Put your child’s ADHD energy to good use with the right activities

Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have excessive energy. They also have difficulties focusing their attention, organising their thoughts and picking up on social cues. In a typical school setting, they often struggle to listen attentively, cooperate with classmates, follow instructions and complete assignments on time.

These are activities that will put their energy to good use and build essential skills all while having fun. Remember, children are often happiest when kept busy with activities in line with their natural interests.

Here’s how you can burn extra energy, build concentration and boost the confidence of your ADHD child.

Swimming: Olympic gold medallist, Michael Phelps, was diagnosed with ADHD at age 9. By putting his excess energy to good use in the pool, he also benefitted from the concentration and self-discipline the sport requires. With the help of a swimming coach, your child will have set goals that can boost confidence.

Cycling and running: Research shows that cycling can improve attention and information processing, increase cognitive performance, reduce impulsivity and improve the overall mood of your child. Running calms the mind and helps to process the events of the day. Your child will feel a sense of accomplishment, seeing the amount of ground that is covered with every stride. Make running a regular family activity and incorporate short burst racing games to get your child excited about running.

Music: Research shows that music can decrease impulsivity and improve mathematical ability in children with ADHD. It exercises the left and right side of the brain and can improve multi-tasking skills. Singing can improve language development while playing an instrument can improve concentration, build confidence and reduce stress.

Drama and debating: Learning lines can build comprehension and concentration skills while preparing to go on stage teaches self-discipline and time-keeping skills. Debating is a great way to develop reasoning and communication skills. Both are great for building confidence and social skills.

Storytelling: Reading or telling stories can help your child see the world from different perspectives. Children with ADHD tend to overlook character motives. Remember to discuss the actions and motives of characters to help them understand others better. You can also ask them questions afterwards to help build listening and concentration skills.

Scout clubs: Scout clubs help children and young adults to reach their full potential through leadership training, teamwork, self-motivation, commitment, perseverance, and social and environmental awareness. Their goal-oriented activities require focus, co-operation and organisation and are usually based on a reward system your child can work towards. SCOUTS South Africa is the biggest youth organisation in the country.

Board games: Simple games like Bingo are ideal for shorter attention spans. The small but frequent wins can help build self-esteem. Taking turns will also teach children patience. The goal is to build confidence to a point where they want to play longer and more strategic games. This will enhance their concentration and cognitive process.

Your child might protest against board games in favour of video games, which does little to channel excess energy. While some games incorporate physical movement, which can help your child develop motor skills, it is important to limit screen time for children with ADHD.

These activities will help you spend more quality time together and lay the foundation for an open and trusting relationship. Help your child overcome ADHD challenges, and have fun while you’re at it, by considering his or her unique talents and interests when choosing activities. Consistent quality time sends a very important message: “You’re important to me”. This is probably the most important emotional, social and physical support you can give your child. And it will have a direct impact on the adult they become.