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37 Effective Therapy Activities for an ADHD Child

When you have a child with Adhd (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), the twists and turns can be even more challenging. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects millions of kids worldwide. It is actually the most common mental health condition affecting Children in the US. This condition makes it difficult for them to focus, control their impulses, and regulate their behavior all of which impact them socially, academically and behaviorally.  

ADHD affects the brain's executive functions, including attention, impulse control, and behavior regulation. But the good news is therapy Activities, especially those focused on natural solutions for brain health, can help your child thrive.

Imagine trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle with a few missing pieces. That's what it's like for children with ADHD when it comes to managing their thoughts and actions. It's crucial to understand that ADHD does not result from bad parenting or a lack of discipline. It's a neurodevelopmental disorder that requires patience, understanding, and the right strategies to help children learn and succeed.

Common ADHD Symptoms in Children

Before diving into therapy activities, let's take a closer look at some common symptoms of ADHD in children. Understanding these symptoms is the first step to helping your child manage the condition. Symptoms can vary from child to child but often include:

  • Inattention: Difficulty sustaining close attention in tasks or play activities.
  • Hyperactivity: An excessive amount of energy, often seen in fidgeting, restlessness, or running around.
  • Impulsivity: Acting without thinking of the consequences, interrupting others, or having trouble waiting their turn.
  • Organization and time management difficulties: Trouble keeping their belongings in order or managing tasks with a sense of time.
  • Forgetfulness: Frequently losing things like school books or toys and forgetting daily tasks.

The Importance of Therapy Activities for Children with ADHD

Therapy activities are essential because they provide a structured and supportive environment where kids with ADHD can attain a greater sense of self-confidence and accomplishment. Here's why they matter:

  • Structure and Routine: Children with ADHD perform better in structured environments. Therapy sessions that provide consistency and predictability can help them feel more secure and focused.
  • Skill Building: Most therapy activities are designed to target specific skills that kids with ADHD often struggle with. They help improve these skills gradually over time.
  • Emotional Regulation: Children with ADHD can experience intense emotions. Therapy activities teach them how to identify and manage these emotions healthily.
  • Confidence Boost: As kids learn and achieve success in therapy activities, their self-esteem and self-confidence receive a much-needed boost.

Goals and Objectives of Therapy Sessions for Children with ADHD

Therapy sessions for kids with ADHD are not one-size-fits-all. They should be tailored to the unique needs and strengths of each child. Here are some overarching goals and objectives that therapists typically aim for:

  • Improved Attention Span: Enhancing the ability to focus on tasks and follow instructions.
  • Better Impulse Control: Learning to think before acting and managing impulsive behavior.
  • Effective Communication: Building social skills, including listening and responding to others.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: Teaching children how to approach and resolve challenges independently.
  • Stress Management: Equipping kids with strategies to cope with stress and frustration.

There is a vast array of activities and therapies that can empower children with ADHD to thrive and reach their full potential. Implementing these strategies can help your child build essential skills, manage their symptoms, and embrace a brighter future filled with success and confidence.

Therapy Activities for Developing Problem-Solving Skills

Problem-solving is a fundamental life skill that everyone needs, but it's especially vital for children with ADHD. These youngsters often face challenges in this department due to their impulsive tendencies and difficulties with sustained attention. Certain therapy activities provide an excellent platform to hone these crucial problem-solving skills.

1. Scavenger Hunt 

One popular activity that therapists use is the classic scavenger hunt. This seemingly simple game packs a punch when it comes to developing problem-solving abilities. Children are given a list of items to find or clues to decipher, and they must strategize and plan their approach. This activity not only exercises their cognitive abilities but also fosters teamwork and collaboration if done in a group setting.

2. Interactive Storytelling

Another effective technique involves interactive storytelling. Therapists might present a scenario or a challenge within a story and ask the child to come up with possible solutions. This taps into their creativity and encourages them to consider various perspectives and consequences to help them understand that there's often more than one great way to tackle a problem.

3. Puzzles 

For older children and teenagers with ADHD, more complex problem-solving activities can be introduced. These might include logic puzzles, riddles, or brainteasers. Such challenges not only stimulate their intellect but also teach them persistence and patience. These are valuable skills they can carry into their academic and personal lives.

Therapy Activities for Improving Attention Span and Concentration Skills

One of the hallmark challenges for children with ADHD is maintaining attention and concentration. These skills are essential to do well in school, at home, and in social settings. These therapy activities offer effective strategies to enhance such vital skills. 

4. Memory Games

Memory games, for instance, challenge a child's ability to focus on and recall information. These brain exercises encourage them to pay attention to details and sharpen their memory skills. They require sustained focus and attention, which will help build their attention span gradually while enjoying themselves.

5. Mindfulness Exercises

Mindfulness exercises are another powerful tool in the therapist's arsenal. These activities teach children to be present in the moment, heightening their awareness and enhancing their ability to concentrate on the task at hand. Simple breathing exercises or guided imagery sessions can be particularly effective (Cairncross & Miller, 2016).

6. Interactive Computer Programs

Therapists often incorporate technology into therapy sessions, using interactive computer programs, video games, and apps designed to improve attention and concentration. These digital tools provide a dynamic and engaging way for kids to practice staying on task.

Calming and Stress-Reducing Activities for Children with ADHD

Children with ADHD often find themselves caught in a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions, which can lead to heightened stress and anxiety. The ability to calm their minds and manage stress is an essential skill that can significantly improve their quality of life. 

7. Deep Breathing 

Deep breathing exercises are a fundamental component of stress reduction therapy. These exercises teach children to take slow, deliberate breaths, allowing them to regain control over their racing thoughts. Practicing deep breathing regularly allows kids to develop a reliable method for calming themselves when stress levels rise.

8. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a powerful tool for getting kids to connect to their bodies. By tensing and then releasing various muscle groups, children become more attuned to the physical sensations associated with stress. This heightened awareness enables them to consciously release tension, reducing overall stress levels and promoting relaxation (Jarraya et al., 2022).

9. Art Therapy 

Art therapy offers a unique outlet for emotional expression. Through creative endeavors, like an art project, children can channel their feelings into visual or tactile forms. This form of self-expression not only reduces stress but also allows them to explore and understand their emotions in a nonverbal manner (Habib & Ali, 2015).

Therapies and Activities to Enhance Social Skills in Children with ADHD

Social skills are a crucial aspect of a child's development. For children with ADHD, these skills can present unique challenges. Therapy activities are invaluable tools for enhancing social competence and helping these young individuals build meaningful relationships.

10. Group Therapy

Group therapy activities create a supportive environment where children can work together and learn from one another. Collaborative projects, team-building exercises, and cooperative games encourage cooperation, teamwork, and the development of interpersonal skills. These activities not only enhance social competence but also help children build a sense of belonging.

11. Scenario-Based Learning

Therapists often use storytelling or scenario-based activities to teach children how to navigate social dilemmas. By presenting real-life situations and discussing possible solutions, children with ADHD can develop problem-solving skills and learn to make thoughtful decisions in social contexts.

12. Board Games 

Structured activities like board games provide opportunities for children to practice turn-taking, sharing, and following rules. These are all essential components of social interactions. Games like chess or strategy-based board games require careful planning and decision-making. They encourage children to think ahead and consider the consequences of their actions, promoting impulse control.

Fun Games and Activities to Promote Impulse Control in Kids with ADHD

Impulse control is a key area of development for children with ADHD, and play therapy can make learning self-control an enjoyable and engaging experience. These activities not only help children manage their impulses but also provide them with valuable life skills.

13. Simon Says

This classic game is an excellent way to teach impulse control. Children must listen carefully and only follow commands when preceded by “Simon says.” It encourages them to think before acting and resist impulsive responses.

14. Red Light, Green Light

In this game, children practice stopping and starting on command. It helps improve their ability to control their movements and responses, a crucial skill for impulse control.

15. Emotion Recognition Games

Interactive activities that involve identifying and discussing emotions in various scenarios help young children better understand their feelings and reactions. This game fosters impulse control through emotional awareness.

16. Count to Ten

A simple but effective technique, counting to ten before reacting to a situation allows children to pause and think before acting impulsively.

Physical Activities to Help Children with ADHD Address Excess Energy

Children with ADHD often have boundless energy, which can be both a blessing and a challenge. Any physical activity that incorporates movement provides an outlet for such high energy, promoting better focus, self-regulation, and overall well-being.

17. Outdoor Sports

Encouraging children to participate in team sports like soccer, basketball, or baseball not only helps them burn off energy but also fosters discipline, teamwork, and social interaction. These after-school activities promote physical fitness while improving attention span.

18. Yoga 

Mindful movement practices like yoga and tai chi can be highly beneficial for children with ADHD. These activities promote balance, coordination, and relaxation. It helps children find inner calm and improve their self-control.

19. Dance

Dance classes, whether in ballet, hip-hop, or contemporary styles, offer an enjoyable way for children to express themselves physically. Dancing encourages creativity, improves body awareness, and teaches them to focus on movements and routines. Planning a dance party every so often is a great activity to release that extra energy.

20. Martial Arts

Karate, taekwondo, or judo can be excellent choices for children with ADHD. These disciplines emphasize self-discipline, self-control, and respect for others, while the physical aspect allows children to channel their energy constructively.

21. Obstacle Courses

Creating obstacle courses at home or in therapy sessions can be a fun and effective way for children to practice physical coordination and impulse control. They can navigate these courses, honing their problem-solving skills and self-regulation.

22. Hiking and Nature Walks

Spending time in nature can be an incredibly calming activity for children with ADHD. Hiking or going on nature walks allows them to explore the outdoors, connect with their environment, and release excess energy in a serene setting.

Behavior Management Strategies for Children with ADHD

Effective behavior management is crucial for children with ADHD as it helps create a structured and supportive environment where they can thrive. Behavior therapy and strategies designed for behavior management provide essential tools for both parents and children in managing ADHD-related challenges.

23. Clear and Consistent Rules

Establishing clear rules and expectations is the foundation of behavior management. Children with ADHD benefit from knowing what is expected of them. Consistency in enforcing these rules is equally important.

24. Positive Reinforcement

Rewarding desired behaviors with praise, privileges, or small incentives can motivate children with ADHD to exhibit appropriate conduct. Positive reinforcement encourages them to repeat these behaviors.

25. Time Management Skills

Children with ADHD often struggle with time management. Visual schedules, timers, and alarms help them develop a sense of time and structure their activities more effectively.

26. Consequences

While positive reinforcement is essential, consequences for behavior problems are also necessary. These consequences should be logical, immediate, and fair, helping children understand the link between their actions and the outcomes.

27. Behavior Contracts

Creating written agreements with children about their expected behavior and the consequences for both poor and good behavior can be an effective strategy. This approach promotes responsibility and accountability.

28. Coping Strategies

Teach children coping techniques to manage their emotions and impulses. Deep breathing, self-calming techniques, and self-reflection can help them handle frustration and stress constructively.

29. Parent-Child Communication

Open and effective communication is vital. Parents should encourage their children to express their feelings and concerns. This fosters trust and allows parents to better understand their child's perspective.

30. Professional Support

Seeking guidance from occupational therapists, counselors, or support groups can provide parents with valuable tools and strategies for behavior management. These professionals can offer insights tailored to the specific needs of the child.

31. Parenting Techniques

Parents can learn specialized parenting techniques, such as Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) or Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS), designed to manage behavior challenges in children with ADHD. Joining a weekly session of any parent training program can help you manage your child's behavior better.

Learning-Based Activities for Children with ADHD

For children with ADHD, learning-based activities not only provide valuable educational experiences but also offer a structured and engaging way to improve focus, concentration, and cognitive skills. These activities are essential for helping children with ADHD succeed academically and beyond.

32. Hands-On Experiments

Science experiments and hands-on projects allow children to explore concepts practically and interactively. These activities promote curiosity, critical thinking, and a deeper understanding of scientific principles.

33. Reading and Storytelling

Encouraging children to read or listen to stories not only fosters a love of literature but also improves their attention span and comprehension. Discussing the plot, characters, and themes further enhances their cognitive abilities.

34. Math Riddles and Challenges

Math-based puzzle games, riddles, and challenges stimulate logical thinking and mathematical reasoning. They encourage children to analyze problems, strategize solutions, and build a strong foundation in math.

35. Creativity Outlets

Engaging in creative activities like drawing, painting, or crafting allows children to express themselves while honing their fine motor skills and attention to detail. Artistic endeavors encourage imagination and self-expression.

36. Coding and Technology

Learning to code or engaging in technology-based projects can be particularly appealing to children with ADHD. It allows them to focus on problem-solving and logical thinking while harnessing their enthusiasm for technology.

37. Music and Instrument Learning

Music lessons and playing musical instruments can help children with ADHD develop discipline, concentration, and the ability to follow instructions. Music education fosters creativity and cognitive development.

The BrainBehaviorResetTM Program is designed specifically to address the needs of children with ADHD. This innovative program combines the latest research in neuroscience, integrative therapy, nutrition supplementation, and holistic approaches to provide a comprehensive solution for children who face the daily challenges of ADHD. 

The program also offers insights and strategies that can empower parents and caregivers in their quest to support children with ADHD on their path to better mental health, improved focus, and enhanced overall well-being.

Parent Action Steps

☐ Begin by thoroughly understanding ADHD and its impact on your child's life. 
☐ Reach out to healthcare providers, therapists, and educators who specialize in ADHD. 
☐ Encourage your child to express their feelings, concerns, and ADHD experiences. 
☐ Create a structured daily routine that promotes predictability. 
☐ Understand that managing ADHD is a journey, and progress may be gradual. 
☐ Integrate therapy activities into your child's daily life. 
☐ Partner with your child's school to create an IEP or 504 Plan. 
☐ Take time to recharge and seek support from friends and family.
☐ Regularly evaluate your child's progress in managing ADHD. 
☐ Celebrate your child's achievements, both big and small. 
☐ Keep up-to-date with the latest research and developments in ADHD treatment.
☐ Take this ADHD Quiz to know if your child has ADHD or something else. 
☐ Try the Solutions Matcher to get personalized treatment for your child.

Citations

Cairncross, M., & Miller, C. J. (2016). The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Therapies for ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, 24(5), 108705471562530. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054715625301

Habib, H. A., & Ali, U. (2015). Efficacy of Art Therapy in the Reduction of Impulsive Behaviors of Children with ADHD Co-Morbid Intellectual Disability. Pakistan Journal of Psychology, 46(2). http://www.pjpku.com/index.php/pjp/article/view/72

Jarraya, S., Jarraya, M., & Engel, F. A. (2022). Kindergarten-Based Progressive Muscle Relaxation Training Enhances Attention and Executive Functioning in 5-6-year-old Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 129(3), 003151252210803.
https://doi.org/10.1177/00315125221080334

Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family”

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.

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Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of  media outlets including, CBS, NBC, FOX News, PIX11 NYC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Business Insider, USA Today, CNET, Marth Stewart, and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.” 

She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Mental Health Professional (CIMHP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach.  She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).

© Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2023

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37 Effective Therapy Activities for an ADHD Child

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