Outdoor Play is a Positive Outlet for High Energy Kids

It is typical for children to have a lot of energy. They wake up and are in “go mode” all day until they’re not. Age, diet, sleep habits, and sedentary lifestyle choices impact a child’s energy level. However, sometimes kids have so much energy that it impacts everyday life when high energy does not match the environment in which a child has to function and cannot be easily turned off, that’s hyperactivity.


Hyperactivity is only one component of ADHD and can be a significant concern for parents as it can disrupt a household day in and day out, leaving parents exhausted and desperate for help. One of the best ways to support children who are high energy, hyperactive, or have ADHD is spending time outdoors! Many bodies of research support outdoor play as an effective tool for managing ADHD. Here are some reasons why spending time outdoors can support brain or a high-energy child:


Children with ADHD must work extra hard to slow down their brains enough to focus. This results in mental fatigue. When attention or mental fatigue has been reached, focusing becomes even more of a challenge. But, when a child spends enough time outdoors, attention happens more automatically which allows kids to recover from attention fatigue. Taking a break from focusing on things that aren’t very interesting results in a restorative phenomenon for the brain…meaning, that after outdoor play the brain has more capacity for focused attention!


The colors of nature are calming, sounds are absorbed by the grass and trees, and the lighting is natural and not fluorescent. It is the perfect sensory setting for focus and regulation. On the flip side, a typical indoor environment is full of over-stimulating sounds, and sights and requires the sensory system to filter out unneeded information constantly. When you spend more time outdoors, the brain and nervous system are both regulated and therefore translate to feelings of safeness, alertness, and overall improved mental health.


Children with ADHD or high energy need plenty of space to test limits, engage in risk-taking, and seek out adventure. The outdoors gives the gift of physical space without the walls and limitations! There isn’t anything precious to“break” in nature compared to your living room at home. Plus, research tells us that kids with ADHD need the opportunity for risky play. Practice and guidance during the early years builds safety awareness to prevent serious injury later in life


Unfortunately, children who are high energy or have ADHD tend to hear the words“no” or “be careful” or “stop it” on a regular basis. This can create some negative feelings over time and really impact a child’s confidence, feelings of self-worth, and overall mental health. Nature can help reduce negative behaviors related to hyperactivity, impulsivity, and emotional outbursts. It is a safe space to say“yes” to your child and let them be themselves without judgment or too many unnecessary limitations!

“Nerve networks grow out of our unique sensory experiences, laying down intricate patterns that govern our higher level brain development. Experience determines the shape and intricacy of these patterns. They are laid down in accordance with the activities we experience and all of our environmental circumstances. THE RICHER OUR SENSORY ENVIRONMENT AND THE GREATER OUR FREEDOM TO EXPLORE IT, THE MORE INTRICATE WILL BE THE PATTERNS FOR LEARNING THOUGHT AND CREATIVITY."

Research and Resources: 


Kuo FE, Taylor AF. A potential natural treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: evidence from a national study. Am J Public Health. 2004;94(9):1580-1586. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448497/  


Gawrilow C, Kühnhausen J, Schmid J, Stadler G. Hyperactivity and Motoric Activity in ADHD: Characterization, Assessment, and Intervention. Front Psychiatry. 2014;5:171. Published 2014 Nov 28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4246670/


Jennifer I. Gapin, Jennifer L. Etnier, Parental perceptions of the effects of exercise on behavior in children and adolescents with ADHD, Journal of Sport and Health Science. 2014; 3( 4): 320-325. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254613000240


Di Carmine F., Berto, R. (2020). Contact with Nature can help ADHD children to cope with their symptoms. The state of the evidence and future directions fr research.Visions for Sustainability,15,24-34. https://www.ojs.unito.it/index.php/visions/article/view/4883/4505 https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd