Many children with ADHD are characterized by their need to move, a tendency to be overly social, and their uninhibited and sometimes dangerous activities. Parents of kids as young as 2 often report impulsive behavior, such as talking to everyone they meet or touching everything they see in a store while shopping. Risk-taking behavior might also be seen in climbing the monkey bars, or making “friends” with kids they do not know at the playground. Dangerous activities for children with ADHD may result in a trip to the hospital emergency room, but more often result in their parents worrying about losing sight of them when they are away from home.
Risk-taking behavior can also be observed as a strength, however, such as the 3-year-old who swims across the pool on her own, the 7-year-old soccer player who leads her team in goal scoring, and the 10-year-old whose gymnastic skills and daring have her practicing with high schoolers.
The search for risky and dangerous activities for ADHD children may be seen in their choice of media and music. They may be drawn to action-paced video games, like to watch horror movies, or dance to the newest alternative music. While none of these activities is inherently dangerous, parents of kids with ADHD often try to find alternative activities or at least limit the risks of impulsivity and risk-taking.
So, why are some children with ADHD drawn to dangerous activities? Recent studies suggest that this tendency has its basis in brain functioning, as highly-engaging activities increase the amount of dopamine produced in the brain. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter most closely associated with the reward center of the brain, and has been implicated as related to the presence of ADHD. Recent neurobiological data indicate that individuals with ADHD do not produce the same amount of dopamine for commonplace activities as do individuals without ADHD, but they do have similar levels of dopamine for more exciting activities. Playing video games is one exciting activity where ADHD kids are likely to produce higher levels of dopamine in their brains. While this may be why ADHD children are drawn to playing games, it is also the reason that parents need to identify other more “risky” activities in which to engage their kids with ADHD.
Healthy Risk-Taking Activities for Children with ADHD:
1.) Extreme sports. Encourage dangerous athletics such as snowboarding, gymnastics, or surfing. Activities for kids with ADHD need to give them a bit of a “rush” when they do them. Gymnastics can be an excellent opportunity for girls to transfer some of their energy into a productive activity, learn new skills, and work on something that is likely to improve their focus and attention. Scientific data suggest that highly-complex body movements such as those found in karate and gymnastics result in the capacity to sustain attention and focus for an extended period. This could be supplemented by technologies such as the snowboarding game SSX or by taking video of your child doing her tricks with an app like Coach’s Eye so that she can improve her skills.
2.) Let them grow up fast. Many kids with ADHD want to take additional risks or tend to be a little more creative or different from their peers. This might mean allowing your girl with ADHD to wear earrings, multiple bracelets, or other jewelry that you might not prefer. She could be permitted more choice over her clothing selection, with the idea that it needs to be appropriate but could be very colorful or attention-getting, or to use exotic and colorful fingernail and toenail polish. Technology may be helpful in this regard, as she may want to try designing clothing and outfits using apps such as Fashion Design World.
3.) Explore nature with an edge. Don’t just go for a hike, go rock climbing, or even join a rock climbing gym. Go hiking where there are wild animals that might cross your path or climb a mountain where you will need to cross streams and get wet. Ride a horse into the forest on fire trails. Make exploring nature near your home a more accessible and exciting activity using Google Earth to discover places to explore.
4.) Dive into water. Don’t just have your child with ADHD take swimming lessons, have her join a diving team, instead. Think about scuba diving training and certification. Get snorkeling equipment and explore local lakes and ponds. Watch YouTube videos together to get tips and instruction on diving techniques and the best places to scuba dive.