Alt="Green background wiht a cartoon of a group of children playing quietly in the classroom. Text reads, 'The Best Calming Activities for ADHD at School'"

Alice Cameron was teaching 12 students who were considered those with the greatest behavioural problems in their respective age groups in her school district.  So much time was spent managing the classroom that there wasn’t much time for teaching content.  Alice was desperate to find  calming activities for ADHD at scho

As a cross country coach Alice was busy in the mornings coaching her team.  She was also responsible  for supervising a student from her class that had extreme behavioural issues.  

Slowly  Alice watched her student’s behaviour change enough that she could allow him back into the classroom.  

That student became her biggest advocate for movement as he recognized for himself the impact of movement as one of the best  calming activities for ADHD at school  

Alice acknowledged, “It had a big impact on their learning and their energy level throughout the day.”

What are good calming activities for ADHD at school?

Physical movement activities for ADHD-friendly classrooms will work to  effectively manage much of the behaviour from ADHD in the classroom.  

Dynamic activities include things like:

  • Hands on activities
  • Interactive discussions
  • Movement based-activities that allow students to stand, change positions and move while learning. 

Including physical activities as calming activities for ADHD at school allows students to channel their energy productively.  

When a teacher recognizes ADHD as a unique way of thinking rather than just as challenging ADHD student behavior, then an active classroom becomes a safe space.  Students with ADHD in classroom are acknowledged appropriately  and their strengths are harnessed.

Movement as calming activities for ADHD at school 

We can’t all have the variety of equipment that Alice Cameron had in her classroom.  

Although, she did get it donated, so economics is not necessarily holding us back. 😉

But, we can recognize that brain breaks and  kinesthetic learning activities are essential activities for ADHD-friendly classrooms.  

These activities will support the diversity of attention spans in your classroom.

The ADHD activities for students help children with ADHD by providing an alternative and engaging way to absorb information. 

Incorporating  ADHD activities for students into your classroom is beneficial to all of the students because activities for ADHD-friendly classrooms support differentiation and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as well.

In my class we started every day with laps around the school. My students, like Alice Cameron’s grumbled at the beginning of the year.  

However, ultimately, every single one of them loved it.

Year after year.

Differentiation is a standard requirement for any classroom, and universal design (UDL) overlaps significantly with differentiation. Together differentiation and UDL helps us to understand that much of what we do for students with ADHD in the classroom is essential for the success of other students as well.

Examples of calming activities for ADHD at school

There are many ways to incorporate physical movement into the classroom. These are some of my personal faves!

Running laps is fantastic for calming activities for ADHD at school

I have already mentioned above that we ran laps every single day. Rain, snow (yes snow) or shine.

Sights words with sidewalk chalk

How do activities for ADHD 6 year olds intersect with sight words you may ask?  Sidewalk chalk!!

My classroom had a door that fed directly onto the playground.  One of my sight word centers involved students practising their words by writing them on the pavement outside.  

I would argues that this wasn’t just a  learning activities for ADHD child, for all kiddos. 

They loved it! And I could observe them at that rotation from my window.  

However, do not try this one if your classroom expectations are not in place, or if they are not being respected.

Spelling words with our body are calming activities for ADHD at school

Students would spell the words by making the shape for each letter with their body.  Obviously, this activity is about imprinting the shape of the letter on the brain, and not at all about learning to shape it with a pencil. 

Building our stories for writing

During writing I offered the students different types of provocations with which to plan their story.  Often I would also take pictures for them to cut out and illustrate their story.  This is a very dynamic activity which is amongst my favourite ADHD activities for students.  

It is also a fantastic activity for your students who are visual and tactile kinesthetic.  

I have created differentiated writing prompts that will also support students who have a hard time getting started on writing.  These prompts, combined with a simple image minimize the challenges of getting started that many students with ADHD wrestle with.

You can find the writing prompts in my store.

Alt="Sage green background with an icon of writing prompts on the left, and the text, 'Writing prompts and lego make writing into a hands on activity.' on the right."
Writing prompts offer students an idea with which to make a connection, the choice of finishing their writing in one sitting to provide a sense of completion, and, when combined with lego or other provocations, hands on learning. Find writing prompts in my store here.

GoNoodle as calming activities for ADHD at school

If you haven’t heard of GoNoodle, it is an online source for fun content related K-7 movement breaks.   Accounts are free

We used many of these activities:

If for any reason you cannot sign up for an account, many of the activities are available on Youtube. A favourite in my class was always  “Banana, Banana, Meatball”

GoNoodle is a fantastic source of calming activities for ADHD at school.

Active Games

The Vancouver Science World has a fantastic resource with many, many different science lessons.  One of the filters includes “Game” as a type of activity.  

My students learned about salmon spawning by being spawning salmon.  

Great fun, Great discussion afterwards. Great learning activities for ADHD child and everyone else too!

Math Write the Room

If you visit my TPT store you will discover I have created a number of these games.  

I make them because my students and I loved them.  They are fantastic classroom activities for students with ADHD, and for your tactile kinaesthetic learners.

Write the Room activities are essentially task cards, but the simple action of sticking the cards up around the room offered so many benefits to my students through the simple action of allowing them to walk from question to question.

Alt=" an image of a write the room activity with text overlay that reads, 'Write the Room, a movement based activity to support students with ADHD."
Write the Room. is one of the effective movement based calming activities for ADHD at school and it also supports your kinesthetic learners.

  

Murals and other hands on activities

These large team  projects get students up, reaching, painting, stretching.  Very dynamic learning activities for ADHD child and others..

More laps

At different points throughout the day I would look at my wilted students and say, “You may go do a lap around the school.”  And they were off like a rocket.  A few chose to stay in the class, which was allowed, and those students would often choose to do push ups or jumping jacks.  

The expectation for both those who left, and for those who stayed though was appropriate choices as we settled back into class. I had very clearly explained that if doing laps did not help them to settle and learn, then there was no reason for me to offer it to them as calming activities for ADHD at school.

Always worked. 😃

The hallway game 🤣

I include this inauspiciously named game because it was a favourite, but as you can tell, it was nothing fancy.

One child went into the hall with the door closed while another student was chosen as the leader.  The leader’s job was to jump and gyrate however they wanted, with periodic changes.  When the leader changed movements everyone else’s job was to follow.

The child in the hall was invited back in, and they had to figure out which student was the leader.

Once the leader was guessed, it was the leader’s turn to go into the hallway.

And more

There were also other activities that I used in the classroom.  Lots.  But these were the consistent activities. My fallbacks. My classroom recommendations for ADHD if you will.

Hopefully you find something that serves you and your classroom.

By creating a learning environment that allows for movement, educators acknowledge and leverage the strengths associated with ADHD.

This environment supports  better concentration and a more positive learning experience for all students.

Alt="dark blue background, heading that reads, 'Physical activities for regulating students with ADHD: running laps, sidewalk chalk sight words, spelling words with our body, building our stories, GoNoodle, active games, hallway game, STEM activities."
Physical activity promotes dopamine release, improves executive functioning, and supports neuroplasticity.

What about quiet calming activities for ADHD at school?

Providing your students with quieter activities for mindfulness is important as well.  

Mindfulness is the practice of using deep breaths and meditation to regulate their energy levels and develop a sense of calm.

Go Noodle has any number of these as well. 

Admittedly, I did less of this in my class as it was not something that my students seemed to need.  However, there were a lot of other things in place that supported their relaxation.

Classroom library used as calming activities for ADHD at school

My classroom library was open to the students as a break or early finisher activity unless I directed them otherwise.  The library was huge, and they were welcome to enjoy any book in the library, even those above or beyond their reading level.  

Colouring for calming activities for ADHD at school

Plain paper for colouring, and sometimes pictures of wildlife or mandelas, were always available for students to colour on during their breaks.

Colour-by-code also serves to support students with self-regulation while practicing skills. In that math can be anxiety provoking for many students, colour-by-code has many benefits. Fine motor skill development too!!

Colouring is well known as a self-regulating activity, which makes colour-by-code perfect to consider as calming activities for ADHD at school. Some of the other benefits include supporting your kinesthetic learners, and fine motor skill development. Find many color-by-code themes in my store by following the link here.

STEM activities for ADHD-friendly classrooms

My STEM kits were used consistently when students were finished their lunch or snacks, or as quiet early finisher activities.

Many of the STEM kits were simple inexpensive items items that I put together, but some of them were things like plus plus blocks.  

Regardless, the children were able to quietly engage their brains, be creative, and use their hands.  

If you have any students getting too energized, just set classroom expectations that the choice to be escalated at STEM kits is a choice to be directed elsewhere.  

Super simple to manage.

Offering students a variety of quiet activities gives them the opportunity to find out what type of activity works for them.

Integrating calming activities for ADHD at school

The key for working successfully with students with ADHD in classroom is to understand the unique needs associated with ADHD student behavior, and providing a holistic approach.

Incorporating active learning activities for ADHD child along with simple breathing or coloring activities into the daily routines and lessons, and you have a system of calming activities for ADHD at school.  

And you are providing the students with ADHD valuable tools and ways to understand how to best manage their learning and life in healthy ways.

In and earlier blog, ‘How to Manage ADHD Behaviour in the Classroom’ I mentioned a student with ADHD case study by a group called RHC.

This case study included implementing similar activities and more into the classroom setting.  Then they followed the students into adulthood. 

By implementing appropriate strategies the researchers found that not only were the students in the classroom better able to manage their ADHD, but the next generation was as well.

The students in the initial study were able to share what they knew with their children.

Breaking the cycle of impact for ADHD using calming activities for ADHD at school

Students  will learn what what activities are good for ADHD; which ones work best for them as individuals.  

This creates a more focused and positive experience for the student in daily activities, in their academic success, and in life.  

Calming activities for ADHD at school include activities that allow for movement, and also activities that teach students to calm their systems. By implementing these activities for all students you are benefiting many, if not all, other students in your class.

Blog posts referred to in this post:

Tales of : Why is Differentiation in the Classroom Important?

Eleven Important Examples of Classroom Expectations and Rules

Writing Prompts Beginners: Boosting Success for Your Writers Now!

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