Tips to Control Holiday Havoc

It’s no secret that school holidays for parents and families of kids with ADHD are not always relaxing. Keeping hyperactive kids entertained and busy often means parents are doing the activities too. On the other hand, parents of kids with inattentive ADHD can be at their wits end trying to get an inattentive ADHD child to get up and get going. This is also made harder if a parent also has ADHD. With daily schedules in disarray, the chaos can be overwhelming for many parents. 

Aim to keep a routine.

Try and keep a routine or schedule as much as possible. When kids with ADHD don’t know what the plans are, short tempers explode and crankiness, chaos and meltdowns are all on the cards. A visual planner or calendar may help ease any anxiety around not knowing what the day’s plans are.  

For these holidays I’ve listed some ideas that may help keep the kids busy and hopefully you won’t feel like you don’t need to return to work for a break!

Create a holiday schedule. Let kids have input and choose some activities (even some you may not love, but know they enjoy and are safe.) Keeping structured activities is important for children with ADHD as boredom is often an invitation to get into trouble, however, down time is important too, so make sure to include free time or “free play” into a flexible the schedule. 

Discuss coping strategies for if/when things don’t go to plan.

It’s important to think ahead even during the holidays for kids with ADHD. Before your kids head out to play help prepare them with simple strategies they can use when things don’t go as expected. Positive self-talk cues and rehearsing self-regulation techniques may help prevent conflicts and meltdowns. Teaching kids the power of pausing by rehearsing a pause with long slow breaths (think long deep breath in through the nose like you are inhaling all the fragrance from a flower, then slow, long breath out, like you are blowing out a long burning candle.) Remind kids why pausing helps (this is emotional self-regulation). If you see your child starting to get agitated, quietly reassure them that they are doing great, remind them of the cue and that they can do this.  If they need to take a break or time out, let them reset so they can come back calmer and better regulated

Family Holiday Program – Create a schedule to suit everyone.

Write each of the activities on a piece of paper, put them in a jar or hat and have each child pull out 1-2 activities to do each day. Kids will want to do things that come up in the moment also but having a plan may help for those moments when they say, “I’m bored!”, followed by, “There’s nothing to do!”

Be prepared with activities and snacks. Let the kids know what’s happening.

Have snacks planned for when they come in for food and drinks. Get the kids to help create a snack menu and shopping list. They love knowing what’s coming up, so they’ll be excited if they’ve helped plan and put together a fruit platter or snack plate. Creating the shopping list together is a fantastic opportunity to discuss healthy food choices. This can set up some great conversations and work on skills around planning and prioritising (executive functions many ADHDer’s struggle with).

Below is a list of activities that you may find helpful. Add to the list yourself or get the kids to help by coming up with ideas too! ADHD kids often do better when they have buy-in to the activity (helping choose and create).

Think of a couple of rewards that the kids can have. Rewards might include a trip to a playground, swimming pool or water park, games arcade, or choosing the snacks for the snack menu. Inviting a friend for a sleepover, a trip to the shop for an ice-cream or choosing the next movie for a movie night at home may also be great rewards.

Hopscotch – Draw your own and make it big as you like with sidewalk chalk. Ask the kids if they can come up their own variation and teach it to you.

Cricket – a bat and a ball or even a paddle and ball can bring hours of fun.

Soccer – make home goals if you can 

Totem tennis – can play alone or with someone else.

Basketball / Netball – Shooting hoops, bouncing ball activities

Trampoline – they’re not just for bouncing! Many a sibling meeting has been held on trampolines. Books are read, audiobooks and podcasts are often listened to while laying on the family trampoline!

Shuttle runs – Set up markers and ready, set, go! 1 minute or 2 minutes. Tag team if more than one child.

2 min timed cone shuttle – Place 3 cones or different coloured items about 2-3 meters away from start position. Space them approx. 5 steps apart. Nominate each cone/item number 1,2 & 3. When time starts, the person timing calls out a number at random and person running, runs forward, touches cones/item, then shuffles backwards to the start. Jog on the spot until the next number is called.

Tag – You’re it! Tag the other person with your hand or have a sash of material tucked into clothes that the other person has to grab.

Sack races – use old cloth bags or pillowcases.

Egg and spoon race – real eggs or buy plastic egg and spoon set from stores like Kmart.

Hula Hoop

Ball games

Home obstacle course – let the kids help design it!

Skipping rope – add a fun challenge, see how many skips they can get without stopping. Jump rope – singles, double, crossovers, Double dutch.

Elastics and

Fill the buckets – 2 buckets per person spaced about 5-10 metres apart, and a container each with 3-5 small holes for water to run out. See who can transfer as much water as possible from one bucket to the other in 2 minutes.

Water fights – water balloons, buckets, and any other water toy you have at home. Hours of fun to cool off this summer. 

I Spy – great for car rides. (Another one to help working memory).

Family bike rides or walk the dog – let the kids help choose a different route each day (if safe to do so.)

Home disco – Include music from different eras. Play them some songs you grew up to and add their favourites! Add music that has dances (eg. Nutbush, Macarena, a Tik Tok dance that the kids might know. Get them to teach you the dance!)

Trivia night – Check out Pinterest for trivia questions and include questions about the topics you know your kids are passionate about. Watch their face light up when they answer!

Riddles and Rhymes – get the kids to find their favourite and share them.

Kids in the Kitchen – Let the kids help make their favourite meal

Family movie night – each week let the kids choose a movie.

Time together – Encourage the older kids to spend 1-2 hours a week doing something together. Let them have input. Your teen might want to show you what it is about the thing they love to do. That might be gaming, or tik tok, building computers, reading about fashion, drawing, jewellery making, painting, photography, sport or building the most intricate Lego models available. Whatever it is, get to know why they love it, and connect.

Fort Building – Inside camping at its best! Blankets, sheets, torches and a book for story time.

Create an arts and craft box – Paper, textas, pencils, crayons, non-toxic paints, brushes (or finger painting, rocks for rock painting, wool and needles to sew or learn to knit (use wool and large needles and help younger kiddos to sew along the lines on a piece of paper. Sew on a button for fun (can help fine motor skills). Use butchers’ paper for them to get creative and create maps and draw big pictures. Create a treasure hunt and map of the backyard.

Create stitch cards for kids –

Sewing with kids –

Kinetic Sand or Play-dough- fun for kids who respond well to touch and textures.  

Balance Beams and stilts 

Books – set timer for quiet time for reading. Visit a local library.

Tech Time – iPad, gaming, computers, tv. Give them time limits, add some outdoor activity in between. Remember to give them warnings so they can transition without frustration, knowing they can come back to the tech stuff after set time outdoors or being active.

Noise Cancelling Headphones – when it’s getting too noisy or your child is sending out signals that they are over stimulated and need the world to quieten down, noise cancelling headphones are excellent.

Word a Day challenge – Put 20-30 weird and wonderful words in a jar. Each day each family member picks out a word and has to learn the meaning of it (give the kids links to an online dictionary or go to google and type “define” then type the word). Make it more challenging by seeing if they can work it into a conversation without anyone else realising. Make the words crazy, fun and educational. At the end of the holidays see if they can make a conversation using all the new words they have learnt!

15 more words to add to your challenge… Snollygoster, Menagerie, Kerfuffle, Hullabaloo, Wonderment, Whippersnapper, Flabbergasted, Discombobulate, Lollygag, Ponder, Collywobbles, Peckish, Befuddled, Gussied, Jabberwocky.

Games  Uno, Fish, Snap, Jenga, Monopoly, Scattegories, Pictionary, Heads Up etc

Conversation Games – The best conversations start with a good question, but this is a skill we need to teach kids. Conversation games are a fantastic way to help kids build conversational skills. You can buy cards or find questions online to build your own game. If you have teenagers, they may enjoy creating cards on the computer. Laminate them or glue them to cardboard to use again. Questions may include “What song makes you want to move?” “What is a food you could eat every day for the rest of your life?” “What is something funny that happened to you?”  The aim is to try and keep coming up with questions that can’t be answered with just “yes” or “no”. At the end of the game ask each person what they learnt about another player. You can add prompt cards to help kids ask questions (eg. “That sounds interesting, what else can you tell us about that?” or “What happened next?”).

Organise a family video call with grandparents, friends or family who live away – Set up a video call with a grandparent or elderly friend and have the kids write up a list of questions to ask. Record the conversation if they are ok with it and give the kids a project to make a family history album. (Where did Pa go to school? What was his first pet? What was it’s name? What was nan’s favourite food when she was young? What chores did they have to do? What were the games they played? Can they remember what their favourite songs were? Does pop have a favourite joke? This is great for grandparents, or an elderly loved one too! It’s a great way to help your kids build skills around planning, working memory and organisation.

New skills – Get the bigger/older kids to teach the smaller/younger kids something new. A tik tok dance, how to throw a basketball, how to play a game that they like (obviously something age appropriate). Teach them something on a computer – how to type a story or make a card or poster in Canva.

Freeze Dance or Simon Says

Exercise cards – deck of cards with different exercises. 

For kids with ADHD, these activies can be great to help release dopamine and keep them stimulated. You may even want to create your own kids’ Dopamenu!

Encourage the good behaviour you see. Look for what is causing any behaviours you don’t like and deal with the source of the behaviour before things get out of control. The aim is to build happy memories and reduce any meltdowns and conflicts. Remind kids of their strengths to help continue building their confidence and self-esteem.

Enjoy the holiday’s and happy 2022 to you and your family! 

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