Imagine that you are living inside a video game, where everything is coming at you at once. Every sight, sound, and sensation are a distraction. For a child with ADHD, getting through a typical day is something like that. And it explains a great deal about how they experience the world.
Children with ADHD typically have impairment of functions such as concentration, memory, impulse control, processing speed, and an inability to follow directions. Amazingly, cognitive exercises have been found to produce desired changes in how the brain works and how it looks. What this means for parents is that you now can work with your child to help improve their ADHD symptoms.
Here are a few simple exercises to get you started. While doing these exercises together, be sure to provide reinforcement in the form of praise and encouragement.
1. The Coin Game
First, you will need a small pile of assorted coins, a cardboard sheet to cover them, and a stopwatch or timer. Choose five of the coins from the pile (for this example, we’ll say three pennies and two nickels) and put them into a sequence.
Cover the coins with the cardboard. Start the timer, and then ask them to make the same pattern using the coins from the pile. When they are finished, mark the time with the timer and remove the cardboard cover.
Write down the time it takes them to complete the pattern and whether or not they are correct. If your child doesn’t complete it correctly, have them keep trying until they can do it.
You can increase the difficulty of the patterns as you go and include pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and half dollars. You’ll see your child’s concentration and sequencing improve the more they play, which is a great reward for both of you.
2. Relaxation and Positive Imagery
Combining simple relaxation techniques such as deep breathing with positive visual imagery helps the brain to improve or learn new skills.
In other words, kids with ADHD can imagine that they’re paying attention in class or handling teasing, which can change their behavior at school. You and your child can use your creativity and give this a try.
3. Mind-Body Integration
An example of this technique would be to have your child attempt to sit in a chair without moving. The parent times how long the child can do this. Repeated practice over several weeks will show improvement. Through this activity, the neural connections between the brain and body are strengthened, providing improved self-control.
4. Crossword Puzzles and Picture Puzzles
It sounds simple, but these are great tools for kids with ADHD. Crossword puzzles improve attention for words and sequencing ability. Likewise, picture puzzles, in which your younger child has to look for things that are “wrong” in the picture or look for hard-to-find objects, also improve attention and concentration.
5. Memory and Concentration Games
Children’s games, such as Simon, are great ideas for improving memory and concentration. They are quick and fun.
Memory motivates the child to remember the location of picture squares, and Simon helps them memorize sequences of visual and auditory stimuli. Through repeated playing, brain circuits are exercised and challenged, which strengthens connections and thus improves function.
Also, there are countless free online games that also improve concentration or memory.
6. Dancing Sequence Games
There are various versions to select from, depending on your child’s age and what he or she likes. These games can be played on various video game platforms, including Xbox, Wii, and others. You will also need to purchase the dance mat that goes with your system.
These games improve concentration, processing speed, planning, sequencing, and motor integration. As an added bonus, they can also be a good form of aerobic exercise.
7. Story Based Games
To play these games, all you need is a good story book and a good imagination. You can simply read a short story and give the child a pop quiz on the content. Or, you can read a paragraph or two from a story and then ask your child to come up with what they think might come next.
These games help with building working memory and concentration. They can also help in the development of logic and sense of humor.
You can find mazes appropriate for the age of your child for free online. Start off with easy ones and move forward. Keep track of speed and errors. Of course, don’t forget to praise improving scores. Mazes are great for concentration, planning, sequencing, processing speed and visual-motor integration.
9. Puzzle Games
Puzzle games are very good for kids with ADHD or learning disabilities because they help build that brain muscle we were talking about, as do all these exercises. You can vary the challenges to provide a variety of games.
10. Paddle Ball
Best to start with bouncing the ball downward and when that is mastered, switch to bouncing it upward. Keep track of how long your child can keep the ball bouncing. Encourage increasing the amount of time. For older kids, you might want to talk about what it would take to set a record to motivate them.
As you do these brain exercises, work together with your child, serving as their coach. Encourage them, and track their progress as they improve. Working together is a win-win solution because it also strengthens the relationship you have with your child.
Go ahead and have some fun. Do the exercises along with your child. And who knows, you may find your brain will work a little faster and smarter, too!