ADHD Art Therapy Activities

When my youngest child was about a year and a half old, my mother passed away which not only left me without a grandmother for my children but also their day care provider. My oldest was in kindergarten then so at least he was kept busy. However, my youngest, who also has ADHD, was now solely in my care, while I worked from home. This presented quite the challenge of staying focused on my work and keeping my little guy busy and occupied at the same time.

One of the first activities I gave him was a pad of paper, crayons, and some dull coloring pencils. As a result, he became quite an artist! In fact, by the time he was around seven years old, he was drawing caricatures without even knowing how to or the meaning behind that type of art. I was writing for a small-town newspaper at the time and, the political climate in the United States was a dramedy series of circus events, so the caricatures he was drawing were very much apropos for that era.  

Some other types of art therapy activities to help those with ADHD could include:

  • Playing with Playdoh
  • Silly puddy or any type of puddy really
  • Paint by numbers (builds math skills too)
  • Playing instruments (also builds math and self esteem skills)
  • Listening to therapeutic music such as: The Beatles, Jazz, Classical, Prince (of course the lyrically clean songs!)
  • Making mud pies
  • Working in a vegetable garden (my son especially loved the eating what we harvested part!)
  • Building with Legos or building blocks
  • Making jewelry
  • Painting rocks (we did this every year when we camped on the shores of the Great Lake Huron in Lakeport, Michigan)
  • Creating a dreamcatcher
  • Creating a Zen Garden or sand tray
  • Making sun catchers
  • Creating a mobile or wind chimes
  • Designing and decorating ceramic pottery
  • Making paper airplanes or paper boats (we did both of these as a Scouts activity – we had a few boys who needed to “get the wiggles” out)
  • Creating a tie-dye project
  • Making paper lanterns

Art therapy is a powerful tool for building problem-solving and communication skills. It is a form of alternative treatment based on the premise that art helps express emotions such as anxiety, sadness, or anger, that are sometimes difficult to put into words, whether you are a small child, or an aging citizen.

It is truly wonderful how we can use art to build internal resources like coping skills, resilience, positive self-esteem, and problem-solving skills. Let’s investigate that some more…

How we can use art to build internal resources?

One of the best things my mom used to do for me as a kid was to tell me to “Go outside and play.” I grew up in poverty, without an abundance of monetary resources, but she was able to save up and buy me a bicycle.

On those long summer days, that bike would become a large motorhome or charter bus, and I would go on excursions looking for friends to join in. That bike traveled, moved across country, performed abroad and lived well, and so did I. Through this kind of play I maximized my external resources and learned to cultivate my internal ones. Oh yeah, let’s not forget how the act of turning your bike upside down instantly made you the “Ice cream man”!

Resourcefulness is a key resiliency in life. It is the birthplace of ingenuity, creativity, imagination, confidence, and perseverance. My mom didn’t have a car to drive me to my first job at the local Italian bakery, but my bike got me there in less than five minutes. I even got to ride that bike to school as a fourth and fifth grader!

When that bike “broke down” I learned how to fix it. With YouTube videos? Nope, we didn’t have YouTube “back in my day”. We had the library. I also had a very handy grandpa and uncle to ask questions or get advice from too. It took creative imagination and confidence to fix that bike all by myself which I would not have had, had my mom not encouraged play through art early on.

What that bike gave to me was priceless: freedom, imagination, ingenuity, inspiration, self-sufficiency, resourcefulness, tolerance, perseverance, acceptance, responsibility and confidence.

What are 3 benefits of art therapy?

Here are three top benefits of art therapy:

  • Self-expression: Art allows individuals to express their thoughts, emotions, and experiences in a non-verbal way. By engaging in art activities such as drawing, painting, or writing, individuals can tap into their internal resources, process their feelings, and gain a better understanding of themselves.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation: Engaging in artistic activities can promote mindfulness and relaxation, allowing individuals to be fully present in the moment. Whether it’s through coloring, sculpting, or playing a musical instrument, the focus and concentration required during these activities can help reduce stress, increase self-awareness, and cultivate internal resources such as calmness and inner peace.
  • Confidence and self-esteem: Artistic endeavors provide opportunities for individuals to develop and showcase their skills and abilities. By creating art, individuals can witness their own progress and achievements, which boosts their self-confidence and self-esteem. And, in turn, builds internal resources such as resilience, perseverance, and a positive self-image which are alsdo vital in maintaining healthy relationships.

Art therapy helps people express themselves more freely, improve their mental health, and improve interpersonal relationships.

Social benefits of art therapy

It has been demonstrated that art therapy helps people with their emotions and mental health and potentially make things easier for those with ADHD/ADD. When people have poor mental health or don’t manage their emotions well, they tend to get into trouble with drugs and alcohol or other self detructive behaviors. By using art therapy, some folks are better equipped to understand their emotions and be less likely to do harmful things.

Art will continue to provide numerous social benefits for individuals of all ages as engaging in art activities in a therapeutic or community setting promotes social interaction and connection with others. It creates a safe and inclusive space where individuals can express themselves, share their artwork, and engage in group discussions, facilitating communication and the development of social skills such as active listening, empathy, and perspective-taking.

Through collaborative art projects (music, painting, etc.), individuals learn to work together, problem-solve, and negotiate with others, fostering teamwork and cooperation. Additionally, it allows individuals to form supportive relationships and build a sense of community. The group setting provides a platform for individuals to share their experiences, validate each other’s feelings, and offer encouragement and support. Ultimately, art therapy promotes social well-being, enhances interpersonal relationships, and provides opportunities for individuals to feel a sense of belonging and connection with others.

ADHD art therapy activities

Art therapy activities provide a powerful outlet for individuals to express themselves, build internal resources, and improve their mental health. Through self-expression, mindfulness, and confidence-building, art therapy enhances social skills and fosters connections with others. It offers a safe space for individuals to explore their emotions and cultivate a sense of belonging and community.

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