Jumpstart Summer Learning with Play-Based Activities

Play-based summer learning experiences for kids with ADHD

This is a guest post from my partner-in-crime/fellow mommy/Facebook group admin….and she also saved my butt with this one. I was not keeping my ish together this week.  Thanks Lee-Anne!


Children with ADHD look forward to summer break even more than their peers.

(I presume, I didn’t take a poll or anything.)

After a long school year our children are ready for some unstructured time. And though you may find this hard to believe, your children are looking forward to spending time with you.

While some children thrive in a highly structured academic setting, kids with ADHD often struggle. Some parents use summer to help their kids catch up. Some well-meaning parents might even use techniques similar to schools and try to schedule learning time before “fun” time.

Unfortunately, this reinforces the idea that learning is work and not play.  It also makes recess and play time something to be earned, instead of an important part of growth and maturation.

Jumpstart Summer Learning with Play-Based Activities!


Everything I am reading is telling me that play is how children learn. Check it out:


And Here

And Here

Children with ADHD Love a challenge. With that said, the challenge has to be attainable. Why not try a more hands-on, experiential approach to summer learning?

Plan Your Summer Together

Sit with your child and make a summer wish/bucket list. Type it into a word document in a file labeled summer 2016.  Here you are using organization and computer skills.

Discuss how much time these plans would take. A week, a weekend, a day, an hour or two….? Can they be combined? A weekend trip camping would also be a great time for s’mores, a picnic, swimming in a lake, boating ect.

Using a calendar, schedule in the vacation schedules that are applicable to your family, block out time for things that have already been booked like trips, camps, and swim lessons. Discuss with your child how much free time you reasonably have for their wish list items.

Prepare them in advance for any possible changes that might happen to the schedule. Children with ADHD are not known for their flexible thinking and a change could be really upsetting for them if not prepared.

More educational Ideas:

Plan a Picnic: Brainstorm what kind of foods and drinks will be necessary,  and ask them what they think other people going would like too. This will make them think beyond themselves.

Pack for a Trip: Brainstorm a list of items that they might need. And, don’t forget the sunscreen!

Plan a Day Trip: (Planning and math skills.)

Help them look up costs such as admission, ride tickets, lockers, food, parking/ transportation.

What time do you need to be there? What directions do you need? Is there a map?

Estimate travel time and compare with actual travel time. Make it into a game where the closest person to the right answer picks the first ride, exhibit, or lunch.

While in lines, time how long it takes to go through a complete rotation from unloading to unloading. Try to count how many people the ride holds. Estimate how long it will take you to get to on the ride.

Ice Cream Date: (Math Skills)

Keep small bills and change, and if possible look up the prices in advance so they can figure out the total and what it looks like in cash. (Make sure you bring extra money.)

Get Outside

Go Geocaching or on a hike and let them use an old camera (NOT YOUR PHONE) to take pictures of scavenger hunt items or anything that catches their eye.

Talk about wildlife and insects. What is their habitat? what can we do to support their habitat? Talk about pests like mosquitos and ticks, and how we can help keep ourselves safe.

Discuss outdoor safety. Try using a compass. You could follow a trail and bring a whistle, flashlight, water, and a first aid kit.


We know our kids love their electronics; we should put that to good use. Help them create a summer file. Then create a slideshow of pictures and facts they’ve learned from their summer outdoor activities.

Use a Word document to journal and document any writing they do throughout their summer adventures.

If you are able, create an Excel spreadsheet and track summer expenses for the trips you’ve taken. This would be great practice with computer programs.

Create an email for them, and have them email updates with pictures to family and friends.

Put together a teaching plan for their favourite game, (yes even a video game).  The lesson plan should include any important characters, skills and goals needed to play the game. Then, let them show you and spend at least 30 minutes playing it with them.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless!

Follow Their Interests

While some kids might like the museum, listen to what your child is really into and plan accordingly. If they’re into it you can guarantee someone else is, too. Use Google and get creative.

The world is a big place and summer is the perfect time to explore, try new things and live life hands-on.

Learning should be a seamless product of living, not learning in order to live.                         Have fun together.

What did you think of my ideas for the summer?

Any that surprised you or that you will try?

Lee-Anne McNeil is a wife, mom and certified massage therapist living in Toronto, CA. Visit her blog at: http://spectrumserenity.com for more info on ADHD, Autism, Parenting and more. Follow her on Twitter at @SpctrmSerenity or go HERE

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