This may seem pretty obvious, but I want to be really clear: if you want to know how to handle hyperactive kids who struggle with hyperactivity, remember that they need a constant outlet for activity. They need to be doing something all the time, because their brains are constantly seeking stimulation.
We know it can be exhausting. And we do not want you to feel like it’s your job to provide constant entertainment. Sometimes it’s really great for kids to get bored and figure out how to entertain themselves. That can be a wonderful way to challenge their creativity.
Bring Activities with you Everywhere
But there are times when you might not want to give them that kind of freedom because you want them to be able to pay attention, or wait patiently, or otherwise curb their enthusiasm when you’re out and about in the world. In those cases, you can either give them something to do, or they will find something to explore or climb on their own.
So, like a good boy scout, you want to be prepared. Bring books and sudoku, Rubik Cubes and squeezy balls, crayons and coloring books, scissors and paper. Try to keep available whatever you know will engage your child. As your child gets older, you can involve him in planning for his own “down time,” and ask him to choose what book he wants to bring, or what fidget will keep him busy.
Now, when you do this, you’ll have to try hard to disregard the judgmental stares of other parents – parents whose children are sitting quietly with their hands in their laps while your child is coloring or snipping away. Your child is not wired to sit quietly with his hands in his lap, and there’s really no great virtue in it, anyway!
Busy Boxes and Junk Boxes (for Home and School)
Dr. Ned Hallowell likes to say that kids with ADHD have a Ferrari brain with bicycle brakes that can be really hard to slow down. So another way to provide your child’s busy brain with constant stimulation is through Busy Boxes and Junk Boxes. They actually acknowledge your children’s busy brains, and reward them for being creative.
When you hear the inevitable comment, “I’m bored,” direct your child to her busy box or junk box and see what she can come up with to entertain herself.
Busy Box: Create a box or a shelf or a space in your home to keep toys or activities that your child can play with independently. Change things out occasionally so it’s not always the same old stuff. Have at least a few favorite items that only live in the Busy Box.
Junk Box: One woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure, and no one is better at discovering treasures than hyperactive kids with creative brains. In a junk box, collect loose items, everyday household discards and other random possibilities for objects of “found art.” Put the empty toilet-paper roll in with a plastic spiral binder from a discarded notebook, scraps of fabric and pieces left over from old games or toys. Anything safe (and not sharp) is fair game, and provides fuel for some of the most unusual art projects your children will ever create. Forget about the 5-finger thanksgiving turkey – make room for sailboats and little motorcars made out of modeling clay and toothpicks.