Does the thought of having a long, empty summer ahead of you to spend with your ADHD kids freak you out a little bit? Managing behaviors and sibling squabbles can seem pretty overwhelming.
Taking a little time for planning out a summer routine for your ADHD kids can make things so much easier.
In this post you’ll find detailed how-to’s for:
- Writing a summer bucket list for your entire family
- Creating a daily summer routine to bring some calm
- Ways to have your kids learning new skills
- Setting some ground rules about screens
- Growing your child’s strengths and passions
- Making sure everyone get’s downtime
Personal Note: My boys (both have ADHD Diagnosis) are getting older, they’ll turn 14 (a freshman!) and 16 (a junior!!) this summer, their interests are changing and so is my parenting. I’ve learned a lot over the years (and I am still learning) about how best to parent their ADHD to bring more peace and connection to our days.
***Some of the links mentioned in this post are affiliate links. I only recommend what my family uses and pays for ourselves***
Planning an ADHD summer bucket list should be collaborative.
Getting your kids input on their schedules, summer or not, is key. It makes sense that the older our kids get, the more they can be in charge of how they spend their time.
Your summer bucket list can be full of ideas like:
- Hike through a local forest preserve.
- Attend the FREE Online, #LifeskillsNow Camp.
- Take a cooking class online.
- Play with fun stuff outside, like our Trac Ball and our light-up Foxtail.
- Go to a U-pick farm to pick fruits and/or veggies.
- Ride bikes with the family.
- Visit a few Little Free Libraries in neighboring towns.
- Take a Python coding class online.
- Have a Marvel movie festival.(Watch them in their intended order.)
- Play with squirt guns in the backyard.
- Build a fort in the backyard.
- Watch the entire Stranger Things Series.
- Make a picnic lunch and find a new spot to enjoy it.
- Sleep in a tent in the yard.
- Keep a nature journal of our hikes(probably more me, than them!).
- Bake cookies for neighbors.
- Project a movie on the garage door.
- Rejoin the local arboretum and take advantage of its events.
- Visit libraries in a neighboring town.
- Listen to audio books as a family.
- Visit a war plane “graveyard” two hours away.
Related: We’re taking this awesome free online camp: #LifeSkillsNow
Create a daily summer routine
Ideally, sit down with your kids the first or second week of summer to discuss and create a bit of a routine with them. Routines are the secret to creating calm and having your kids be independent during much of the day.
It make total 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 summer days:
- Create a summer bedtime , like during the school year. It can be so reassuring to you and your kids that the day has a shut off time. Even if kids are just in their bedrooms reading, designate a summer bedtime. Sleep is so vital for their ADHD brains and our kids’ overall wellbeing. So, when you prioritize it, everything else works better.
- Independent leisure time. We all need a break from each other in the summer – especially on the days we have nothing planned. Set a timer for 60 minutes and my kids entertain themselves in their rooms. Your kids read or listen to music(no screens). This is super vital when you’re spending a lot of time at home. **As they get older, your kids may naturally do this, as they want to be alone more and spend less time with their parents. But this can be a game changer when they are younger!**
- Keep up with your kids’ daily and weekly chores. You can give them more opportunities to do extra chores for money in the summer, too. Here’s some great ideas for getting your kids to do their chores.
- Academic help : As a teacher, I know how real “Summer Slide” is. There are so many options out there to practice skills like math facts, and journal, writing. My family’s person favorites are listening to the Story of the World, and reading Life Of Fred Language Books. Even 20 to 30 minutes on weekdays.will serve your kids well. Note about teens: If this is a source of fighting, do not do it. I repeat, do not force this. (Ask me how I know? ; P )You can hire a tutor to take the pressure off you, if your child really needs the extra help. My teenager finds math extremely difficult, so I am offering the help, only if he wants. Once school starts in the fall, they’ll be lots of opportunities to get free tutoring.
- Limit screen time. It’s easy for the empty hours of summer to get filled up with screens. The amount of time allotted for screen time is a very individual thing. Your kids can get as little as 30 minutes a day of screen time or several hours if they are older. It’s not an easy thing, as once kids have phones, this can turn into kind of a nightmare. Consider what they are doing on the phone or screen as much as how much time they are on it.. (See more on managing screens below)
- Start weekly traditions. Kids know what to expect, they look forward to it and it makes planning super easy. Try things like Kid Cook Dinner Night(more on that below!), Family Movie Friday, and Library on Sunday.!
- If your kids have an interest in cooking and preparing meals, put them in charge of one dinner a week. They can help you plan, prepare and serve the meal, as well as help with clean up. The emphasis is on building real life skills. You can pull from this list of favorite meals for an ADHD Diet. Try the Kids Cook Real Food classes – my youngest has been through the entire series and now loves to cook!
- Put yourself (I mean you mama!)in the routine. It is vital as parents of kids with special needs, that you find breaks for yourself. We may desperately need time to ourselves to be quiet and think. Try a “No one downstairs until 8 am” rule . You can get up earlier and have time to yourself. This clock helps with that.
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.
Learn a new skill together.
Taking online classes as a family can be such a great experience for everyone. And – it’s a great way to model the use of a screen for something other than playing games or watching YouTube Videos.
Outschool has a tremendous selection of classes for all ages and just about any topic you can think of. From coding to languages or drawing and crafts, there is truly something for everyone and in every price range, as well.
My kids have taken Spanish from Muzzy, too. Their fun cartoon format makes language learning easy for preschool thru high school. I sat in on the sessions and learned a bit of Spanish, myself.
I am really looking forward to revisiting her cooking and skills class! The class helped my kids become more independent in the kitchen. We took the intermediate class where they learned 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!
Managing Summer Screens for ADHD Kids and Teens
This is a new section to this post because screens are becoming an even bigger issue for my ADHD teens.
No longer can I just declare ,”There will be no screens today!”
There has to be a conversation where everyone’s needs are expressed and HEARD.
Your child gets to have say in what’s important to him and you get to voice your concerns.
This may happen over several sittings – don’t expect it to be perfect the first go around.
Be sure to include these ideas in your conversation:
First – not all screen time is created equal.
There are plenty of “better” options for being on a screen.
- We love connecting as a family over movies.
- Zoom meetings with friends and family.
- Online classes like Outschool, or learning a skill like Typing.
- Relevant YouTube Videos to learn a skill or research a topic.
- Creating stop motion movies, editing videos, etc.
I allow more time for social, creative or educational screens than I do gaming.
It’s okay to enforce a time limit
If I did not enforce a limit, my kids would be on screens for 12 hours a day, literally. They become addicted very quickly, if I don’t step in – still at 14 and 16.
Kids need limits – especially ADHD teens who loose track of time and often have a very skewed view of time and get addicted to the dopamine rush that screen
We’ve agreed on no more than 90 minutes of video game playing a day. Those limits expand a bit when there are social opportunities, like playing with friends in person or talking via headphones to friends playing elsewhere.
The games they play are monitored. I encourage a variety of games. My kids gravitate towards the more violent games, but I do not let them play mature games…..even at 16. I have seen some of the games that are for older teens and adults and I am shocked by some of their content.
Share some rules as a family
It is vital for all family members to abide by screen time rules. Kids are smart and will wonder why you get to have your phone at the table if they can’t.
Rules like these seem doable as a family:
- No screens at the table for mealtimes.
- All screens away an hour (or two!) before bed. Even better – to a central charging station.
- No phones out at restaurants.
- No phones out in the car. (definitely front seat passengers)
- Limited(or no)engagement on social media sites
- No screens in bedrooms past 9 pm.
Screentime rules will vary from kid to kid
There are no absolutes when it comes to screentime across the board. How a kid reacts to being on a screen will vary. My kids turn into zombies, some kids are calmed by screens.
It’s important to observe your own kid and see how they react. We don’t start any video gaming until 4 pm. If we started earlier, my kids would not be able to rouse themselves back to another activity.
I know this because I observe my kids before, during, and after being on all sorts of screens.
Prioritize Connection over Screens
When kids are spending too much time on a screen, it’s usually at the expense of family connection time.
Kids holed up in their rooms for hours, day after day, with little to no interaction with their family is not what we’re aiming for.
Make sure you are planning and prioritizing family connection time to happen as often as possible. Do that first.
Related: Monitoring Smart Phone for ADHD Kids
Summertime = Downtime
Preparing the house to make sure you have supplies that encourage creative play:
- Have a section of your yard that can be used for dirt play. Your kids can spend lots of time digging and building forts, etc. Mix in pallets and pavers , rocks, vehicles a hose and they can build all sort of structures.
- Consider have lots of art supplies. (Use that link to grab my huge list of supplies, if you haven’t already.) Have supplies readily available on a few shelves when inspiration strikes.
- Blocks, legos, Kapla Blocks, and Magna Tiles are available at all times.
- Visit the library weekly to make sure you have enough to read. are voracious readers and can go thru 5 or 6 books a week.
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.
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.
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?
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Want more on ADHD?
You might find these helpful:
Want more ADHD diet help? Here’s how we do breakfast.
Have a reluctant reader with ADHD? Here’s how to help.