Children with ADHD often have seemingly boundless energy. Activities for children with ADHD that focus on movement, skill building, and sensory input can help direct their energy into beneficial outlets.

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder. It features a broad range of experiences related to impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention, and it can mean something different for every child.

Many (but not all) children with ADHD have primary symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity, which can drive them to be constantly in motion, regularly switching from one activity to the next. As a parent or caregiver of a child with ADHD, staying on top of ideas to direct that energy can be difficult.

Activities for children with ADHD don’t have to be complex, however. Simple options can be just as engaging as big challenges.

Learn more about ADHD.

When it comes to picking and suggesting activities for children with ADHD, sticking to what children enjoy while keeping skill-building in mind is a good place to start.

“Engaging children and teenagers with ADHD in activities that cater to their unique needs and preferences can foster their development and enhance their well-being,” says Dr. Stephanie Palmer, a licensed clinical psychologist from Bee Cave, Texas.

She recommends focusing on empowering activities that promote physical movement, encourage organizational skills, and help children develop time management.

Dr. Tamara Soles, a child psychologist and parenting coach from Montreal, Canada, adds that incorporating nature and sensory input is also a great foundation when it comes to picking an activity.

Every child is different, and children at different developmental stages will be more interested in certain activities over others.

Young children

“I love sensory play for young kids,” Soles says. “Sensory play helps children with ADHD regulate their sensory input and improve focus.”

Sensory activities are those that engage your child’s smell, sight, taste, touch, or hearing. Ideas for sensory activities include:

  • 1. Modeling play dough or clay: Make homemade play dough or use store-bought to create shapes and promote imagination.
  • 2. Shaping kinetic sand: Set up a table with kinetic sand for building or molding.
  • 3. Finger painting: Provide different colors and papers to create artwork.
  • 4. Exploring sensory bins: Fill tubs with items of different colors, shapes, and textures for children to explore.
  • 5. Playing with water: Fill the bathtub or an outside bin for children to play with toys or water-based markers in.
  • 6. Going on a nature scavenger hunt: Ask children to find specific items in nature, like types of rocks, trees, or animals.
  • 7. Playing on an outdoor playground: Encourage children to swing, climb, and explore.
  • 8. Helping garden: Have children dig in the garden alongside you or help to place seeds and plants.
  • 9. Scented coloring: Use scented markers to engage the sense of smell while coloring.
  • 10. Going on a nature walk: Engage children with the world around them by asking them about what they see as they walk.
  • 11. Navigating an obstacle course: Give your child an indoor or outdoor challenge by creating an obstacle course for them to navigate.
  • 12. Doing a puzzle: Have your child pick a puzzle that appeals to them and work together to solve it.
  • 13. Building a cardboard fort: Have children build and decorate a fort made of cardboard. Not enough cardboard? Build a fort for your pet!

Looking for a bedtime routine for an active young child with ADHD? Soles recommends storytime yoga. “Parents can combine storytelling with simple yoga poses tailored to children’s interests and abilities,” she says. “Just as it does for adults, yoga helps children improve attention and concentration while promoting relaxation and body awareness.”

School-age children and teens

Older children and teenagers are often at a point where they can — and want — to do activities on their own. For kids at these ages, activities can increase in complexity, and many children are ready to take on more demanding physical hobbies.

“Physical activity is essential for teenagers with ADHD as it helps release excess energy and improves cognitive function,” says Palmer. “Encourage your teen to engage in regular exercise, whether it’s through sports, mountain biking, martial arts, jogging, dancing, or yoga.”

Activities for older children with ADHD include:

  • 14. Knitting and sewing: Teach your child how to make basic items, like hats, pillows, or scarves, in colors and styles they like.
  • 15. Indoor adventure centers: Take your child to an indoor adventure facility to test out rock climbing, zip lines, and trampoline jumping.
  • 16. Friendly competition: Challenge your child to a race, memory test, or trivia game.
  • 17. Working toward a goal together: Train with your child for a common goal, like a charity race or a cycling event.
  • 18. Performance art: Sign your child up for dance lessons or theater productions, or encourage them to create and put on their own shows at home.
  • 19. Group games: Teach children group games like tag, hide-and-seek, manhunt, touch football, or Frisbee golf.
  • 20. Cooking: Ask your child to pick and make a dish for dinner or lunch.
  • 21. Doing for others: Have your child take time to write a letter to or make a card or gift for a loved one they haven’t seen lately.
  • 22. Building something sturdy: Allow children access to more advanced building materials (like a hammer and nails) to plan and make forts outside.
  • 23. Game creation: Ask your child to invent a game for family game night.
  • 24. Tossing a ball: Keep a ball on hand to toss back and forth during moments when your child has energy to spare.

What is the best activity for an ADHD child?

The best activity for a child with ADHD is one they enjoy that also promotes essential and beneficial skill building.

Which activity is most appropriate for a child with ADHD?

The most appropriate activity for a child with ADHD is one they show interest in that suits their current developmental stage and ability.

How do you tire out a child with ADHD?

Hyperactivity is a symptom of ADHD. It’s due to changes in the brain’s function and structure. Even with plenty of physical exercise, children may still display behaviors of hyperactivity.

How do you keep an ADHD child busy?

Maintaining a list of activities for a child with ADHD can help keep a variety of options available for them during the day.

For some children with ADHD, symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity can create a constant state of motion and energy.

Suggesting activities for a child with ADHD that encourage movement, skill-building, and sensory stimulation can help them stay engaged in a way that supports overall ADHD management.