Physical Activity for School-Aged Kids

Parent Q&A

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  • PE for 6 year old boy (outside school)

    (2 replies)

    We have a six and a half year old son who needs extra help developing his gross motor skills. We’ve been through Kaiser for an eval and have done some PT (he has flat feet and rigid ankles but that’s it). But we can see a pronounced difference between him and his peers - he’s hesitant climbing, hesitates going down stairs and generally tires out easily. We would love to find someone who can work with him on the weekdays after school or weekends and really get him moving, preferably someone with a background in PE. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

    Hi - my son was in a similar situation all through elementary school until the pandemic hit.  At that time he was in 5th grade and had little interest in any organized sports or playing around outside and got tired quickly. He couldn't walk around the block without stopping and complaining. Once our daily situation changed and he was learning from home, his afternoon caregiver shifted in her duties and started taking him out each afternoon exploring.  They went on walks in Tilden, down to the beach, to the marina - all over the East Bay, spending at least three hours a day outside, rain or shine.  He started to really enjoy his outdoor time because it wasn't forced exercise, but time spent exploring, running with dogs, finding salamanders and sticks and just being a kid.  Within 6 months he was in great shape and now, 2 years later, can hike 5 miles without any difficulty, often running and skipping along the way.  It didn't take a PE teacher - just a caregiver who is patient and interested in exploring with him.  For us, this remains his daily schedule and is the recipe for an active future! Hope that helps.  

    Check out Outdoor Kids OT. Outdoor, nature based occupational therapy. My son has attended for two years and thinks of it as his play group—they really focus on fun, engaging gross and fine motor skills so the kids don’t even think of it as therapy. Groups in Tilden and Joaquin Miller, weekdays and weekends. HIGHLY recommended!

  • Activities for active 6yo ADHD kid

    (6 replies)

    Im looking for activity suggestions for my hyperactive rough n tumble ADHD 6yr old boy. On top of this he has a small speech deficit. Due to Covid, we’ve had very limited social interaction with other kids. He can play rough and has trouble with personal space, so parks have not really been an option during this time. Now as things are opening up, I worry about how he’ll transition back into the classroom and interacting w other kids.

    Now that things are opening up again, I was wondering if enrolling him into an activity will help with social interaction as well as managing some of his energy. Tumbling? Sports? Martial arts? I’m open to suggestions or recommendations to specific places. What would be important is the mentors to have the patience and understanding for a kiddo like him.

    If you have a child like mine, I’m also interested in suggestions on how we can support, help and manage him as he grows, go back into the classroom or just back into life in general, as we emerge from our Covid cave.


    You didn't say where you live, but Cal Berkeley Youth Camps is great for very active kids and the supervision is excellent. They also have a social skills camp especially for kids like your son.  I'm not sure if they will be fully open this summer but you could check.  All three of my boys enjoyed going to this camp.  There are more suggestions for activities for hyper kids on the BPN website: Activities for ADD kids and Summer Camps for ADD Kids

    Kudos to you for speaking of your son so positively. Kids with ADHD are subject to increasingly negative messaging (direct and indirect) as they grow older and are expected to behave more like their "neuro-typical" peers.

    My ADHD kid is now a twenty-year-old. When he was your son's age, he had an interest in martial arts, so I reached out to my network for recommendations. Fortunately, the second dojo we tried was a great fit for him and a real positive in his life. My son learned appropriate ways to burn off his energy, how to control his body and maintain focus, and respect for others. His dojo also taught skills around how to deal with bullying (target or bystander), and real-life self-defense. His self-esteem grew with his self-control. Martial arts is primarily an individual sport, but it can also have team aspects. My son struggled to fit in on team-focused sports, and thrived in a marital arts program that balanced individual and team effort and achievement. Team camaraderie was built through game play and in competition (joining the competition team was optional).

    Like anything else, not all martial arts schools are the same. A great environment for one kid may be soul-crushing for another; it's imperative to find a good fit for an ADHD kid. Give a dojo a month or two to settle in before moving on it it's not a fit. For my son, we found a small, family run dojo that taught skills to the younger kids through games. The environment was structured, but not overly structured, as well as warm and fun. The martial artists wore dojo t-shirts and go pants for practice, and the formal gi only for competition and ceremony. The owners kept the kids motivated through regular belt award ceremonies and by putting stripes on their belts so the kids could see their progress during what seemed like wait for the next belt. Most importantly, the instructors really cared about the kids and treated them with respect and warmth. (I'm on the Peninsula, so specific recommendation likely will not be helpful if you are in the East Bay.)

    I know you'll find something that makes your son's soul sing.

    We learned that tumbling/gymnastics wasn't as great a fit as we'd thought it would be for our child with ADHD- kids take turns using equipment, so there was frequent down time, and he got too distracted/goofy to do group exercises with the other kids. We tried other sports, too (baseball, soccer, swimming, etc.), that always lost him when there was down time. The best fit for his ADHD is probably basketball. Everyone is constantly moving, so no/limited down time to space out. Paying attention to where the ball is was a challenge, so he didn't get it much and wasn't particularly "good" at the sport, but he got to move a lot and had fun.

    Your son sounds similar to mine except he is 7 years old, has HF autism and possibly ADHD although not officially diagnosed. I too have been looking for activities to get him into now that things have opened up. I recently reached out to 24/7 UK Soccer Academy about their weekly camps this summer which are located in Oakland, Alameda, Piedmont, and Castro Valley. I specifically asked if their instructors would be understanding and accommodating of my son’s challenging behaviors- inability to follow instructions or participate consistently, need for frequent breaks, and lack of social skills.

    Their response: 

    Our coaches have experience in working with players or all ages and abilities, as well as having working with players with specific needs. We would do everything possible to cater to your son’s specific needs in order to ensure that he has a great experience and would work with you to ensure that the coaches had the background information from you ahead of time regarding the best way to plan for working with your son on the camp and what his specific individual needs would be, as it sounds like you did with Bladium staff coaches in the past.

     I am definitely considering signing him up. I’d also like to follow this post to hopefully find more activities for my son. Good luck!

    Our trampoline has been a lifesaver for our ADHD son, spends about an hour a day out there, burning off extra energy.

    Martial arts have been great for our 9 year old with the ADHD and his 5 year old sibling.  Baseball was hard (lots of waiting around, personal frustration with failure, sportsmanship struggles).

    We have been doing martial arts outside and online since the beginning of the pandemic with Studio Naga in Oakland, highly recommended.  There is focus on personal body space and control, fun with learning strikes and a feeling of success/pride with growth.  

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Non Competitive Activities for 7 yo

I'd like to get my seven year old into a group, non-competitive athletic activities. He's getting a little chunky, and I'd like him to be involved in something physical, but not competitive.. He gets too intense about it and doesn't have a lot of athletic talent, so it leads to him getting upset. He really likes the water and I thought he might enjoy a swim team but he told me he didn't like that idea...

How about dance classes? This is usually a group thing, and there are so few boys that any competition would be minimal at this point. Dawn

I'd recommend Head Over Heals Gymnastics. I think it is an activity that all ages love and is noncompetitive. It can be a little expensive, though, about 70/month (4-5 one hour classes). Ruth

For the chunky 7-year-old, I can't speak highly enough of the martial arts, especially at West Wind in Berkeley, Alameda, Daly City or Vallejo. Most kids that age love karate and the only competition is personal. Barbara

I'd recommend hiking. We've been hiking with my girls since the older (7 years) was born. You'll definitely need to develop your own set of motivational games--we play hide and seek, I spy, tell stories, etc. A good place to go is Abbot's Lagoon, at Pt. Reyes, because you hike in maybe a mile to these big dunes that kids love to climb up and down, up and down, for hours. Also good is the Berkeley Marina, the loop section, there's a sculpture at the end that the kids love to climb on. There are millions of places that kids can hike around here. An added benefit is that you get some exercise too. It's good for self-confidence for the less athletically inclined, because once the kid develops some stamina, s/he can feel good at putting in some miles. My seven year old did a six mile hike, with lots of ups and downs, on our recent vacation and can carry her own backpack for backpacking trips--and she's a bit on the plump side and not a gifted athlete! Meghan

Here is a recommendation for a non-competitive physical activity for the 8-12 yr old set.... As the parent of a relatively inactive, non-sports focused child (age 9), I have encouraged my jazzercise teachers to offer a course designed and tailored to the 8-12 year old set (boys and girls are welcome). Here are the details Junior Jazzercise, offered Saturdays, from 1130-1215, from Oct 14 through Nov 18. Six sessions for $60, at Jacuzzi Street Jazzercise, 5237 Jacuzzi Street, in Richmond, between highways 80 and 580, off Central Avenue. From Berkeley drive east on Marin, stay right instead of going over the overpass, and curve along to the right by the water. Drive a short distance to the Central Avenue shopping center, which is on your left, and that's where Jazzercise is! It's a seven minute drive from Marin and The Alameda. Come to the studio to pre-register by October 7! Adult classes are offered seven days a week M-F at 815 and 930 a.m. and 515 and 630 p.m., Saturday at 830 and 10 a.m. and Sunday at 930 a.m. I discovered this center through several parents and the P.E. teacher at Jefferson Elem, and this seems to me to be a much beloved center serving (in the adult classes) adults from their 20's into their 70's (and maybe beyond). The teachers have good dance instruction background, there are a number of people in class who have had years of dance experience, along with absolute beginners. All body types and levels of fitness present. No mirrors, just a lot of fun, and a good workout. Seven days a week. Melissa