From my work in schools, children with ADHD are often highly intelligent. They’re quick learners, and they often (contrary to popular opinion) have the ability to hyperfocus. Interestingly, Healthline’s article, “ADHD and Hyperfocus” describes hyperfocusing as, “…the experience of deep and intense concentration in people with ADHD.” Healthline goes on to make the point that ADHD isn’t about the inability to focus…it’s about the struggle to regulate focus.
In the article, “The Mysteries of ADD“, Psychology Today published a study in which 117 children and adolescents with ADD and ADHD were evaluated. All 117 of the individuals had IQ scores of 120 or more, placing them in the top 9% of their peers in basic intelligence. A frustration of many parents and teachers is that these intelligent children pull C’s and D’s when it’s obvious they know much more when their grades reflect.
Unfortunately, this can make school difficult for children with ADHD. They’re often very capable of learning the material, they just struggle with learning in the traditional ways our schools often present material. For a child who struggles with sitting still for long periods of time, regulating emotions, organization, or controlling impulses and outbursts, a classroom can make for long days.
That’s why Summers can be amazing teachers for these children. Children with ADHD often have their own ways of learning, and in my experience, often have strong desires to learn. They just need the freedom to learn in the ways that fit them best, and summer is one of the greatest opportunities for them to do this. Not only does this learning supplement what students have often been struggling to understand in the classroom, but it can get them more excited and prepared for the information they will learn in the upcoming school years. Here are some ways in which children can take advantage of summertime learning.
Join a Summer Library Reading Program
Nearly all libraries have summer reading programs for children in which children read books, working toward reading goals to earn awards. The awesome part of these programs is that they don’t stipulate exactly which books the children must read. Since children with ADHD often have special interests such as rocket ships or sea creatures for example, these reading programs can give children reading goals to work towards, allowing them to dive into their favorite subjects at the same time. And if there’s one thing children with ADHD need to do, it’s to feel successful and to know the joy of learning.
Math with Shopping and Cooking
In my article about teaching fractions with food, I talk about how the reason many children struggle with math is because they don’t see how it’s relative to their lives. Math is hard, and children with ADHD often dislike learning about subjects that have no point. If you think about it, there’s a logic to this: if it has no use, there’s no reason in learning it.The trick to show these kiddos how math is applicable to them, and why they need to learn it.
During the summer, children are free from school to experience parts of life with their parents they might not be during the school year. For example, children can go grocery shopping and help their parents cook dinner. These two activities alone hold vast possibilities for “teaching moments,” as we call them in the education world. Here are some examples:
- Teaching small children to count using pennies. They can earn these pennies doing chores, like making their beds or cleaning their rooms. Children will quickly catch onto the idea that they can buy things with money if they have enough, which gives them motivation to learn how to count higher.
- Children ages six through eight often struggle with skip counting. Using nickels, dimes, and quarters can help them learn to practice counting by fives, tens, and twenty-fives. Parents can set goals for children, goals that when reached, have pre-planned rewards. The rewards don’t have to be expensive, and aren’t meant to bribe, but rather to celebrate the children’s learning.
- For older children, money is a great way to learn about decimals. Teaching children how to add, subtract, multiply, or divide groups of money can often be done better with physical money than on paper. Showing children how to go shopping with set sums of money can not only help them understand how decimals work in the real world, but also how money doesn’t grow on trees.
Theo Huxtable is a bit older than children learning about decimals in this clip, but the real life money lesson idea is the same (something many adults never master). Also, it’s just an enjoyable clip.
- I’ve talked before about how food can be used to teach fractions. Food can also help younger children with learning to count. Children will do almost anything for their favorites cookies and pastries. Have them help you bake a special batch of cookies for the family, but with the agreement that they will help you make them. Have the children count the eggs, count the cups of flour as your pour them, and set the right time on the timer. (Don’t worry about measurements if he or she isn’t ready, just counting). This way, the children are getting numbers in tactile, verbal, and written form.
If you wanted your child to get writing practice as well, a fun way to do that would be to give him or her a personal blank cookbook. You could buy a fancy one like this to make it a treat, or you could help your child make one as an art project by stapling paper together. If he or she finds a favorite recipe, have your child copy the recipe into the book. (Note, you will probably want to give your child a simpler version, as in just the ingredients, or help your child do it, as writing a whole recipe could frustrate him or her if writing is already a struggle.)
Science at the Museum
Or any subject for that matter. Now, I’m not saying the Guggenheim is the best place to start a child who struggles to read and could care less about art. Find museums that your child will enjoy. In my hometown of Las Vegas, we had the Las Vegas Natural History Museum and the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum, for example. These museums have large, often interactive displays that allow children the hands-on experience they need to connect with the information. There are also viewable factories all over the country that allow people to take tours and watch the products as they’re made. Some examples of these are:
(This image is from the official website.)
Creating arts and crafts is a great way to enhance fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are, “small movements — such as picking up small objects and holding a spoon — that use the small muscles of the fingers, toes, wrists, lips, and tongue,” according to Baby Center’s article, “What’s the difference between fine and gross motor skills?” Doing art projects can help children develop their fine motor skills, which, according to the occupational therapist at the school I work at, can help children with their hand strength and abilities to write.
A huge misconception about children and art at home is that parents need to provide every art supply under the sun. And while some supplies are key, children really don’t need everything. In fact, it’s probably better that they don’t have it. Firstly, because art supplies are expensive, but second, because not having all the supplies immediately available will force kids to get creative. My parents didn’t have a lot of money when I was a child, so we had the basics: scissors, glue, paper, crayons, markers, cheap water paints, and sometimes, glitter.
I got really good at making things with paper.
Many people instinctively know that arts and crafts lower anxiety, and that’s something children with ADHD often need. When children struggle with understanding social cues, fitting in, and living by the rules of a society that doesn’t understand them, a little bit of personal time for anxiety relief can really help. Add in some relaxing music and hyperfocus, and your child can have some time for personal growth and enjoyment.
Here are some more suggestions for art and craft supplies that are good for developing fine motor skills:
- String and beads
- Different types of paint (I’d hold off on oil paints, however, until you know your child is interested. They’re extremely expensive, and don’t last very long if the artist isn’t familiar with how to use them. Acrylic paints are much better starter paints.)
- Wooden Popsicle Sticks
- Sand Art
There’s More to Come:
This post will be continued in the near future with more ways to help children with ADHD (or any children for that matter) take advantage of summertime learning. If you have any questions or tips, we’d love to hear them! Just share them in the Comment Box below. I’ll also be sharing more links on education opportunities in my weekly newsletter, so if you’re not signed up, you can subscribe here. And as always, thanks for reading
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