It’s summer For many children summer means no school and day after day of having nothing to do but have fun. But for children with ADHD day after day without any structure often means getting into trouble. As parents, you know your child has worked hard through the school year, even if it doesn’t show up on the report card, and you know he or she needs a break. But at the same time, your child probably does better with structure. He probably stays out of trouble when he has something to do and knows what is coming next. For you, the long summer ahead might signal endless days of bored, hyperactive kids.
The following are ideas to help keep your kids busy. Choose those activities that suit their interests. You might want to create an "idea jar" and write down the ideas that might keep your child’s interest. Place them all in a jar and every time you hear "I’m bored" pull an idea out of the jar.
Have a picnic in the park - pack up some sandwiches, snacks and bottled water and head off to enjoy a day in the sunshine.
Check out the local library - many libraries have special programs throughout the summer, check to see what your library offers.
Learn to cook - look on the internet for some easy, child-friendly recipes that your children can use to start learning how to cook. For older children find some more challenging recipes.
Race paper airplanes - you can create a simple paper airplane in a matter of minutes but challenge your children to be more creative, decorating the planes or looking up ways to make different types of planes out of a sheet of paper.
Plant and care for a garden - you can start a garden with some seeds and paper cups or buy a few plants at the local nursery and plant a garden outdoors.
Create a scrapbook or collage - Print pictures from the internet, use old magazines or print out digital pictures from your phone or camera and create a scrapbook of summer adventures. This is a great idea to help keep kids busy during a summer vacation; they can keep a journal of their summer vacation to go along with the pictures.
Tackle large chores - use the summer months to tackle some of the jobs that just keep getting put off, like cleaning out closets or organizing the cupboards.
Plan a treasure hunt - this works great if you have more than one child or a friend is visiting. Have one child hid a "treasure" in the house or backyard and draw a treasure map for the other to follow. Then reverse and have them do it again.
Decorate dishes - use dishes from the dollar store and decorate with Sharpie permanent markers. According to TheSweetestOccasion.com, you can bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and the design becomes permanent.
Create an indoor paddle ball game - glue a large popsicle or wooden sticks to the back of two paper plates 9or more if you want more paddles) and use a balloon as the ball. Great idea for when its raining out and you need a way to use up some excess energy although it works great outside too.
Create a living room fort - using sheets, blankets and pillows, make a fort in the living room. Somehow reading, drawing or coloring are all much more fun inside a fort.
Have a toy wash - have your children gather up their plastic/metal toys, bikes and cars that could use a good washing. Fill up some buckets with soapy water and let them have fun washing the toys. Then take the hose and rinse everything off. Let everything dry in the sun.
Use audio books - download some audio stories for use on the iPad, Kindle, Nook or whatever electronic device you have. Your child gets to hear a story and you get time to get chores done.
Use Skype to keep in touch - set up Skype connections with some of your children’s favorite people, this could be a friend from school, a cousin they don’t often see or their grandparents. Schedule a time for your children to "visit" with friends and relatives.
Create food jewelry - an old favorite; use macaroni, cheerios, fruit loops or other round food and some yarn to create necklaces. Macaroni can be embellished with paint and glitter.
Rent a movie - for those rainy days when going outside isn’t a choice, rent a movie or two and pop some popcorn. Gather up some pillows and blankets and spread out on the living room floor for a family movie event.
Volunteer - for older children, find volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood. Check out your newspaper, ask at your local library or use websites such as Volunteers of American or Volunteer Match to find the right opportunity.
Create a craft box - fill an box with construction paper, buttons, glitter, markers, paint, glue, old magazines and anything else you have around the house. When your children are bored, pull out the box and get their creative juices flowing.
Sidewalk chalk - another old favorite, make sure you have plenty of sidewalk chalk around and have the children turn your driveway or sidewalk into a masterpiece.
Write a story - Staple anywhere from 5 to 10 pieces of paper together (depending on the age of your child) and have each child write a story. You might want to give them an idea on what to write about or let them choose the theme. They can draw or cut out pictures to go with the story. At bedtime, read the stories instead of the usual books.
With the recent research on ADHD and exercise, make sure that your children spend at least an hour outside each day (with sunscreen of course) riding bikes, swimming, hiking or running around. Provide them with some structure throughout the day but give your kids a chance to just explore and learn.
For more information on ADHD during the summer:
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.