Hobbies for Kids With ADHD & Learning Disabilities

By Lisa Weber
Martial arts can have a positive effect on kids with ADHD.
Martial arts can have a positive effect on kids with ADHD.

Participation in hobbies and sports is important for all kids, but especially those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning disabilities. For children who often struggle in school and in social situations, the right activities can help improve a child's social skills, provide an outlet for excess energy, teach focus and concentration and improve self-esteem.

Martial Arts

According to "ADDitude" magazine, a complex physical activity, like martial arts, strengthens neural networks in the brain, and helps kids with ADHD practice self-control, both physical and emotional. Martial arts helps kids improve coordination while building strength. (reference 1) The mental and physical involvement in martial arts allows your child to immerse himself in an activity. Martial arts also provides positive role models and clear directions and rules.

Individual Team Sports

Kids with ADHD may succeed in sports where they are part of a team, but compete individually, such as swimming or tennis. Often these sports allow a child to receive one-on-one attention from an instructor or coach while still receiving the social benefits from being on a team. Other good sports that burn energy may include wrestling, diving, fencing or horseback riding. (reference 2, pg 2)


Music exercises both the left and right hemispheres of the brain, helping kids with ADHD learn to multitask. Being part of a band or choir gives your child important social interaction. According to ADDitudemag.com, music therapy can improve attention and focus, reduce hyperactivity and strengthen social skills for children with ADHD. (reference 3) Additionally it has a clear beginning, middle and end, giving kids with ADHD and learning disabilities the structure and predictability they need. (reference 3 and 5)


Joining the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts provides kids with ADHD a lot of opportunities. Scouting offers physical movement and highly structured activities that use and encourage different learning styles. It is also a chance for kids to interact with their peers during fun activities under close adult supervision. (reference 4)

Activities to Avoid

Kids with ADHD and learning disabilities are often inattentive and have a hard time following multi-step directions. They also have a hard time focusing when in large groups. Therefore, some team sports that require focusing on an entire field or learning complex directions, like football, soccer or basketball, might be difficult. (reference 2 pg 1) TV and video games may increase attention problems, and any activity that requires long waiting times, like board games, will cause frustration.

About the Author

Lisa Weber is a freelance writer/editor and former special education teacher. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism and professional writing, and a master's degree in special education. Over the last 15 years, she has written for a variety of newspapers, magazines, and on-line publications.