Throwing a birthday party for a child with ADHD requires some special considerations and proper planning. Today we'll explore five tips that can help you organize and execute a memorable, fun birthday party for your ADHD child and their guests.
Being the parent of a child with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you probably already know that the most common symptoms are impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity. Maybe your child suffers from all three, or perhaps just one or two—kids with ADHD are all unique in their own special way, and these symptoms are manifested differently from child to child.
Further, the symptoms your child suffers from obviously have a direct correlation on what he can and cannot tolerate in his day-to-day life. Having said that, if you're thinking of hosting a birthday party for your ADHD child, this tolerance will play a significant role when planning and throwing the event. Keep reading for some great tips that not only take ADHD children's special needs into consideration, but help you throw your child the birthday party of his dreams.
1. Limit the Guest List and Party Length
When you begin to plan the birthday party, it might seem like a good idea to invite your child's whole class so that no one gets left out. However, if there are too many guests, things can quickly get overwhelming for your child (and yourself!). According to Psychology Today, kids with ADHD often struggle with social challenges that can make it hard to connect with others and form authentic friendships. Instead of inviting a bunch of kids, consider only inviting a few so that your child is under less pressure and can easily interact with each of them.
In addition, you should make it a point to keep the party relatively brief, ideally a couple of hours—think short and sweet. An Everyday Health article indicates that people with ADHD are easily overwhelmed and overstimulated, and a party that drags on for too long can greatly up the chances of this happening. As you plan, you might also want to think about when your child operates at his best and schedule the party for that time. For example, some ADHD kids are more content in the morning, while others are happier in the afternoon. If your child takes medication, this can also greatly influence his mood and behavior throughout the day.
2. Plan and Choose Activities Wisely
As you plan activities for the party, you must consider your child's likes as well as their strengths and weaknesses. You should try to plan a few activities that you know your child enjoys and will be able to handle, rather than introducing a new activity that might frustrate and overwhelm him.
For example, if your child struggles with inattention or impulsivity, an activity that requires him to focus for a long time, such as a movie, may not be the best choice for his birthday party. On the other hand, if your child is plagued by hyperactivity, party elements that keep him moving, such as a friendly game of tag or a bounce house, might be great choices since they don't require sitting still. The best thing to do is talk with your child and be open to his feelings and wishes while still being the voice of reason. If you think an activity might be too much for him, explain why and offer alternatives.
3. Pick a Familiar Location
According to ADDitude, children with ADHD are creatures who thrive on familiarity and consistency. New situations and places may be difficult for them to process and can lead to anxiety and stress. Taking this into account, you can see why holding your child's birthday party in a familiar location could be especially beneficial—no one wants a stressful, anxiety-ridden birthday!
Consider a nearby park that your child knows and enjoys, or even your home since your child is likely very comfortable there (providing you have enough space). If your child happens to be interested in having his party at a new location, such as an indoor trampoline park, splash pad, or other type of activity center, it's a very good idea to take him to visit the location prior to the party so he can familiarize himself with the surroundings and atmosphere. That way, come party day, he'll be less likely to be overwhelmed and stressed (fingers crossed).
4. Offer a Nutritious Menu
It's no secret that birthday parties have long been known to include some unhealthy food items, such as cake and ice cream, pizza, pop, etc. And although there have been several studies on the effects of certain foods and food ingredients on individuals who suffer from ADHD, Harvard Medical School indicates that there is no cut-and-dry evidence that a bad diet causes the disorder, or that a great diet can magically take away symptoms for that matter.
However, there is evidence that some ADHD kids do indeed have sensitivities to certain foods and ingredients. If this sounds like your child, then it's best to avoid these things at his birthday party. For example, some ADHD kids are sensitive to simple carbohydrates like candy and white flour. Others may be sensitive to additives like artificial colors and preservatives. If your child suffers from these or any other food-related sensitivities, make it a point to plan the party menu accordingly. Consider offering more complex carbohydrates like kid-friendly clementines (Cuties, Halos) and apples. For a main dish, think lean protein like grilled chicken or fish.
Obviously, if your child has a certain food he really loves and seems to tolerate it just fine, then by all means, let him eat it at his birthday party. Also, cake is usually a party staple, so if your child has any special dietary needs, maybe you can bake one to those specifications. You certainly don't want to deprive him on his special day!
5. Go Over Everything in Advance
After you've planned out everything but before the party, be sure to go over everything with your child in full detail—maybe a few times. Write down the guest list, schedule, activities, menu, and all the details so they are right there in front of him. Explain how the party will go (the best you can) and what he can expect. If he has suggestions for or issues with the party plan, listen to them and make changes. By going over everything in advance and ensuring that he understands, he'll be better prepared and more comfortable when party day arrives. And if he's happy and comfortable, the party should be a success!
Time to Start Planning!
Now that you have some tips to help you plan your ADHD child's birthday party, it shouldn't be too overwhelming or difficult. Always remember that each kid with the disorder is different from the next, so these tips might need to be modified based on your child's individual needs and situation. Happy party planning!
If you would like to learn more about ADHD and how it can affect your child, check out our large selection of courses on the topic.