Brain-boosting outdoor activities that don't feel like work
Eleven percent of school-age children have received a diagnosis of ADHD, and one in every 50 kids has an autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you have a child with one of these or another learning or behavioral issue, these final days of summer give you the perfect opportunity to get your kid away from the television and electronics and get him outside to play. Studies have shown that watching TV for extended periods of time slows brain activity and causes atrophy of muscles, thereby decreasing the amount of stimulation to the brain. As it is, children with ADHD often struggle with weakened spatial and visual skills, gross motor skills, balance and coordination, nonverbal communication, and overall concentration. These activities will help resolve these deficiencies in ways that are both skill-building and fun.
1. In a group setting, have your kids create something original -- a song, a rap, a dance, or a story. Work together and build off of one another's ideas. Children with ADHD are left-brain heavy, which means they automatically rely on analytics and numbers rather than descriptors and abstract ideas. Creative play helps widen their imaginative scope while also being social and interactive.
2. Mimicking games, such as "Simon Says" and "Red light, green light," are beneficial for right-brain development because they're nonverbal, physically active, and require periodically suppressing a response, which can be very difficult for children with ADHD. Succeeding in these games means working on several aspects that need improvement, especially in the areas of attention, concentration, and accurately interpreting social cues.
3. Working on art projects such as sculpting with clay or using hands or even feet to paint on a giant canvas is helpful because it can strengthen the abstract area of the right brain that needs developing.
4. Activities that involve jumping -- skateboarding, hopscotch, and playing with a Skip-It -- are excellent because they're cardiovascular and help build muscle tone. These exercises are also typically social, so they can help broaden your child's social skills and awareness. For hopscotch and Skip-It, kids can get their creative juices flowing by singing an original song together, along with the rhythm of the hops.
5. Playing on a Slip 'N Slide with friends, or participating in more complex water sports such as water skiing and surfing, combines physicality with social engagement while stimulating the vestibular inner ear, which prompts better balance. Playing "Marco Polo" at the pool is also helpful because it strengthens both spatial awareness and auditory skills while a child interacts with others.
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