feelings, either learning how to appropriately express them or how to react in certain situations. You can incorporate teaching these things to your children by putting on a show and placing the characters into a situation where they might feel angry, sad, or frustrated. Younger children might enjoy a puppet show, older children might like the idea of getting in front a video camera and making a video. This is an activity that allows for creative freedom while also teaching important skills to handle and deal with feelings.
18. Label It:Organization is a common struggle between parents and kids of adhd. If you have access to a label maker (such as this very inexpensive Brother P-touch Electronic Labeling System), it can be fun for them to type in words and then see the machine make the label. They can label what goes inside drawers or where to store their toys and coats for example.
19. Make Signs: Many children with ADHD need prompts to remind them what to do or struggle with impulse control. A fun activity is to make signs together that remind them to do certain things. For example, you might make a sign that says “Please remember to close the door!” Younger children may benefit from drawing pictures if they are unable to read and write yet. You can also post signs around the house that enforce other rules of the home. Some children may have fun with road signs and symbols, such as a stop sign or yield sign.
20. Stop and Go: For children who struggle with impulse control, this can be another beneficial activity. You can do it with many different variations, but basically you will do an activity where you will make them stop in the middle of it and praise them for good stopping. For example, you may have them jump in place or dance in a very silly manner and then shout “stop!” or “freeze!” With older children, you can also do this with a story you are familiar with and when the character is about to make a decision or do something you can say freeze and then ask the child what they think the character should do.
21. Go Cloud Watching or Star Gazing: Cloud watching can be a fun way to be imaginative as well as let their creativity show through. You can also use the exercise for developing emotional feelings or relaxation techniques as well. Older children may enjoy watching stars through a telescope.
22. Take Pictures: A disposable camera or a very sturdy inexpensive indestructible digital camera can be a fun way for your child to capture the different moments and activities of the day. You can choose a certain theme (ie: photographing flowers, animals, toys) or you can have them take pictures of people. The pictures can then be collected in a scrapbook or taped to a poster to display for your child to talk about.
23. Make a Fidget: A “fidget” is anything that your child can hold onto or play with during a time when they might need to sit still or be quiet. Examples include a beaded bracelet they can wear and play with or filling a balloon with flour to create a stress ball. This will give them something that helps them to stay calm in situations where they need to wait or sit quietly.
24. Ask for Directions: Ask your child to give you directions for something. It can be as simple as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or something else you know they can tell you how to do. It is likely your child would say something like “Put the peanut butter on the bread.” Follow the directions quite literally – meaning you’d put the jar of peanut butter on top of the bread before it is even out of the bag. This will help them stop and think of the different steps, such as take the bread out of the bag, then open the jar of peanut butter, etc. It will likely get a few laughs out of your child, but also teach them the importance of slowing down and explaining things one step at a time.
25. Make a Conversation Jar: Either type up or write some good conversation starting questions onto a piece of paper and then cut them up into small strips which you can place in a jar, basket, or other suitable container. Example conversation starters include “I feel happy when I _____.” or “My favorite place to eat is ______.” or “I feel proud when I can ______.” You can choose to do this once a week and make sure everyone in the family takes turn answering questions. This will give you and your child an opportunity to talk about things and can help them feel good about themselves.
The possibilities and variations for these activities are endless, and can certainly be modified for being appropriate for your child’s interests as well as their age level. Do you have any ideas for activities for children with ADHD? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section below!