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How to Encourage Creativity in Children

Giving time, space, and freedom to middle-schoolers with ADHD to do what they want to do, without criticism, works wonders for their confidence. Downtime gets their dopamine flowing, not only through the thinking parts of the brain but the reward centers as well. It may be the only time of the day that they feel comfortable in their skin.

For kids with ADHD, any pressure to achieve can cause tension and discouragement. Children with ADHD are especially sensitive to criticism. It takes a lot of positive responses to counteract one negative response. And it’s hard for them to get positive responses when day-to-day tasks seem boring, they are struggling to meet other people’s goals, and they are discouraged from thinking outside the box.

Life on the Wild Side

Kids with ADHD show their creativity best when they are left to their own devices. Natural improv comedians, they pick something up and think, “What can I do with this?” “I wonder what would happen if…”

How can parents help their kids express their authentic selves? Here’s how.

TIME: Don’t over-schedule your child’s time. Allow him time to do nothing. He (and his friends) will fill the time with something. It’s no secret that kids with ADHD have an abundance of creativity, just looking for an outlet.

SPACE: Creativity is usually messy. Set aside part of a basement or garage for your child’s projects. Or give the kitchen over to him for an afternoon. Some middle-schoolers I know do their projects at one end of a walk-in closet or in a tree house.

MATERIALS: Help your child to assemble a mini-junkyard — duct tape, wire hangers, round oatmeal boxes, shoe boxes and Styrofoam packing, cardboard tubes, scraps of fabric or wood, things with parts missing, old wheels from a toy. Other raw materials are paper, pens, and markers.

Access to tools goes along with a selection of materials. A good gift for a middle-schooler is a toolbox equipped with basic tools. You can never have too many scissors, staples, metal rulers, or screwdrivers. Drop your old sheets, shower curtains, and shirts into the junkyard for messy activities.

FREEDOM: Once equipped, don’t tie your child’s hands or mind with rules and directions. Forgo critiques, unless safety requires otherwise. One 13-year-old I know told her mom she wanted to make a dress. The mother gave her some remnants, needles, and thread, and let her try.

The daughter was happy with the shapeless garment she created, and happy enough with the experience of making the dress, but her mother’s response was, “I thought you wanted to make a real dress.” Instead of a put-down, she could have said, “I like those colors together” or “That was fast.”

Offer help; don’t urge it. If the child is disappointed in the results, and says, “This is crooked,” or “I thought it would turn out bigger/different/straighter,” that is the time to say, “If you want, I’ll show you how to use a pattern” or “There are ways to prevent that. Let me know if you want me to show you how.” If you take over their projects, kids will feel inadequate and afraid that their interests are not up to your expectations.

[How “Making Connections” Helps Kids with ADHD]

When a parent shows confidence in his middle-schooler’s choices, and encourages her to follow her own plan or whim, that confidence is contagious. She learns that her choices are sometimes right, that her personality is OK, and that it is fine to do things because they feel right, even if they don’t serve someone else’s purpose.

“Look What I Did!”

Some kids I know with ADHD have used their downtime to:

  • Cut a large bamboo cane and make six-ounce drinking glasses from it.
  • Dam up a small stream. When the dam broke, they built a bridge over it.
  • Write poetry, stories, jokes, and even chapters of a novel or autobiography while trapped in the car on a family road trip.
  • Transplant sprouted acorns and other tree seedlings into a “tree farm,” and tend it for several years.
  • Write, stage, rehearse, shoot, and edit a video.
  • Train a dog to shake hands with either front paw.

Welcome to our blog.   Please note that this page is open to the public, so any comments made by members will be visible to the general public also.  At this time, only members can make comments to the posts. 

  • August 08, 2022 12:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The best IEP is the one with accommodations designed for your child’s very specific symptoms. Here are some of our favorite solutions for addressing common ADHD challenges at school.

    Students with ADHD often benefit from special accommodations. When teachers and parents spend thoughtful time pinpointing problematic ADHD symptoms and work together to devise classroom accommodations, they create effective solutions to those problems.

    Following is a list of common academic challenges faced by students with ADHD, and the accommodations that can help bring success at school.

    Classroom Setup Accommodations for ADHD

    If your child: Is easily distracted by classroom activity or by activity visible through door or windows
    Try: Seating the student front and center, away from distractions

    If your child: Acts out in class to gain negative attention
    Try: Seating the student near a good role model

    If your child: Is unaware of personal space; reaches across desks to talk to or touch other students
    Try: Increasing distance between desks

    [Quiz: How Well Do You Know Special-Ed Law?]

    Assignment Accommodations for ADHD

    If your child: Is unable to complete work within given time
    Try: Allowing extra time to complete assigned work

    If your child: Does well at the beginning of an assignment but quality of work decreases toward the end
    Try: Breaking long assignments into smaller parts; shorten assignments or work periods

    If your child: Has difficulty following instructions
    Try: Pairing written instructions with oral instructions

    Distractibility Accommodations for ADHD

    If your child: Is unable to keep up during classroom discussions and/or take notes effectively
    Try: Providing peer assistance in note taking and asking the student questions to encourage participation in discussions

    If your child: Complains that lessons are “boring”
    Try: Seeking to involve student in lesson presentation

    If your child: Is easily distracted
    Try: Cuing your student to stay on task with a private signal

    If your child: Turns in work with careless mistakes
    Try: Scheduling five-minute period to check over work before turning in homework or tests

  • July 23, 2022 12:50 PM | Linda Zanieski (Administrator)

    Young Filmmakers Contest submissions, from students in grade 3 up through age 25, are due by 11:59 p.m., June 25, 2023. There are no submission fees. All winning films will premiere on September 17, 2023, and some will be selected for the One Earth Film Festival in March 2024. Questions? Please contact Lisa Files at

    Click here for complete details.

  • July 03, 2022 2:06 PM | Linda Zanieski (Administrator)

    Excerpt from the Acton Children's Business Fair web site: 

    The Acton Children's Business Fair of Chicago offers a unique opportunity for children to turn their creativity into reality.  Whether a child wants to monetize a hobby, test a business idea, or a young veteran entrepreneur who already has an existing business, this one-day marketplace is where they showcase their innovative ideas.

    We will host up to 25 booths at the 2nd annual event at the Mary Bartelme Park in the West Loop of Chicago on Sunday, July 24, 2022 from 2 PM–5 PM

    For a child to become a vendor is as easy as 1-2-3!

    1. Register to reserve a booth. Fee: $20
    2. Choose something to make 
    3. Sell handmade products at the fair

    Free Admission to the general public. Invite family and friends for a fun day, support the child vendors, and get ready to be inspired by our young entrepreneurs who launch their very own startup businesses!

    This event is sponsored by Acton Academy, RISE: An Acton Academy, the Acton School of Business, Next Great Adventure, and the generous support of our donors and volunteers.  We all believe that principled entrepreneurs are heroes and role models for the next generation.

    Click here for complete details.

  • June 17, 2022 12:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If your child ever experiences challenging behaviors, chances are you’ve heard that they need to try harder, need better incentives, be better disciplined, or that you should just ignore it. 

    Mona Delahooke, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of Brain-Body Parenting: How to Stop Managing Behavior and Start Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids, is here to debunk these age-old myths.

    The latest neuroscience tells us that it’s time for a major paradigm shift.

    When you understand the nervous system and “body budget” of your neurodivergent child, you will likely see a shift in their behavior. 

    Take a listen and learn more.

  • June 06, 2022 4:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Your child’s outbursts are not random. Her tantrums often follow on the heels of a mistake that triggers feelings of failure or frustration. These emotional-control strategies can help.

    1 of 10

    Emotional Control

    Emotional control, is the ability to manage your feelings in order to achieve goals, complete tasks, or direct behavior. Some kids with attention deficit handle their emotions just fine; others don’t. What's true for every child: Empathy works well.

    A mother hugs her child after an ADHD tantrum is over.2 of 10

    Practice Forgiveness

    Encourage your child to forgive herself for mistakes. Emotional upset is caused less by specific situations or events and more by what we tell ourselves about that situation. For example, if your child is upset about forgetting her homework, help her redirect that anger into planning ways she can remember to bring it tomorrow.

    3 of 10

    Create a 5-Point Scale

    Use a scale to help your child gauge how upset she is and help her make a coping strategy for each step. The scale might look like this:

    1. This doesn’t bother me at all.
    2. I can talk myself down.
    3. I can feel my heart speeding up...I’ll take 10  deep breaths to relax.
    4. OK, this is getting to me, I probably need to “take 5” to regroup.
    5. I'm about to have a meltdown and lose emotional control – I need to leave the situation for a few minutes.
    4 of 10

    Write It Out

    Work with your child to create a one-paragraph “social story” that addresses a child’s problem situation – getting in trouble on the playground, the disappointment that comes with earning a bad grade, nervousness when the student has to perform in front of a group – and ends happily with a coping strategy, not a loss of emotional control.

    5 of 10

    Give Praise

    Be sure to point out when your child shows good emotional control and give praise where it’s due. You could say, “I saw how angry you were, but you kept your cool. Nice job.”

    A little girl sleeps in bed. Sleep is key to avoid ADHD tantrums during the day.6 of 10

    Get Some Shuteye

    Make sure your child gets enough sleep. Fatigue increases problems with emotional control. Schedules and daily routines help children better regulate their emotions, because they know what they have to handle and do.

    A boy with ADHD listens to music to avoid having a tantrum.7 of 10

    Develop a Plan of Action

    Help your child plan for problem situations by coming up with some coping strategies together. For example, when a situation gets heated, your child can let you know when she needs a break. Other self-soothing strategies include holding a favorite stuffed animal (for a younger child) or listening to relaxing music on an MP3 player (for an older child).

    A child writes ways to avoid having an ADHD tantrum.8 of 10

    Craft a Hard-Times Board

    Help your child create a “hard-times board.” List three categories on it:

    • The triggers–what makes your child upset
    • The can’t-do’s – the behavior that’s not permitted at times of upset, and
    • The can-do’s – two or three coping strategies (draw a picture, take a five-minute break, get a drink of water) to help her recover from being upset. Commend your child when she uses one of the coping strategies from her board

  • May 22, 2022 8:04 PM | Linda Zanieski (Administrator)

    The lushly illustrated pages of Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer come to life on large displays along a half-mile path that encourages children and their families to explore their surroundings and their inspirations. As you follow the story, you’ll discover that nature and poetry are all around if you take the time to look and listen. 

    Mayslake Peabody Estate, Oak Brook. All ages. Free. No registration. Through June 30, 2022. Click here for complete details.

  • May 22, 2022 11:52 AM | Linda Zanieski (Administrator)

    With the temperature starting to warm up and hopefully the rain starting to taper off a little, it is a great time to get outdoors to the Palos Preserves. In August, 2021, Palos Preserves, which is a part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, was designated as the largest Urban Night Sky Place in the world by the International Dark-Sky Association. Click here to read the announcement article. 

  • May 02, 2022 9:26 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Things to Do with Kids: Activities for ADHD Families (

    The Secret to Quality Time with Your Child? Let Them Lead the Way

    Genuine and joyful family connections click when children are able to share their interests and “call the shots.” Here, learn how to make the most of child-led time, and how to gently encourage your child, tween, or teen to want to spend time with you. Leave with ideas for ADHD-friendly things to do with kids of all ages.

    By Norrine Russell, Ph.D.VerifiedUpdated on April 19, 2022

    Family mixing cookie dough at home

    • SAVE

    You know those magical family bonding experiences where lifelong connections are made or strengthened? They do exist, but like the endangered Red Wolf or the Vaquita, they are rare and precious and difficult to find. There are busy schedules to navigate and less-than-enthused family members (read: tweens and teens) to convince and appease. And then there is the inescapable truth that many family gatherings, when they happen, quickly devolve into chaos.

    If you’re struggling to carve out quality time with your child or teen, consider taking a step back and following their lead for a change. When your child is empowered and encouraged to decide how to spend time with you – and it doesn’t have to be much to make an impact – it becomes so much easier to find those joyful, genuine connections.

    Whether you have a young child, a tween, or a teen with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD), look over these ideas for things to do with kids to help get you started.

    Things to Do with Kids: The Basics of Child- or Teen-Led Time

    The rules of child- or teen-led time are simple:

    • The parent (or caregiver) decides on the time frame.
    • The child decides on the activity.

    I recommend consciously and consistently setting aside 15 to 30 minutes a day to engage in child- or teen-led time. You can find these moments in the in-betweens – before preparing dinner, prior to heading out to the gym, or after getting home from work. Ultimately, choose a frame of time that regularly works for you and meets your child’s needs. Not all children need the same amount of intimacy to thrive and feel connected.

    [Get This Free Download: Conversation Starters for Parents & Kids]

    Be fully present when you spend time with your child. That means putting away phones, giving your child your full attention, and pushing pause on daily obligations. (To-dos will always be there, anyway.)

    No matter the activity or length of time, child-led time should not have a goal or an agenda. Avoid using these moments to teach or to discipline. Remember that it is not your time to be in control.

    Things to Do with Kids: Elementary Years

    Though the goal is child-led time, you may still be the one proposing joint activities. Draw inspiration from this short list with input from your child.

    • If you have a LEGO fanatic, why not build LEGOs, watch LEGO videos, or have a LEGO-building contest using random pieces?
    • Play your child’s favorite board game or start on a puzzle together.
    • Get creative with sidewalk chalk — make your own hopscotch and take turns drawing out each square.
    • Try a new recipe. Get a kids’ cookbook and work your way through it, taking note of the date you tried a recipe and what you and your child thought about the dish.
    • Grab a coloring book, one for yourself and your child, and fill in a page at a time.

    Things to Do with Kids: Tween Years

    Shift the ball to your tween’s court by encouraging them to suggest activities. Tweens have a budding sense of who they are and where their interests lay, and that will show up in their suggestions. Some ideas to nudge your tween along:

    [Read: On the Cusp of “Too Cool” — Connecting with Your ADHD Tween]

    • Ask them to show you a funny or interesting video they like on YouTube, TikTok, or another platform.
    • Film a funny TikTok together or ask them about the latest dance challenge.
    • Play a quick game of basketball or any other sport your tween is interested in. (They may just want you to watch them play, and that’s OK, too!)
    • Sign up to volunteer for a cause about which your child cares passionately, be it caring for animals or keeping local parks clean.
    • Go down a rabbit hole! See where your tween’s current obsession — be it fashion, film, or lizards — takes you.

    Things to Do with Kids: The Teen Years

    • Plan a weekend getaway – or a fantasy vacation.
    • Choose a show to binge watch.
    • Take a walk or a short drive together. (It may open the floor to deeper conversations.)
    • Make a copycat version of your teen’s favorite restaurant dish.
    • Learn how to play their favorite video game.
    • If they follow a team or play a sport, ask them to show you their favorite play from a recent game.

    What if My Teen Doesn’t Want to Do Anything with Me?

    It’s normal and healthy for teens to seek out more time with friends and less time with family members. Don’t let it dissuade you from trying to connect with your teen. Persistence will pay off. Other tips include:

    • Give your teen a sense of control and predictability over your time together. Say something like, “I have half a day next Saturday. Is there anything you’d like to do together?”
    • Ask your teen for advice on a real problem you’re facing, or about a challenge at work. It’s a gesture that shows how much you respect your child’s thoughts and value what they have to say.
    • Start small. Connection can come from the simplest moments, like a short conversation in the car or a quick hang out in their room. Over time, these moments will close the distance between you and your child.

    Giving your child the reins may feel unnatural at first (and not just for you). But the more you hang out with your child and lead with their interests, the easier it’ll be to settle into a rhythm.  

    Things to Do with Kids: Next Steps

    The content for this article was derived, in part, from the ADDitude ADHD Experts webinar titled, Bonding Activities: Effective, Practical Relationship-Building Ideas for ADHD Families [Video Replay & Podcast #387] with Norrine Russell, Ph.D., which was broadcast live on February 10, 2022.

  • April 24, 2022 11:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    How to Teach Accountability to an ADHD Middle School Student (

    How Can We Teach Accountability to Our Middle School Child?

    We are trying to teach independence and accountability to our middle school student with ADHD. But he forgets assignments a lot, doesn’t remember lessons, and generally fails more than we’d like. How can we help him take responsibility for his obligations and education without setting him up to fail or accepting his excuses?

    By Ryan Wexelblatt, LCSWVerifiedUpdated on August 27, 2020

    • SAVE

    Ask your question about ADHD in boys here!

    Q: “How can I help teach my middle-school son to be better about taking responsibility for his actions, and not be full of excuses? We’re working hard to teach our son to be independent and self-sufficient – a lot of the time this means providing guidance on how to use his brain coach, use tools to organize himself (like timers, write things down, use a day planner, etc), and manage his own time and priorities. We try to be hands off as much as we can, which means we hear a lot of ‘I forgot’ or ‘I didn’t know’ or ‘I didn’t understand,’ etc.

    “As he’s getting older, we’re seeing the excuses get more colorful/interesting and it seems that we’re in a cycle of fail/make excuse/repeat. The behavior never gets any better, the issue never goes away, the excuses keep coming. We’re hearing this is an issue at school as well. As I write this, I realize that part of the issue can probably be resolved by helping him not ‘fail’ in the first place with better executive functioning help. But we are doing a lot to coach him and it doesn’t seem to make a difference. And I also worry that he’s found this cycle and relies on it – as though his failing to do something right or to completion is ‘ok’ because he can just excuse it away. We are very good about holding him accountable – he loses access to preferred activities, or gets more chores added to his day at home. But the lack of taking responsibility and excuse-making is still a big issue. Is this normal? Do we just need to ride it out? Are the things we can do to help?”

    A: “I’m really glad to hear you are holding him accountable, but make sure your expectations are realistic. If your son is 10 to 12 years old, his executive functioning is essentially that of a 7 to 9 year old. You need to meet him at his executive functioning age, not his chronological age…”


    ADHD Accountability: Next Steps

    1. Read This: How Responsible is ADHD for My Teen’s Defiant Behaviors
    2. Take Steps: No More Excuses for Not Doing Homework
    3. Free Handout: Homework Strategies for ADHD Students

    Ryan Wexelblatt, LCSW is the facilitator of the ADHD Dude Facebook Group and YouTube channel.

    Submit your questions about ADHD in boys here!



    Tags: ADHD expertsADHD in Boysmiddle school


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  • April 24, 2022 11:33 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Would You Rather Questions for Kids with ADHD: Conversation Starters (

    "How was your day?" Nothing inspires shrugs and grunts better than an uninspired question. To spark a real conversation with your kid, try asking one of these "would you rather" or "if you could" questions — plus find additional talking tips and sample language to foster connection »

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