Summer “School” for Kids with ADHD that they will Like!
What to do with your ADHD child this summer
By: Lewis S. Odell, Ph.D.
Most kids with ADHD do not like school. In general they can’t wait for summer vacation and may start pining for it in February, if not before. However after about one week of summer vacation, many of these kids tell their parents, “I’m bored!” School provides a degree of structure and planned activities for kids with ADHD that they sometimes do not know how to do without in the summer.
Unfortunately, far too many kids with ADHD find themselves sitting in front of a screen rather than being outside during the summer. Kids with ADHD are drawn to the fast-moving pace of what happens on a digital screen. While screen time does not need to be equated with “bad” time for kids with ADHD, too much screen time is common for kids with ADHD. So instead of letting your child use his or her focusing capacities on playing video games or surfing the Internet, find other activities to reduce boredom and, more importantly, develop interests. Here are a few suggestions:
Do everything you can to keep them outside. Kids with ADHD do better when they are engaged with nature. They are happier and pay more attention, and their brains are more active. Get them in the water, on the nature trail, or playing sports. Buy an inexpensive pool for your backyard, put up a basketball hoop, or join a local swimming spot. Just keep them outdoors!
Make exercise a required and expected activity every single day of the summer. Research shows that kids with ADHD benefit greatly from exercise, as vigorous physical exercise increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which improves attention and learning. Get a morning routine going in which your kids take a bike ride or go for a run and take a 15-20 minute walk directly after dinner while it is still light outside.
Teach them that the best learning occurs outside of school. Use summer as a chance to visit museums, play great games and apps that engage your children in reading and learning, and complete projects that use their minds and bodies. Work on a construction project such as a fort or a bookshelf that requires measurement and planning or learn new skills such as cooking or painting that can engage a child.
Make time to learn how to focus. Use summer as a time to help your child practice meditation, mindfulness training, or yoga. Increasing amounts of research suggest that these tools are very powerful treatments for kids with ADHD. Summer offers time to learn to develop these skills and make them a regular part of your child’s life. Encourage your child to find tools on YouTube to make this happen.
Don’t accept boredom as an excuse. Teach your child to be interested, not bored. Help him to be prepared for situations in which he may not have much to do. Older kids might want to use this time to play with their electronics or read a book, while younger kids could be encouraged to have tools for art, something to read, or some type of “fidgit.” Find something that can be made into a sustainable interest. Consider activities such as Origami, jewelry making, or chess that are portable and expansive. You may need to remind your child to be prepared for a “boring” time, have a few things up your sleeve for him to play with, and fund expenditures to keep his hands and mind busy.
Find summer activities in your community. If you live by the ocean, get to the beach. If you live by the mountains, go for a hike. If you live in a farming community, participate in festivals that may have contests for your kids.