Looking for ways to keep your children stimulated, focused and amused? Our ADHD Expert Eileen Bailey shares her tips for keeping children entertained throughout the year.
Parents of children with ADHD need to be creative thinkers. They need to find games and activities that can hold their children’s interest, keep them focused and provide enough stimulus that they aren’t going to hear “I’m bored” only minutes after beginning an activity. Each season brings its own challenges. In winter children are inside more often, and as parents it is our choice to let them watch television way too much or to find ways to keep them amused. In spring, the rainy days lead to days of boredom, whining and complaining. In summer, there is no school to keep our children occupied and the long days can seem to stretch on forever. In fall, the children have become bored once again and with the winter looming ahead, we once again must find ways to channel excess energy.
These activities were borne from necessity. They have been used in my home, or they have been passed to me from parents willing to share their ideas in an effort to help other parents keep their sanity. Use these as a starting point and add your own ideas. Write each one on a separate paper and place in two jars (one for inside games and one for outside activities.) Each time you hear “I’m bored” have your child pick out a paper, and have fun!
Go to the library or bookstore and get a book on the types of birds in your area. Make some simple bird feeders and/or birdbaths. Have your children keep a journal of what birds they have seen. Use the book to look them up. If each child has a notebook, they can draw a picture of the bird, write a sentence about it and start their own bird book.
Creating Your Own Bird Feeder
This is a simple bird feeder that can be made from items found around most homes. You will need string, 2 liter plastic bottle and small branches. You can fill with bird feed found in most grocery stores. Cut a hole in the center of the bottle, large enough for birds to get in and out. Make two small holes below the center hole (on opposite sides of the bottle.) Push the branch through the two small holes and leave it sticking out enough for the birds to sit on. Make two small holes in the neck of the bottle and thread the string through the holes. Fill the bird feeder with seed and hang on the branch of a tree.
Use items found outside to create a mobile for their rooms. Use sticks about one foot long (you will need two). Shape like an “x” and tie together with twine. Tie additional pieces of twine hanging down from the sticks. Have your children find pine cones, leaves or flowers to hang on the mobile.
Bubbles are always fun, no matter what your age. But this idea makes blowing bubbles into a work of art. Use standard bubble mix and place some of the mix into several small containers. Add a few drops of tempera paint to each container. Place a poster board on the ground and let your children blow bubbles so they will land on the board. Each one will create a circle of color. As they blow bubbles with different colors, they will even see some mixing and learn about how colors are made.
Use paper cups with the bottom cut out or tin cans with both ends removed. Set the cans or cups around the yard. Decorate the golf course with items from around the house, such as ramps (from play car sets), large stuffed animals (make sure you take them back inside at the end of the day), and other toys. Use play golf clubs. If you don’t have any, you can use a stick and a tennis ball. (If using a tennis ball, you will need larger cans and cups for the ball to go through.)
Walking for Colors Give each child a specific color and paper and pencil. Take a walk. Each child needs to write down everything they see on the walk that is their color. For example, if one child has the color blue, their list might include: sky, flowers, blue shutters, and car.
If you have more than one child, this is good for them to make a treasure map for each other. Use small “treasures” which can be something from the dollar store or something you have around the house. Have each child hide an item and draw a map to where it is. Once finished, they exchange maps and try to locate the hidden treasure.
Hide one “treasure” for each child. Make up clues to help them find it. Each clue should lead them to the next one. For example, your first clue might be something like “Look inside the place you would find a spoon.” When they go to the silverware drawer, they will find the next clue. Younger children should be able to follow about 5 clues before finding the treasure. Keep clues simple for younger children, and make them more difficult for the older children.
Make a Summer Memory Book At the end of the school year, buy each child a blank notebook. Get a box and fill it with supplies such as stickers, markers, pens and pencils, glue, construction paper and stencils. Have your children spend time each week creating their memory book. They can include what they have done, friends they have seen and use their imagination on what they want to do. They can draw pictures, write stories and add pictures.
Make lists of ten items that can be found outside. The list might include items such as branch 6 inches long, giant leaves, something yellow, or shiny rock. If you can’t think of anything, take a walk in the area outside your children are allowed to go and write down things that you see. You can write a different list for each child or have it all have the same list. Let them search for the items.
Older Children Scavenger Hunt
You can use either disposable cameras or digital cameras for this game. Make a list of items your children will see walking around the neighborhood. For this you can use items such as pink flower, as they won’t be picking someone’s garden flowers, just taking pictures. Some other ideas are: bird’s nest, picket fence, or robin. Have them walk around and take a picture of each item on their list. Once developed (or printed from the computer) they can add the pictures to their summer memory book.
Many families have relatives and friends in different areas around the country, and sometimes in different countries. Make a list of those relatives and friends that have children around your children’s ages and contact them about setting up a pen pal network. They can share information about where they live, what they like to do and learn about different parts of the country at the same time.
Give your children a tape recorder and have them tape different sounds. This can be done outside or inside. They should only record a few seconds of each sound. Some examples might be; water running, a car passing by, birds singing, wind rustling through the trees, and the sound of rain. Once the tape is complete, the family needs to listen and guess what each sound is.
Most public libraries offer summer reading programs for young children. They might have a story hour or movie time. They may also know of other activities for children in your area. While there, sign up for a library card for each child and let them start taking out books once a week. This might also give you an hour to sit quietly and read.
Relative Chain Letter
This is not your normal chain letter. Get a list of your relatives, especially those living in different parts of the country. Start the letter by writing what is happening in your family. Your children can add their own letter or drawings and mail it to one relative on your list. Include the list of relatives and ask them to add what is happening with them and mail on to the next relative on the list. The letters should go around the list twice, in order for everyone to read what is going on with everyone else. This helps your children to feel connected with their extended family, even if they do not see them often.
Take a walk around your neighborhood and look for large rocks. They should be as smooth as possible. Once home, you can glue felt to one side of the rock and paint the other sides. They can be as creative as possible and paint faces, shapes or anything else their imagination comes up with. The rocks can be used for bookends or a doorstop.
Plant a Garden
Spring and summer are for gardens. Even those living in an apartment can plant a small indoor garden. There are a wide variety of seeds to choose from. You can grow an herb garden, a vegetable garden or a flower garden. If you are using the outdoors, make sure you mark off a special spot outside that is just for the children’s garden. Let them take care of it, watering and weeding as necessary.
Create a Craft Box
Fill a box with old scraps of material, yarn, felt, construction paper, glue, scissors, pens, pencils, markers, paper, and anything else you can think of. Have the children take out the box on rainy days and come up with different art projects.
Create a Dress-Up Box
Use old clothes and shoes that you no longer wear, find interesting items in yard sales and check out the stores the day after Halloween to add even more items. (This way you can add some interesting items for boys as well as girls.)
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.