These after-school and weekend activities and sports are especially good for kids with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD or ADD.
After a long day in the classroom, after-school (or weekend) activities can give ADHD kids a chance to burn off extra energy and boost to their confidence. While martial arts are often touted as the go-to sport for kids struggling with this disorder, parents say they’ve found success with a variety of other activities too. It really depends on your kid—and what his passions are—but active and/or outdoor-based activities are a good place to start. We tapped CHADD (Child and Adults with ADHD) to get the scoop on the best activities to try.
Most kids, ADHD or not, love being outside. Outdoor exercises like biking and hiking are especially good for high-energy kids. Unlike with many team sports such as basketball, baseball and soccer, there is no standing around time. Your kid will be constantly moving and using large muscle groups, keeping him focused.
Unlike other activities that work either the right or left side of the brain, music exercises both sides at the same time, training your mind to multitask better. If your kid is in a band, orchestra or a choir, they are learning to work as part of a team—a key skill for kids with ADHD.
It worked wonders for Olympic gold-medalist Michael Phelps—who was diagnosed with ADHD at age 9—so it might just do the trick for your kid too. The constant movement keeps up with your kid’s energy level, and the self-discipline the sport requires is good for them too.
Girl Scouts/Cub Scouts
These organizations were founded before ADHD was even defined, and they’ve been incorporating activities that require focus, attention and organization forever. They’ve also perfected a system of rewards—super-effective for getting ADHD kids to work toward a goal—with activities like the pinewood derby, arts & crafts and of course, earning badges for a job well done.
Unlike school or travel teams, YMCA sports are much more about working as a team and sportsmanship than they are about competition. Check out your local Y for a huge range of sports that will place your kid on either a team or in a solo sport with other kids of varying athletic ability, most taught by a coach who cares more about team spirit than racking up the wins.
The line memorization, the regular practices, the rush of being on stage—all this provides routine, sharpens concentration and places ADHD kids in the center of a group effort. Bravo!
Debate team not only gets your child involved in a group with a common goal, but can provide a personal intellectual challenge. Communication skills are honed, while the battle of wits and the thrill of one-upmanship keeps kids coming back for more.
Whether it’s the track team or just a solo jog through the park, the constant movement and sense of accomplishment when your kid sees how much ground he’s covered makes running a crowd-pleaser for kids with ADHD. Also, the sport’s much-touted ability to calm the mind makes it a great way to wind down after school.
Before you judge—isn’t Bingo for grannies?—remember that simple games are great for shorter attention spans, and small, frequent wins can build self-esteem. Eventually, your kid will gain the confidence they need to play longer, more strategic games—and whup Mom’s butt.
An Activity Don’t: Television and Video Games
Of course most kids want some veg time every day. But TV and video games do little to channel energy, and can distract kids from responsibilities like schoolwork. Instead, encourage kids to get off the couch and outside, and limit the hours they sit in front of the screen. Make the time they do spend in front of the boob tube part of a reward system for when work is finished.