Activities for children with behavioral problems

Updated April 17, 2017

Child behavioural problems stem from many factors. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is a common culprit, although physical, emotional or sexual abuse can also play a role. In certain cases, the cause of behavioural problems remains unknown. What caused of the problem is not as important as working to manage it. Physical activities allow anger to be vented in a positive way, as do positive redirection activities when a child experiences an anger crisis.

Keeping a Journal

Many kids with ADHD or other behavioural problems, have a hard time with or are unable to express their feelings altogether. The child may even have difficulty remembering what they have done from day to day, adding to his or her frustration. Give the child a journal, either a notebook or an actual diary. At least once a day, have the child sit down and write in the journal what they did and how he is feeling. It is common for people who are unable to express themselves verbally to be exceptional when doing it in writing. Writing in a journal helps the child expel negative energy and frustration that would otherwise be vented through a tantrum or outburst.

Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing promotes relaxation, and is a tool in calming down or dealing with anger and frustration. Sit with the child and have him close his eyes. Speak calmly and slowly and instruct the child to take deep breaths, inhaling slowly and deeply through the nose, and expelling the air through the mouth. This can be done until the child starts to physically relax. While still breathing deeply, instruct the child to start relaxing parts of their body, one at a time. The deep breathing not only assists in relaxation, it is another way to vent anger or negative feelings. Teach the child that this is an exercise that can be done whenever she feels angry or that things are out of control.

Take a Nature Hike

Children with behaviour problems often have difficulty seeing the beauty in the world outside. Take the child on a hike in a State Park or an animal refuge. The hiking will help the child expend her negative or angry energy while being good for her physically. While you and the child are hiking, take the time to stop and witness nature. Look for, and point out things like rock formations, a spider's web or a bird's nest. If there is a body of water where you are hiking, allow the child to get her feet wet, feeling the mud or sand squishing between her toes. A nature hike is also an excellent bonding opportunity for parent and child.


Exercises such as jumping jacks, push-ups and jogging are imperative for assisting a child with behavioural problems in much needed control and relaxation. The anger and negativity the child feels is expelled by the physical demands of the particular exercise being done. Do not use exercise as punishment, since this could result in the child becoming difficult when exercise is suggested. Simply explain how beneficial physical activity is for the body and how even the mind benefits from moving the muscles and working up a sweat. Talk to the child once exercise time is over, query him as to whether he feels more calm or peaceful after the exertion. Explain to him that this feeling of calm is why exercise is so important.

Treat the Child to a Spa Day

Treating the child to a spa day does not mean a huge out of pocket expense. A spa day can be done at home by a loving parent. A massage works wonders for the tension and negativity a child with behavioural problems may be feeling. A hot bubble bath with soothing music in the background is another suggestion for the spa day. Even washing the child's hair is a positive gesture and helps dissolve some of the bad energy the child is holding onto. If the child is a girl, try a manicure and pedicure, give positive strokes as to how pretty the nail polish looks or let her get a new hairstyle and let her know how beautiful she looks. These simple gestures reinforce self-esteem and are necessary for a child growing up regardless of whether she has behaviour issues, but can be critical for a child who does.

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About the Author

Annmarie Keller has been a writer for more than 20 years. She has published her work in "Redbook," "Parenting," "Sunset" and "Good Housekeeping." Keller earned a bachelor's degree in English from California State University, Hayward.