Planning Summer for Teens with ADHD


adhd summer ideas

I’ve written about our summer routine before, and while that post still is relevant and very much how I think about planning summer for my two tween boys, some things have changed.

My boys are getting older, they’ll turn 12 and 14 (a high schooler!!) this summer, their interests are changing and so is my parenting. I’ve learned a lot this year(with lots more to learn) about how best to parent their ADHD to bring more peace and connection to our days.

So here is how I am planning a summer for two tweens with ADHD.

A note about ADHD: I mention ADHD not to be exclusionary, but to hopefully resonate with other families struggling with raising challenging kids. As with all of my posts, I want other parents who are struggling to know they are not alone. However, my suggestions for summer will work for many types of families.

Planning summer should be collaborative.

Getting my kids input on their schedules, summer or not, is key. It makes sense that the older my kids get the more they need to have a say in how they spend their time.

This summer is so different because we are not sure about how much will be opening up or exactly what outside opportunities there will be.

Our flexibility and creativity will be put to the test this summer.  Usually our bucket list is full of visiting lots of local sights and provide the best moments for connection.

This year our summer bucket list is full of ideas like:

  • Hike through a local forest preserve
  • Ride bikes with the family
  • Have a Marvel movie festival
  • Play with squirt guns in the back yard
  • Build a fort in the backyard
  • Sleep in a tent in the yard
  • Bake cookies for neighbors
  • Project a movie on the garage door 
  • Listen to an audio book as a family

Regardless of the current world situation, there are still ways we can plan for a successful, stress free (OKAY Stress LESS – summer)

Create a daily summer routine

It make sense to include some structure in a summer schedule for an adhd child. I find that even the slightest bit of structure can make a world of difference. Kids thrive on routine, no matter what time of year it is. Here’s what we do to add structure to our days:

  • Our bedtime is still early( 8:30-ish), like during the school year. My kids get up at 6 a.m. no matter what time they go to bed.  Sleep is vital for their ADHD brains, so we are early to bed and early to rise.
  • Independent play time. We all need a break from each other in the summer – especially on the days we have nothing planned.  I set our timer for 30 to 60 minutes and my kids entertain themselves in their rooms. They read or listen to music(no screens). This is super vital when were spending a lot of time at home.
  • My boys still have their daily and weekly chores. They get more opportunities to do extra chores for money in the summer, too.
  • Mommy School (the name stuck when they were littles, but will have to change now that they are teens!)As a teacher, I know how real “Summer Slide” is. In the past, we’ve practiced math facts, written in a journal, listened to Story of the World, and read Life Of Fred Language Books. Generally this happens for about 20 to 30 minutes on weekdays.
  • Screentime is limited. It’s easy for the empty hours of summer to get filled up with screens. My kids used to get about 30 minutes a day of screen time, but as they get older, this will have to be more flexible as the phone is a communication tool for friends – something that is so needed right now. I’m okay with using a phone for music, social texting or a relaxation app, but will keep the mindless , passive videos and games to a minimum. 
  • We have a few traditions that happen weekly. My kids know what to expect, they look forward to it and it makes planning super easy.  Kid Dinner Night(more on that below!), Family Movie Friday, and Library on Sunday are three of our non-negotiables
  • My boys have an interest in cooking and preparing meals, so they are in charge of one dinner a week. They help me plan, prepare and serve the meal, as well as help with clean up. The emphasis is on building real life skills. We pull from our list of favorite meals for an ADHD Diet.
  • Put yourself in the routine. It is vital as parents of kids with special needs, that you find breaks for yourself.  I desperately need time to myself to be quiet and think. I have a “No one downstairs until 7 am” rule that just started during Shelter in Place. I get up around 5:30, so I have the time I need.

Maybe its just because I crave a routine, but summer runs smoother when we all can get into a daily groove . This is not to say that from time to time we don’t waiver – bedtimes are later for special outings, a family movie night adds to the screen time minutes, we may get asked to do something special and rush to make it happen, etc.

Keep a big family calendar

We love our calendar so much during the school year, it’s a no brainer to keep it up during the summer, as well.

Just like during the school year, our Sundays nights always are kept open for sometime to talk about the upcoming week. Each family member’s schedule is written on our big wipe board calendar for all to see. We go over it so there are no surprises for anyone. It’s a good way to mentally prepare for the week ahead.

We’ll plan a few ideas each week from our bucket list and hopefully be able to add more as the country begins to open up. 

tweens with adhd

There should be lots of downtime

I am not a cruise director, so I stock up on things that promote open-ended play and creative time. It’s good for kids to be bored and come up with their own plan. 

This summer there might just be more downtime than we want!  So I am preparing the house to make sure I have supplies that encourage creative play:

  • Our yard has one section that is a big dirt pile. My kids spend lots of time digging and building forts, etc. Even at 12 and 14, they still love doing this! We have some pallets and pavers and they build all sort of structures. 
  • We have lots of art supplies.  (Use that link to grab my huge list of supplies, if you haven’t already.) The supplies are readily available on a few shelves when inspiration strikes.
  • Blocks, legos, Kapla Blocks, and Magna Tiles are available at all times.
  • We visit the library weekly to make sure we have enough to read-ours is open for curbside pick up. My boys are voracious readers and can go thru 5 or 6 books a week.

Play to their strengths

We often overlook our ADHD kids’ strengths as we try to accommodate and “fix” their deficits. Without the stress of school, homework or a heavy sports schedule, its easier to spend time enhancing your kids’ super powers.

That might look like more trips to the library for a voracious reader. an online art class for the doodler, lots of hikes for the nature lover or stocking up on wood scraps and nails for the builder.

Not quite sure what their strengths are? Ask them about the one thing they’d like to do this summer and go from there. Or take time to explore a few new things and see what excites them.

Now that there are a plethora of distance learning options, we’ll explore a few online sites to find something to do this summer.  I know it will add to their screentime, but I am okay with screens when my kids are creating and just not consuming.  We like: 

  • Outschool – Outschool has a huge variety of classes ranging from an hour to 12 week long classes. My son is taking a programming class that he loves! 
  • Typingclub – a great way to get some keyboarding skills. My son has dysgraphia and hates to write, so learning good typing skills is so helpful. 
  • Udemy – My son and I are taking a drawing class on here together. It’s a fun excuse to sit down together and we usually end up having a nice conversation in the process.
  • Kids Cook Real Food – Katie Kimball, author of my favorite cookbooks of all time, has an online class with 45 videos, plus loads of resources, teaching kids how to cook real food. We’re taking the class this summer because my kids have been showing an interest in cooking and I am all for teaching them a valuable life skill that will take some of the cooking load off my hands. (I’m so excited about this that I have mentioned it twice in this article!)

Work ( a little ) on their deficits

Summer is a great time to take a step back and work on something that your child has found challenging during the school year.  I cover some of these things in ” Mommy School” which happens on a regular basis. (the key is regular so there is less whining about it.)

I try to make it fun, and light and not too forced. Although, inevitably, I miss the boat on that sometimes. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns when we work on the stuff that’s hard.

But, come August, I am so glad that I put up with the moans and groans. The transition to school is so much easier if we’ve kept on the basics.

Learn a new skill together.

Even before our Shelter in Place experience, we have loved taking online classes as a family. It’s a great way to model the use of a screen for something other than playing games or watching YouTube Videos.  

Udemy is a great platform for classes of all sorts! We are all taking an art class together, so it’s a plus for me, as well!

Last summer, my kids took Spanish from Muzzy, too. Their fun cartoon format makes language learning easy for preschool thru high school. I sat in on the sessions and learn a bit of Spanish, myself.

But, I am most excited about our Kids Cook Real Food Class from Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship. I’ve talked about her awesome cookbooks, so I am sure her classes will be super valuable.  

I am really looking forward to this! The class will help my kids become more independent in the kitchen. We are taking the intermediate class where they’ll learn valuable skills like how to use a knife, how to brown meat and become independent while following a recipe! 

Kids not interested in learning something new?  The best way to get a kid interested is by sitting down yourself and delving into a class. Show excitement and they’ll want to join in!

Remember it’s all about connection.

I do feel like a big weight has been taken off my shoulders now that I have just a few things in place.  By putting a little routine and rhythm into our days we are freed up to enjoy all those wonderful opportunities to connect with our kids.

After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

I love comments! Please add any ideas that have worked for you.

If you need some ideas for some summer fun check this, this , and this!

Want more on ADHD?

You might find these helpful:

Read about how amazing a weighted blanket is for sleep, here.

WE have a great bedtime routine. Read about it here.

Want more ADHD diet help? Here’s how we do breakfast.

Have a reluctant reader with ADHD? Here’s how to help.