Are you looking for alternative or supplemental treatments for you child who has ADHD or displays ADHD behaviors? Here are 5 nature strategies that are easy to use and incorporate into your daily lives. Be sure to talk with your pediatrician about adding more nature activities into your child’s weekly routine.
Nature as a Treatment for ADHD
When talking with an adult with ADHD, they will typically give you two pieces of advice: exercise regularly and when possible, exercise outdoors. Exercising outdoors provides a lot of stimulation, keeping them engaged and entertained.
We can use the same strategies for our kids by substituting play for exercise.
One of the reasons nature is able to help people relax and focus is because it draws on “involuntary” attention. We are easily and involuntarily captivated by new and strange things in nature: wild animals, moving objects, new smells, and peaceful sounds. The opposite of involuntary attention is directed attention – tasks that require concentration and focus, like attending to your work emails or kids doing their homework.
Nature experiences allow your child to recharge through involuntary attention, therefore helping them to focus when the need arises. By getting them outside regularly and engaged with nature, you will be helping them to listen in school and focus on their homework.
When you’re getting outside with your child, you’re providing them with so much more than simply a way to expend excess energy!
Are you intrigued about getting your kid outdoors more but need help planning outdoor activities? Click here to get my Planning Workbook. It will help you set up a consistent schedule for outdoor activities and track your child’s progress as you explore an alternative treatment.
If you’d prefer a little more information on how to get your kids outdoors, click here for my eBook: Reuniting Children with Nature: Nature’s Guide to Happier & Healthier Kids. This eBook is a detailed how-to guide where I take all the guess work out of getting outside and give you strategies and activities to help you and your child engage in nature. These strategies are practical and easy to implement for any family living in any location.
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5 Nature Treatments for Kids with ADHD
1. Get kids involved in outdoor chores.
Your child may have a hard time completing monotonous chores like cleaning their room or dusting the house, but they may shine at outdoor chores. Have them stack wood, mow the lawn, move rocks, or shovel the sidewalk after a snow storm. This allows them to expend energy while also giving them the freedom to play and look around as they’re outside working.
2. Walk your dog.
Dogs are great therapy options. Not only will they require you to go outside regularly, but they’ll also keep you on a schedule. Plus, they love to run and play! Make dog walking your child’s personal daily chore. Depending on their age, this means walking the dog is also your chore. Look on the bright side, you get to spend quality time outside with your child!
3. Walk to school.
Try walking with your child to school every day for a month. Make it a 30-day challenge! Check in with your child’s teacher weekly to see if they notice a difference. Make adjustments to play time and activity depending on the teacher’s feedback. If you don’t live close enough to walk, have your child play in the yard before leaving or go to school early and play in the park. The key is to incorporate physical exercise as well as “green space” and natural objects, like sticks and rocks. Nature has restorative properties, so playground equipment may not be enough for your child.
4. Ride a bike.
Biking is another sport that burns off excess energy but does so at the pace and desires of the rider. Your child can go fast and get their heart pumping or slow down to watch the birds feeding from the neighbor’s feeder. Biking allows your child to exercise, daydream, and explore. Vary your routes from day to day and cover enough ground so that you keep things new and interesting!
5. Try individual outdoor sports.
Although children with ADHD can excel at team sports, individual sports are a great option for kids who need to move at their own pace or do things in their own style. A great example is rock climbing, running, or biking. The kids get to exercise and burn off excess energy, but they also have the option to explore movement, speed, and technique in a way that is personal for them. For example, your child could choose to climb as fast as possible to the top of the rock wall, or they could choose slow and intentional movements as they climb. Both strategies involve exercise and focus, but the strategy that your child chooses will likely cater to the specific needs and desires that they have in that moment, helping them to relax and re-center while also having fun.
If you’d like to know what the scientific research says about nature’s relationship with ADHD symptoms, check out these posts:
These alternative treatments are not to be used as a reason to get your kids off their medicine, take unnecessary risks, or stop seeing their doctor. This is NOT a prescription and I am not that kind of doctor. Always talk with your child’s pediatrician. They’ll likely be fully on board with increased outdoor play unless your child has a preexisting health condition (like severe asthma) making it a dangerous risk to increase outdoor time. DO NOT take unnecessary risks with your child. If your child cannot go outside regularly, perhaps I could help you develop a plan that involves nature window viewing and fun indoor nature activities.
Thanks for reading,