The Best Toys for Young Kids with ADHD
Shopping and choosing gifts for kids with ADHD can be a bit of a conundrum, mostly because ADHD is very much not one-size-fits-all. For example, the term ADHD encompasses both the external hyperactivity that originally made up the majority of diagnoses, along with the inattentive type, which used to be known as ADD. Many people with ADHD fit into both of these categories (the combined type) and that can mean that their needs change depending on both internal and external factors like how stressed they are, or if they are in a too-warm environment.
Another challenge with gift giving for ADHD is that these wonderful brains crave novelty. Often toys aren’t the best choice, especially ones that only offer one way to play. It can be frustrating to see a carefully chosen present discarded, but don’t take it personally, it might even be worth putting away again for a while to manufacture “newness” again.
These challenges notwithstanding, I drew upon conversations with neurodivergent people and their parents as well as my own experience and research as a person with ADHD to compile a list of gift ideas which will hopefully hit the mark for the little one with ADHD on your list. Remember that no expert advice or gift guide is a replacement for how well you know your child. Find what seems like a fit and feel free to ignore the rest. You may also want to check out our gift guide for young neurodivergent kids!
What To Look For in Gifts For Young Kids With ADHD
A few basics to keep in mind:
- Hyperactivity takes a lot of forms, but whether it’s visible or not. ADHD kids often feel it in their bodies, making it hard to sit still. Gifts that promote movement can help them regulate some of these impulses, and provide sensory feedback. Some parents also mentioned that you might want to avoid particularly fragile or delicate items to avoid breakage and injury. You know your kid best.
- Speaking of sensory—with ADHD, they are either seeking new and interesting textures, scents and sounds, or trying to block out as much sensory input as possible, sometimes in the same day. Many of the options on this list are about the sensory relationship.
- When in doubt, choose open-ended playthings that don’t have a right or wrong way to play. This is often less frustrating, and less boring, to an ADHD kid.
- Look for experiences and follow their interests. Two things I can’t put on a traditional list but are wonderful choices for ADHD kids are experiences and following their interests. Experiences can be anything from a one-on-one outing with a parent that they get to choose to passes to a local zoo or aquarium, or a day at a theme park. Ideally, experiences will be active and filled with novelty for best results. ADHD kids often have strong passions, many of them long-lasting. There’s a lot of overlap here with the idea of special interests in the autistic community—these are interests that really capture a child, causing her to memorize every kind of dinosaur or space rock. If your ADHD kid has one of these, lean into it. If it turns out to be a passing interest, don’t take it personally. You may eventually laugh about it with your child, as my parents and I do when looking at their basement of projects I didn’t finish.
- A note about ages: this guide features suggestions for kids between 6 and 9, because most children aren’t diagnosed until they are at least 6. Many of these gifts are appropriate for younger kids, and as long as you follow manufacturer instructions, there’s no reason why you can’t do a gift that encompasses smaller siblings or kids with suspected ADHD. On the flip side, many of these gifts would be great gifts for older kids or even adults with ADHD.
I hope this guide gets your wheels turning for the perfect way to delight your ADHD kid!
Our Top Pick
Though it’s hard to pick a favorite, our top pick is the Foldable Mini Trampoline. This mini trampoline, also known as a rebounder, checks so many boxes for kids with ADHD. It promotes activity and can help them get wiggles out, it also adds sensory input through the feet. Attach the padded bar for extra stability and remove it to fold the whole thing up to put out of sight to keep an uncluttered look to your home. This model has a 350 pound weight limit, so it’s great for kids and adults, and it makes a wonderful activity with music.
Cubby: A Weekly Newsletter for Families at Home
Whether you need smart solutions or fresh ideas, our editors at Kitchn and Apartment Therapy are here with our best meal plans, organizing and design tips, toy recommendations, and more.