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ADHD + Acupuncture = Calmer, Happier Kiddos! Part 2.

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

Little girl with acupuncturist inserting needle into her hand
Photo by Jen Berryman Doula and Photographer

If you haven't stopped at Part 1 of this blog first, do it! Then, definitely come back.

Ok, so if you have read Part 1, then you've probably identified which of the Five Elements is best represented by your child, and I wanted to go through each and talk a bit about strategies for play, diet, and a home massage flow (great for all the Elements!)

The brilliance of Chinese medicine is that it is a truly holistic and individualized medicine, meaning that even if two little ones are both being treated for ADHD, their two treatments will likely look pretty different. We take into account the Five Elements, their most challenging symptoms (Is it sleep? Is it digestive difficulties? Is it not being able to concentrate at school?) We notice what is unique about their little selves overall (are they red, hot, and sweaty or are they pale and chilly?) All of this information is going to help us as acupuncturists customize a treatment plan JUST for the special little person in front of us. It might use traditional acupuncture, shonishin, cupping, herbal medicine, or a combination of all of the above!

We are still learning a lot about the mechanisms of acupuncture, but some things we know for sure - acupuncture improves blood flow and calms the nervous system. Check out my first blog all about acupuncture for kids for more information on this! By bringing the nervous system into balance, there is a greater probability that a child will feel calm, even during all of the challenging stuff that life throws at them. During an acupuncture visit, your child will get practice at regulating their physical and emotional responses to input. We often see all kinds of self-soothing mechanisms start to kick in during a treatment - things like yawning, rubbing their eyes, or propping their hands behind their head (think, "kicked back, watching the tube sort of position").


One of the most important aspects of childhood! And, there's a lot that we can do as parents and professionals to make the most of this innate desire to play.

Let's start with our Fire child, the entertainer. They will do best with play that's theatrical and allows them to be the center of attention. Think, charades, dress-up, putting on a play, etc. Engaging this natural desire to express themselves outwardly will truly feed their little souls! This type of play can really help these super-feelers step into different characters, express big emotions, and ease stress.

The Water child, on the other hand, might be content to mostly play alone. Honor that! There will be opportunities, however, when your little one will want to play together - likely a game involving their rich imaginative world. You can have a reverence for their introverted nature by talking less and pretending more! Follow their lead - if they are involved in an intense game of pirates sailing the seas, pretend to be the captain of a neighboring ship. Stepping into their world with delight and curiosity will go a long way with your Water kiddo.

Our little Wood children crave movement and stimulation. The best sort of play with your Wood child involves sports, climbing outdoors, or any activity where their little bodies can be on the move! These kiddos do extremely well with team sports, martial arts, or dance. These activities can be game-changers for those with ADHD. Let them move, shake, shimmy (outside, if possible) with a clear purpose and set boundaries to allow them the kinesthetic stimulation that they crave, while providing some structure to help them regulate energy and feel safe.

Earth kiddos are probably happy to do whatever game YOU suggest. Being the little pleasers that they are often means that they just want to make other people happy. You can suggest a game where they get to help you cook or bake, for example. Cooking is a great way to focus attention and follow steps to finish a (delicious) task! Within the activity, give them permission to input their own ideas and creativity as well. Just being with you is going to be so yummy for them, and feeling like they are being your little helper is a super bonus!

Our Metal kids are the tinkerers, the engineers, probably the one asking, "Why" a LOT. To appeal to our Metal kids, play doesn't have to be super silly, rather figuring a puzzle together or building a cool Lego structure will immediately connect the two of you! Games with sequence and structure will go a long way to both familiarizing yourself with their inner world and helping them to laser focus their attention on something that is super motivating.


One thing that I find again and again in clinical practice is a lot of little ones effected by blood sugar dips. Lunch at school time is rushed, and many kids hurry through, so that they can have a few extra precious minutes of recess or play outside. If there's no time for a snack, by the time they get home from school, they are nearing the danger zone of feeling super hungry and maybe not being able to label it as such. When our blood sugar is crashing (have you ever felt "hangry?") it can cause a cascade of big emotions and challenging behaviors. Letting kids snack on plenty of good fats and protein can help to maintain blood sugar levels (and also helps with developing brains and muscle)! Avocados, coconut, a handful of nuts, hard-boiled eggs, pastured beef bars are all great. Check out this "boosted butter" recipe from my friends at Eat Naked - this is super delish as a nut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch!

Fire kids are likely to be super distracted when eating, so be sure to remove all electronics from the table at mealtime (super important for all kids!) Chat with them about where their food came from, how you or someone else has prepared it - helping them to feel connected to their food purveyor and chef will motivate them to focus more on the yummy bounty in front of them.

Tap into your water kiddos brilliant imagination by asking them to picture the farm where their veggies grew, the countryside around it, the person picking the food, etc. Allowing them to daydream about where their food came from, creating a fun story around it will motivate them to pay more attention to what's on their plate!

Getting your Wood child to sit for a meal is probably a challenge! Making sure that they have adequate time to run around and get some good physical and sensory input before sitting down for a meal will make that time much more successful. Allowing for a mid-meal break to get up and wiggle around or stretch might help if they are getting fidgety.

You might find that for your Earth kid, they are happy to sit at the table for a meal! What you may have also discovered is that they can have a tendency to overeat or to graze and snack, even if they aren't hungry. Encouraging mindfulness around food is a great practice for all of us, and our Earth kiddos will certainly benefit from this. Having the family do a few deep belly breaths before meals as a way to encourage calm and a tuning inward is a great practice! Talking to your little one about tastes, textures, and flavors can really help them be aware and mindful as they are nourishing their little bodies.

Your sweet Metal child may be rigid around what they will eat and also might have sensitivities to tastes, smells, and textures. Weekly menu planning with your Metal kiddo can go a long way to providing them with some predictability and also some buy-in at meal times. It's super helpful to have a main food item (e.g. cauliflower rice chicken stir fry) that they can then add their own toppings to - toasted cashews for kids who like a little crunch, a sesame oil, tamari and honey dressing that they can sprinkle for a little sweet.


A daily home massage routine goes a long way to helping kids feel nurtured and getting their bodies more integrated. One of my favorite techniques is to start on the head and end at the feet - you can imagine bringing busy energy from the head down to the feet and out of the body! Here's a flow that I really like:

  • Begin by just using your fingers and tapping around the top of the head - there are a ton of acupuncture points up there that help to keep our minds focused and clear and our bodies relaxed

  • Continue tapping down the back of the head and neck to the top of the shoulders. Then, use a "sweeping" motion with your hands from where the neck meets the top of the shoulders outwards

  • Using the same sweeping motion, continue down the upper, middle, and lower back

  • Use your fingers again to tap along the chest

  • Using one hand at a time, rub downward from the collarbone to the belly button

  • Rub in a clockwise circle around the belly button

  • Start on one arm, just below the elbow, and squeeze down the inside of the arm to the wrist, and then squeeze up the outside part of the arm, from the wrist to the elbow

  • Squeeze down the outside part of the leg, starting just below the knee and ending at the ankle, then squeeze up the inside part of the leg from ankle to just below the knee

  • End by holding this special point on the foot

You made it! Thank you so much for visiting my blog - I hope you found it helpful. Stay tuned for more on acupuncture for kids! If there's a particular topic that you'd like me to cover, please leave it in the comments. As always don't hesitate to reach out with any questions!

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