Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Benefits of Outdoor Play for Kids With ADHD and Mood Disorders

Kids have lots of energy. Kids with ADHD have even more energy. And when you mix in a mood disorder with the ADHD and multiply that by two because there are two kids dealing with the same things, it can really get interesting. 

One of my favorite ways to deal with this is to get outside. Get outside and move. A lot. For hours. As often as possible. Spending time outside is simply part of our routine and it is expected. It is non-negotiable. If the weather is nice we are going outside. And when the kids get used to the idea it becomes a welcome part of the day. As you can see from our schedule here we currently have around four hours a day scheduled to be outside. This varies with the seasons of course but as much as possible we try to get out of the house. 

Being outside offers a lot of benefits for a child with abundant energy and the need to move a lot and make a lot of noise. There are fewer restrictions to constantly have to be reminded of. There is room to run and jump and throw things and climb things. There is freedom from the constant reminder to "use your inside voice." For a child who is struggling with remembering all the rules while dealing with all the erratic brain signals this can be very freeing. 

Many children with ADHD and mood disorders may also benefit from the neurotransmitters and endorphins that are produced in the brain during exercise. The neurotransmitters dopamine, neurepinephrine and seratonin are lower in children with ADHD. These substances can also benefit those with symptoms of mood disorders. So all that running and jumping and throwing and riding has not only the benefit of burning off some energy but also producing some pretty important substances in the brain. 

Studies have also shown that some children's ADHD symptoms are milder after playing in green spaces. There is something about being out in nature that seems to quiet the brain and help control the random impulses that are so problematic for children with ADHD.

And all these benefits are free for the taking. Just open the door and head to the backyard or nearest park or playground and have fun!



  1. Keeping kids busy with what they love is the best way to keep them under control. My son loves to build things. Legos, KNEX, and anything like it can keep him occupied for hours.

  2. All kids need to burn energy. I've had teachers tell me my son was ADD and ADHD and I had him tested and found out he wasn't. Kids have so much pent up energy they need to get out in the fresh air and burn it!!! Kids with ADD and ADHD like my nephew needs to burn even more energy. This is a really great post. Being outdoors and getting physical activity makes a BIG difference!