Activities for ADHD Kids

Parent Q&A

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  • 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.  

  • Hi - I need a recommendation for a physical activity for my 9yo.  I was consider a martial art (which to choose?) or fencing.  I am located in Oakland and would appreciate any recommendations.

    Trampoline or swimming.

    For my son, activities with lots of running around worked well--like soccer.  Basketball, tennis and baseball were are activities he enjoyed.  It was harder for him to do activities that required a lot of stillness and discipline.  After all the sitting in school, he needed to run and get tired.  Also, look for a coach instructor that understands active kids.  Otherwise, it can be a nightmare.

    I second the swimming rec. Kids with ADHD need intense whole body movement every day.

Hi! What a great parent you are for reaching out to the community and asking for resources. While this is my specialty, I am a researcher, so initial thoughts are, though it may be very hard to initiate at this age, decreased screen time may  help with attention span in the long run. This is a study for early development but perhaps asking the therapists you’re working with about ways you can start to lower screen time for your kid to increase attention span. Perhaps you’ve already thought of this, but thought I would reach out. Being out in nature and actively engaging with the environment has done wonders for kids health. Ucsf has done plenty of studies involving kids and the outdoors. Best of luck! Your kid is lucky to have you as a parent, looking for ways to help him out!….

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Activities for 7-yr-old boy with ADHD symptoms

Sept 2011

I have a sweet, bright and inquisitive 7-year-old son with impulse-control/immaturity issues that have been causing him a lot of grief in structured settings, such as classroom or even camps. The issue is not necessarily the structure alone, but rather abundance of stimuli - lots of kids, lots of noises, etc. In one-on-one settings he is definitely more focused and more manageable (from a teacher's standpoint). As I said, school has been a challenge in that regard, the teachers get easily frustrated with his behavior and he's received enough criticism/reprimand to last an average child a lifetime. As a result, we've been shying away from extracurricular activities. We tried tae kwon do when he was much younger, but the teacher had to spend a disproportionate amount of time on him, leaving other kids stranded, so we discontinued with the class (and our son wasn't that into it). We tried Lego camps and despite the fact that he is REALLY good at building with Legos (the teacher had a hard time coming up with projects that were challenging enough for him), we still ended up frequently getting an earful regarding his impulsiveness. I was hoping to get recommendations for classes that you found to be excellent for a boy with these characteristics. Or more specifically, if you know (or if you are) an instructor who LOVES all kids, including ''challenging'' ones, that would be even better. He is a pretty bright kid who gravitates toward science, engineering, not so much sports or art, but we would be open to anything. anon

I could've written your post. Sigh. Its tough for our bright and boisterous boys, no? We have recently (last six months or so) started a couple of things that are really working for us. One is that we're taking swimming classes one on one. Less stimuli than all the kiddos in the pool and his swimming skills have really improved. Then recently we started taking tennis lessons, also one on one. Email me off list and let's chat more. julie

Sorry to hear the challenges your bright and inquisitive 7 year old is having. I can relate! My beautiful compassionate and intelligent 10 year old went through an extremely rough year last year in 4th grade that did a tremendous amount of damage to his self esteem and confidence and desire to learn.

My solution was to find a place where he was emotionally safe, accepted and nurtured. Like your child my son was criticized and reprimanded for behavior he was not in control of which did a TON of damage. He was also over stimulated by all the stuff in his classroom not to mention the 28 students packed into the small classroom. I actually moved my son to an amazing school that is doing wonders for him. He LOVES going to school and is happy. He no longer talks about being angry and not knowing why or feeling dumb because he learns differently. The school is known for looking at the whole child and finding solutions that work for each child. They teach them how to manage themselves, even those who are challenged doing so and practices differentiated learning, reaching children from where they are not where they are supposed to be. The classroom sizes range from 9 to 15 students, which gives the students breathing room and the teachers the ability to work with those who have special needs.

Here are some of the things that have helped my 10 year old in just 4 weeks since school has started. He was provided a netbook to use instead of having to write to address the low turn issue and the feeling of not being able to write and think at the same time. He and his teacher use a private signal to let my son know when his behavior is not working so that he can then do a breathing exercise or move himself to the break chair, which gives him the time to regroup and come back and participate in a respectable way. The teacher and the librarian have taken my suggestions about what style of books work best for him when trying to find reading material for my son instead or forcing the typically 5th grade reading material on him. The teacher used a conflict resolution process with my son and a friend within a day of an incident happening that left my son feeling hurt and unmotivated. These are just a few examples. I have many more. For life long skills that will help your child excel and learn to be accountable without being punished I highly recommend looking at Windrush School. What happens at that school is truly MAGICAL in all grades and all classes!!!! Good luck to you!!!!!!! lynne

Hi. It sounds like your child, you (and undoubtedly the rest of your family) have been dealing with a complex and likely to be ongoing situation. My son was first evaluated at age 5 for ADD--he is now 18--one excellent piece of advice from our pediatrician --this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Reading your post reminded me of the feedback I received about my son in the early days. And while classes may be helpful, I wonder if you are also exploring evaluation and if appropriate, medication.

Some in the Berkeley community seem to automatically denigrate use of ADD medications--would they be so negative about a diabetic taking insulin?? Medication made an immediate and dramatic improvement in my son's ability to participate in his''journey'', as well as school and social interactions. He himself sees medication as useful and has been involved in discussions about its utility and judging the right dosage since he was 5. The effect is so dramatic that when he has failed to take a dose one day for one reason or another, his teacher or camp counselor has recognized the difference (without knowing he was on medication). Without the medication (primarily stimulants, in various forms over the years) he is basically unable to participate in or benefit from school and social interactions.Currently we see Brad Berman for medication and periodic assessment/encouragement.

I am not suggesting that medication alone is the answer. My son also is in ongoing therapy with Betty Tharpe, MFT (510) 549-2092 who has been invaluable for my son, and our family--she is positive but clear thinking and pragmatic about what we all need to be doing. Over the years, we have also done social skills groups, etc etc. fellow marathoner