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HyperHealing Blog

Your knowledge base for raising a healthy child with ADHD symptoms

The Best Summer Activity for Children with ADHD

Updated: Jul 5, 2022

Summer is upon us, HELP!

The camp day is very short, and most kids have no camp options in August. We parents are left with many unstructured hours to fill. For a parent of a highly energetic, curious child (read: kid diagnosed with ADHD) the prospect of all those unstructured hours is terrifying. We can already predict that our children will get bored, under stimulated, demand screen time, eat junk food all afternoon, pick on siblings and generally wreak havoc all summer.

What is the best ADHD child activities that can help him/her remain calm, happy and positively stimulated throughout the long, hot summer holiday?

The answer is literally all around us, but not inside our homes. Let’s step out the front door and discover the magical effects exercise and nature have on our children (and their parents) and see how this powerful combination will literally save your summer!

activities for ADHD kids

What does science have to say about the combination of exercise and nature and its effect of people with ADHD symptoms?

Dr. John Ratey, Associate Professor at Harvard medical school, tells us that rigorous exercise helps us control stress and calms our minds. Exercise boosts dopamine, that same neurotransmitter that we hear a lot about in connection to ADHD. Dopamine improves mood and a feeling of wellbeing and gets our attention system going. Serotonin is also stimulated by exercise. We need adequate serotonin for mood, impulse control, and self-esteem.

We are just getting warmed up.

A study out of University of Granada, Spain found that children who were in good physical shape had more grey matter in specific areas of their brain. These regions are responsible for executive functioning, (planning, inhibiting, organizing, completing tasks…) the exact skills people with ADHD symptoms are missing.

When researchers compared kids who did sports regularly and their couch potato peers, they found significant differences between the children. “The answer is short and forceful: yes, physical fitness in children is linked in a direct way to important brain structure differences, and such differences are reflected in the children’s academic performance,” said lead researcher Francisco B. Ortega (Esteban-Cornejo et al., 2017).

Activities for children with ADHD

If we take a long hard look at the lives our children lead today, both during the school year and in summer, it doesn’t look like anyone is paying attention to the research. Our kids sit all day in school. When they are on vacation, they sit with their screens some more.

Studies have shown that regular exercise preserves our brain and keeps it sharp as we get older. This brain growth is happening to our kids as they get out on the basketball court, baseball field or on a long challenging hike. Growth happens when they dance and practice martial arts. The brain slows when they play video games and tweet.

The first conclusion we can draw is that getting our children and ourselves moving is the ideal ADHD children's activity - for their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Is hiking more powerful than running on a treadmill?

Do you remember wandering through the woods after the rain to catch salamanders when you were a child? How about garden snakes, the kind that are not poisonous, did you stick them in your pocket? I sure did. And boy was it fun! When we came home after a day of exploration, we felt alive and stimulated.

Our physical health and emotional wellbeing depends on the loving embrace of mother nature. We can’t live without her. Can anyone live without Mama?

Richard Louv, in his national bestselling book Last Child in the Woods (Workman eBooks, 2008) tells us that “[a]s youth spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow, physiologically and psychologically, and this reduces the richness of human experience” (2008, p.3).

How important is nature exposure for our ADHD diagnosed children?

“As nature deficit grows, another emerging body of scientific evidence indicates that direct exposure to nature is essential for physical and emotional health. For example, new studies suggest that exposure to nature may reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and it can improve all children’s cognitive abilities and resistance to negative stresses and depression.” (Louv, 2008, p. 35)

We recently took our kids out on a glorious springtime hike where I saw the impact that nature and physical exercise has on our children’s cognitive development, creativity and social skills. We found a remarkable trail, bursting with flowers and greenery. A stream ran through it. It took exactly one minute for all the kids to jump right into the rocky stream. How would everyone get across without falling? They worked together, hopping from stone to stone, carrying the youngest across (and their mother who didn’t want to get her new sneakers wet).

They discovered a branch of a big, beautiful tree reaching across the stream right at an area where the water was deep enough to jump. Tarzan was the next game. And then we hit the “major find