Summer in the Time of Coronavirus: At-Home Activities for Kids with ADHD

Summer activities will be different this year, but kids with ADHD can still exercise their creativity, athleticism, and curiosity with these at-home ideas for projects, programming, and physical activity. What would you add?

Paper cut outs - summer activities for kids

You’re worn out and summer is closing in. With no school or summer camps to offer structured activities, you’re staring down the barrel of nothing but time with energetic kids — ones who are cooped up, fed up, and stressed out. Oh yeah, and you have to parent them while you work — remotely or otherwise.

My husband and I both work full-time: he’s a teacher, and I’m a writer. While our jobs are flexible, they suck up more than your average eight hours a day, and we have three children with ADHD — only two of whom are medicated. We know all about the summer slide, so we want to keep our kids engaged and learning, but we also need them out of our hair for chunks of time. Here’s what we’ve come up with.

Screens Can Be Your Friend… Interactive Ones, That Is

Many zoos, museums, and aquariums are live-streaming interactive programs for kids. These allow children to not only watch nature, science, and social studies programming engineered to entertain and inform, but to also ask live questions and participate virtually. When my sons heard their questions read — then answered — on Facebook Live, they were so excited.

Look for these opportunities in this article from USA Today, and this one, which is organized by time and date: “1000 Things to Do During COVID-19.” My kids really like the events at Scripps Aquarium and the historic Jamestown settlement.

Actually, Messenger Counts as Writing

Your kids haven’t seen their friends in months. They might keep a journal if you push them. But Facebook Messenger Kids has been a huge boon to our household. Our kids use it to write (and yes, as long as they’re writing, it counts as education. They’re also practicing typing, which counts as real-world learning).

You’d also be shocked at the things kids will do over FB Messenger. The other morning, I caught my 10-year-old son and his best friend from another state playing Dungeons & Dragons, an imaginative, storytelling game using math that keeps them occupied and amused for hours. You can also encourage map-making to go along with the game (social studies: making compass roses, labeling cardinal directions, constructing map keys), as well as writing and drawing. D & D (#CommissionsEarned) starter sets come cheap, too. They can play chess. They can play Monopoly (#CommissionsEarned) (more math). I’ve also heard good things about Trickster — an app that allows you to play live card games with friends.

[Click to Read: Dude, You Need to Reach Out to Your Friends!]

You can also ask willing adults — grandparents are a good choice — to get in on the action. Chances are good that a grandma or great aunt would be thrilled to play Monopoly with her grandchildren for three hours! Then you can work, the kids are doing math, and everyone’s happy.

Dear God, I Hope You Have a Backyard

The two smartest things we’ve done since isolation dropped down: my husband took his time constructing an enormous playground in our backyard, and we bought a trampoline. We also have plans to buy a cheap above-ground pool as soon as possible. This obviously isn’t an option available for everyone. However, any piece of enclosed land is an opportunity for children with ADHD. Say goodbye to your manicured yard. Turn it into a vegetable garden with seeds, shovels, and hoes. Turn it into a mud pit with buckets, more shovels and a hose. Turn it into a waterpark with cheap sprinklers, water guns, and a slip n’ slide. Do all of the above in turns.

Do whatever it takes to get the kids outside, keep the kids outside, and let them move. This will keep them out of your way, exhaust them, and keep them happily occupied. My kids’ favorite activity is called “making a lake.” They dig an enormous hole, fill it with water, and play dinosaurs around it for hours. They return muddy and sweaty and happy. My yard is a mess.

I don’t care. In the time of COVID-19, who’s going to see it?

All this counts as physical education. This is an integral part of camp. Why shouldn’t it be an integral part of their home education as well?

[Kids Bouncing Off the Walls? These Boredom Busters Fill Time Gaps with Activity]

Put Pinterest to Work

Pinterest is overrun with craft ideas for kids. There are easy paper shark hats and cootie catchers for Shark Week. Popsicle stick mini-camping scenes. Ocean slime. American flag decorations made from sticks and paint. They can build specific things with LEGOs (Greek temples, scenes from literature, etc.). They can do plant and animal surveys of the outside, fill and watch bird feeders, etc.

Could you come up with a theme for each week of summer — like Shark Week, Beach Week, Undersea Life, 2020 Olympics, etc. — and invite a group of friends to contribute activities and resources? You could then share the whole calendar of art, craft, and activity links in a shared Google Doc for everyone to use and adapt. Your kids could jump on Zoom to watercolor or fold origami with their friends, and you’d have quite a gallery of creativity by summer’s end.

Teach Them Some Useful Skills

You do things. You do real things. You cook, for example. Cooking is a real-life skill that children need to learn (which also often involves mathematics and reading). Laundry is a real-life skill that children need to learn. Making grocery lists is a real-life skill that children need to learn.

All those chores you do around the house? Those are skills your kids need to learn to function in the real world. This is important for all kids, but it’s especially important for kids with ADHD, who benefit from a little more guidance and assistance is learning how to “adult” — things like shopping, cooking, balancing a checkbook, or making a list don’t come naturally to most adults with ADHD. Instilling those habits in kids while you’re doing them anyway is a great way to stop the summer slide and help them learn something.

Moreover, it keeps them busy. Riley can fold his own socks. Riley can clean his own room. We’ve instituted something called a “reward bin” filled with cheap LEGO mini-figures and stickers. Whenever our kids do a great job at a chore, they pick blindly from it. Their rooms stay cleaner now — and they stay busier.

My husband and I will be using these ideas to keep our kids learning and moving, while also managing to finish the work we need to do this summer. Fun is a priority, but sanity trumps all. Wish us luck!

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