The ADHD Homestead

Building a good life with ADHD.

Tag: play

Toys in the ADHD home: why everyone’s happier with less

Chances are, if you have children, you’ve watched toys slowly take over your home. Many parents say, “we have too many toys,” but defend this choice in the same breath.

But stop and think for a moment: how does your child behave when he’s surrounded by a hoard of toys? Content? Calm? Focused? More likely to share?

A huge toy collection does more harm than good. Too many toys create distraction, stifle imagination, and leave kids wanting more, more, more.


Fewer toys = more attention

Have you ever felt your attention and focus bounce around when you try to focus in a cluttered, messy space? When R. was just a baby, I noticed he’d get more fussy and riled up if his entire toy collection lay scattered across the floor. I can totally relate because I react the same way.

An uncluttered environment begets an uncluttered mind. For ADHD families especially, reducing excess stimulation and distraction will create a more peaceful home.

Play isn’t their only job, and entertainment isn’t yours

My kid loves to play, and he does it often, but there are also days when he doesn’t touch his toys. We only do two organized activities — Music Together and an informal weekly playgroup — so it’s not like he’s out of the house nonstop.

He’s only two, but R. helps me a lot. He accompanies me on all my errands, helps change and wash the linens every week, and has recently begun setting the table before dinner.

I don’t make him do any of this. I invite him to participate, give him a spare cleaning rag, let him have a turn with the duster. When I noticed him acting out while I was making dinner, I started handing him napkins. “We need one of these on each placemat,” I told him. He ran back into the kitchen for more. I handed him forks. When he returned again, I gave him a glass: “this one goes on Daddy’s placemat.”

Our kids learn their role in the family from us. When they try to insert themselves into a situation, do we shoo them away to their toys or do we find a way to include them? Do they view themselves as a nuisance or as a person who helps get jobs done around the house? Do they view themselves as competent or incompetent?

If your kids are busy participating in the household, they won’t need as many toys to occupy their time. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have fun with our children or let them play. I never demand R. put down a toy to do a job for me. But we also need to teach them the skills they’ll need for a successful, independent life. We need to teach them what it means to be valuable part of a family unit.

Engage imagination, not insatiability

In one study, researchers removed all the toys from a kindergarten classroom. The kids got bored at first, but soon invented games using only their surroundings and their imaginations.

Simply put, your kids’ brains will work harder when they’re not overwhelmed by toys and games. This is a good thing.

Not only that, reducing material possessions will lessen your child’s focus on them. He’ll direct his attention elsewhere instead of cultivating the insatiability toy companies (and advertisers) are hoping for. ADHD’ers know a thing or two about insatiability, anyway, so we especially need to be on guard.

In case I’ve given you the wrong idea, I’m not saying kids should live a bleak, austere existence and be put to work as soon as they can walk. I’m all for fun, educational toys and plenty of time to do their own thing.

However, we need to be honest with ourselves about why we’re filling our homes with all these toys. And then we need to learn how to let (most of) them go. Our kids will be happier for it.

Do your kids have too many toys? Too few? How do you make decisions about how many and what kind of toys to allow in your home?


The zen of ADHD gardening

Yesterday marked the official start of gardening season here in Baltimore. While some may gripe about the return of weeding and mowing, it comes not a moment too soon for me.

zen of ADHD gardening FB

Remember what I said about exercising through play?

If that doesn’t float your boat, or if you lack age-appropriate playmates, try gardening. Whenever I need an extra dose of focus, calm, and positive energy, I start with the backyard.

It’s no surprise that ADHD adults benefit from getting their hands dirty. In addition to brownie points with your spouse, you get:

  1. A free, productive workout.
    Unlike a jog or a trip to the gym, mowing the lawn or digging up the garden creates immediate, visible results. A freshly weeded flower bed or an appreciative spouse will help reinforce the behavior and motivate you to get out there more frequently. So will the sense that you’re actually doing something — a feeling you won’t get from 30 minutes of treadmill running. For a bonus, consider using manual lawn tools whenever possible. We have a relatively small yard, and I can’t get enough of my manual reel mower. If you don’t want to give up the power push mower, try turning off the self-propelling feature.
    green therapy for your ADHD
  2. All-natural relief from your ADHD symptoms.
    Though most research has focused on children, there are strong indications that acute physical activity improves executive function enough to serve as a complementary treatment for ADHD. Outdoor physical activity provides a double win because exposure to “green” or natural settings may further reduce ADHD symptoms.If you rely on stimulant medication to do the heavy lifting, you may be amazed at the impact increased physical activity and outdoor time can have on your life. Every little bit helps!
  3. A channel for your fidgeting impulses.
    Are you the dinner host who gets up from the table every two minutes to refill water, clear plates almost before your guests finish eating, or look for a missing pickle fork? I feel this way when my kid plays outside. I avoid sitting still by pulling stray weeds, filling planters, pruning bushes, and raking leaves.
  4. Instant gratifcation…
    There’s nothing like surveying the fruits of your labor. The finish line is always in sight, and once you get there, you get a nice dopamine rush when you look at all the work you’ve just done.
  5. …and a project that teaches you to wait.
    That said, you can’t rush a garden. Once you plant your seeds, you have to wait for them to sprout. No amount of impatience, all-nighters, or meddling will speed them up. Just don’t forget to mist them with water while you’re obsessively checking them every afternoon. And gardening doesn’t just require patience while the plants grow. Gardening teaches you to slow down and be gentle with those little seedlings. You may not succeed at first, but you’ll get it eventually.
  6. A natural high
    Getting your blood flowing on a sunny day won’t just ease your ADHD symptoms, it’ll brighten your spirits. With a boost in mood-enhancing serotonin from the sun and, if you really exert yourself, endorphins from working your heart and muscles, you’re bound to feel pretty good when you’re done.

So what are you waiting for? Get out and start digging in that dirt!


Don’t forget to play

It’s no secret that physical exercise provides acute relief from ADHD symptoms. While it probably won’t replace stimulant medication for most people, it provides many similar effects.

So why aren’t we all in great shape?

Well, exercise can be boring. It’s another habit to maintain, task to complete, and commitment to fulfill. It requires motivation to do something that’s good for you, but not necessarily fun or easy.

That is, unless you’re a kid.

adult playground photo

Get in touch with your inner child (in a good way)

For all our foibles, many ADHD folks are described by friends and family as fun-loving and spontaneous. It’s time to (for once) use those qualities to your advantage.

It’s time to go out and play.

Yesterday morning, I exhibited some childish and embarrassing behavior that, much like bad behavior in actual children, was remedied by a trip to the playground. And coffee and breakfast, but that’s another post.

If you’re having a rough day — or if you just want to be at your best — find fun, spontaneous, playful ways to get some exercise. This is especially important if you also have active kids in your life. Follow their lead once in a while! Some of my favorites have included:

  • Climbing walls or practicing pull-ups/bar hangs at the playground with my kid
  • Throwing a tennis ball against the house and catching it until my heart rate is elevated
  • Running up and down the stairs when I feel restless (this is a variation on my toddler’s habit of running laps around an area rug, something that makes most adults too dizzy)
  • Playing Just Dance or Dance Dance Revolution on the Wii/Playstation
  • Going to the rock gym with my husband

You don’t need to join a gym to increase your overall health and mental well-being. You don’t even need to put on your running shoes. Start by remembering what it’s like to be a kid. Go out in the sun, run around, and get your blood flowing, even if you’re just jumping over obstacles in the yard.

Oh, and be sure to ignore any funny looks from neighbors. They’re the ones missing out!

How do you trick yourself into being more active? Please share in the comments!


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