Is your child like the sun, beaming energy as she jumps from one couch to the next, tosses stuffed toys across the bed and dances wildly to a singing reindeer?
Playdates with a hyperactive child don’t always include books on the agenda, but it doesn’t mean you have to get burned out chasing your bundle of batteries all over the playground. Structure, labeling and rhythm can get your child into the groove for a contained activity that is just as fun as bouncing on the trampoline. All day.
Embrace your nonconforming Einstein
For starters, there is nothing wrong with your child having a spirited temperament. It’s his innate nature, and with a right perspective, you can channel his intensity to help him grow into a highly creative and achieving individual.
Albert Einstein was a genius, but he struggled with authority in school. So much so, that he threw a chair at his violin tutor because he hated her teaching style. That was Albert at five. Eventually, one teacher told him that “never will he get anywhere.” Of course, we all know that wasn’t true.
In fact, where little Einstein lacked in obedience, he made up for it with a broad creative mind that made him so successful in mathematics and physics.
Living bigger and bolder
Hyperactive children can be defiant and throw tantrums over small things, like red socks, because they want to wear purple socks that day. They can be impulsive and open 20 apps on the iPad then switch to building blocks and end up banging spoons on the pan. Because of their high energy state, they can have trouble noticing how other people feel. Often it can lead them to be intrusive with another child, have difficulty sharing or playing together. They may come across as competitive and even upset other children.
If you find your child behaving like that, understand she’s not trying to be mean on purpose. She’s just beaming with life and needs to live it bigger and bolder than the rest of the kids. She needs more stimulation. That’s why hyperactive kids do really well outside where they can run, explore and soak in the world.
Prep and playtime
At home, prior to your child’s friends coming over, you can remind him to be patient with his friends, share toys and take turns. If the children will be playing games, go over the rules together so your child is prepared. Also go over social cues, like understanding when his friends are having a good time or not.
During the playdate, observe the kids and be ready to step in and label an emotion or problem that your child might not notice. For example, if your girl doesn’t want to share her toy truck with her friend Thomas, you can come over and say:
I can see that you really like your truck. But Thomas wants to have a turn too, look how sad he is. Can you give mommy a tour of the house you built and have Thomas play with the truck?
In the first sentence you are using empathy to connect with your child. In the next, you are labeling how Thomas feels and helping your child understand a social cue. In the last, you are redirecting your child to another activity without having to use words like “stop” and “no,” which often escalate the conflict.
Redirect and transition
Redirection is key to smoothly transitioning your child from one activity to the next.
For example, a good game to play with kids at home is charades, because it lets your child move while being focused on the rhythmic task. But you might also find that other kids will be ready to move onto the next activity faster than you child, who may have that extra 15 minutes of charade fever. When that happens, use creative transitions to get your child excited for the next game. For example:
It’s time for a scavenger hunt! Are you going to look for the items like a wolf on all fours, or like an eagle, flapping her wings? Who wants to be the polar bear?
Also remember to plan for activities that you know your child can handle. Twister and dance parties are great for releasing energy. So are musical instruments like drums (or makeshift pots, spoons and pans). Calmer activities like finger painting and clay provide lots of sensory feedback. If it’s story time, make it “interactive.” Put the children into the story and ask them to act out the scenes or have them predict what happens next.
Snacks matter too
Lastly, feed the kids healthy snacks like nuts, seeds, fresh or dried fruit, organic yogurt with no sugar, smoothies etc. Avoid sugary, processed foods. Because pop and pastry will make your child’s energy go off the charts!