As children count down the days to the end of school, many parents with children with AD/HD and executive dysfunction start to worry about what to do during these less structured months. Many of these children thrive on the structure of the school day, knowing what they are expected to do, and following familiar routines. While many neurotypical kids cannot wait for the school year to end, many of my clients are ambivalent about school ending. They want to know, “Now what will we do?”

Here in the Northeast we are fortunate to have several quality day camps (and a few sleepover ones, too) that specialize in working with children who have attentional, and/or social difficulties. These camps fill quickly, and can be quite expensive. Some families do not have the means or access to such experiences, so here are some tips to enjoy the summer with your kids.

1. Set up a daily routine and weekly structure at home. A child who thrives on structure will not do well with a “find something go do” approach to summertime. Post your daily schedule somewhere at home where everyone can see it and check it if they want to know what will happen next. Have some “anchor” activities that happen every day- One example:

• breakfast
• get dressed
• outside play
• lunch
• free choice fun
• quiet time
• dinner
• TV
• get ready for bed

2. In your daily schedule, plan for outside play time. I often hear my clients say they sat indoors all summer and played video games. This is not good for brain or physical health. Get outside!!

3. Create a “What to Do When I Am Bored” list with your child. Inevitably, children will come to parents and say, “I’m bored.” Plan ahead by sitting with your child and listing 5-10 things she can do when boredom hits. The list should include outside and inside activities such as read a book, color/draw, play with bubbles, help mom with housework, plan a dinner menu, listen to music, etc. This list will have much more success if your child comes up with the activities.

4. Prepare children in advance for change in routine. For example, if one day is going to be gloriously sunny and warm and you decide it will be a great beach day, tell your child ahead of time, so he can get used to the idea and not resist when you are packed and ready to go.

5. Explore nature. There is a growing body of evidence that says children with AD/HD function better when they have exposure to nature and all things “green.” Go for a nature walk, plant and tend a family garden, rent a canoe and go for a paddle, check out tide pools, or (my all time favorite) fly a kite on a windy day.

6. Plan vacations with your child’s social, emotional and sensory needs in mind. A well planned vacation can be a relaxing way to bond as a family. A poorly planned vacation can leave everyone feeling anxious and miserable. For example, if your child needs a lot of active running around during the day, do not plan a road trip where he will be sitting in a car for long periods of time. If she has sensory/tactile issues a trip to the beach with sun, sand and water may not be the best choice.

7. Get together a box of bin with “summer surprises” you can pull out when the kids have just run out of things to do. These can include: sidewalk chalk, bubble soap with cool bubble wands, new crayons and coloring books, new books, funky shoelaces to re-lace shoes, squirt guns, water balloons, etc.

8. Kids at a loss of what to do during free choice time? List fun activities on slips of paper and have kids pull them out of a hat. Activities can include playing in the sprinkler, making popsicles or ice cream at home, rearranging the furniture in the bedroom, a family walk, choosing what is for dinner . Get creative with your kids and have them write things down (that you approve of first). This is a great way to give your child new experiences within the structure of the day.

Many of us have great memories of our own childhood carefree, unplanned summers that seemed to go on forever. Parents hope to pass on those experiences to their children and can become disappointed when it is suggested they structure the summer as much as the school year. The reality is: some kids just thrive on structure, are happier and more productive when they know what to expect and they will remember a happy, safe, carefree summer because someone cared enough to plan it for them.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Susan Giurleo, is licensed psychologist who specializes in empowering parents to create peaceful, organized families. She exclusively works with families and children impacted by ADHD/ADD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Specific Learning Disabilities. She counsels and coaches children, teens and parents on issues of attention, organization, behavior, and homework strategies. For more information and to get her free report, “Parenting Your Unique Child: 21 Ways to Survive and Thrive,” visit