A graphic showcasing four toys for young kids with ADHD: a sensory necklace, kids headphones with a fox headband, kinetic sand, and a wooden miniature zen garden
Credit: The Tot, Amazon, Walmart

The Best Toys for Young Kids with ADHD

published Oct 31, 2022
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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 For example, the term ADHD encompasses both the external hyperactivity that originally made up the majority of diagnoses, along with the inattentive type, which used to be known as ADD.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. 

The Best Toys and Gifts for Young Kids with ADHD

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Fat Brain Toys

When thinking about toys for ADHD kids, it’s helpful to think about items that don’t have to be played with a certain way to be fun, and things that can foster creativity by being used differently over and over again, ie: open-ended toys. Building toys are perfect for this, especially a set like this, which doesn’t have directions or a specific goal about what to build. It will work with other magnetic sets and comes in different sizes if you’re not ready to commit to 100 pieces just yet. For more in this vein, check out Lego and Snap Circuits, as well as any other building toy your kid finds interesting.

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This classic toy was a fidget before anyone knew what a fidget was. You may have heard the term, or be surrounded by items that are sold as fidgets for neurodivergent kids. The truth is that nearly anything can be a fidget. For some, that means doodling while listening, for others, it’s an object. What I love about this cube is that while it’s a fidget, it’s also a puzzle, so you can get a sense of satisfaction when you solve it, but also enjoy the tactile pleasure of clicking it around and creating interesting color combinations.

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Several of the parents I spoke with mentioned these swings which are so versatile for kids needs. The swing itself feels like a hug, which can help with overstimulation (it’s also built so that kids can safely hide away inside it. If your child is seeking stimulation, it offers so much in the way of open-ended play and movement—they can swing in lots of ways and self-regulate.

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It can be so frustrating to want to listen to music or an audiobook, but not like the way headphones feel. These fleece headband headphones are cute, cozy and volume limited to keep your little one’s ears safe. I’m partial to the fox, but there are other animals and characters, and a few come in a wireless version if you or your child are tech savvy.

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One of the best things about neurodivergence becoming more present in public awareness is that the tools that used to be very specialized and expensive can now be purchased from major retailers, bringing costs down and making these items more available. This crash pad is one such example. This is the extra large version (they have other smaller sizes) and it comes in two neutral colors made of durable, easy to clean fabric (throw the cover in the washing machine). This generous pad offers a safe, comfy space for your child to play or relax.

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If you have an adventurous eater, or a child who embraces crunchy, sweet, or sour snacks, why not try what the world has to offer with this global snack box? Each month you’ll get a surprise pack of treats all from the same country. Choose from two sizes for your family’s needs.

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Pottery Barn Kids

Many kids with ADHD love having a place where they can go to be alone and self regulate, whether that’s a reading nook, a tent, or this adorable fabric playhouse. Be sure to populate their special space with a cozy chair or beanbag, a soft blanket and their favorite books or other quiet activities.

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Nothing says novelty like a subscription box. I love KiwiCo for their boxes based on your child’s interests. You can go for the basic Kiwi Crate for this age group which focuses on general STEAM skills, or choose Yummy Crate for recipes and kitchen skills building, or Atlas Crate for discovering other cultures. Subscribe monthly or for a set amount of time. As your child gets older, there is even more to explore.

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Our top pick helps kids get the wiggles out, while also adding sensory input through the feet. The padded bar is great for extra stability, and you can remove it to fold the whole thing up and put it away! It has a 350 pound weight limit, so it also works for adults.

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Pottery Barn Kids

Weighted blankets are another wonderful tool for neurodivergent people that has become very mainstream in recent years. When I was looking for one originally, I had to pay someone to custom make it. Now, you can find beautiful, wonderfully soft versions that blend in with your decor and will wrap your sweet child in comfort for naps, nighttime, or just to cuddle up and decompress. I love that this version is made of organic cotton and is safe for the washing machine. Choose from three beautiful colors. Note on weight: this version is 6 pounds, most experts suggest that you should aim for about 10-15% of the weight of the person you’re choosing the blanket for. According to Bearaby, their 6 pound blanket is intended for kids 40-80 pounds, over that, you might want to go up to their 8 pound blanket (you can snag that version at West Elm).

ADHD tip: if you already have a weighted blanket, consider a weighted plush like this one, which can offer some of the same benefits in a portable form.

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Is there anything more calming than gently raking sand into patterns? This was the gift I asked for most as a child and I always took the opportunity to play with them when I came across them. I love this one for the separate compartments for the rocks so that you can include them in your design or not. This is a great reset activity that doubles as a pretty decor piece.

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was $12.99

Parents mentioned Dave Pilkey’s books over and over again as their ADHD kid’s faves. This new series of graphic novels is all about anti-perfectionism and creativity as the animal characters learn about their unique strengths. It’s perfect for this age group. The author is very open about his early ADHD and dyslexia diagnoses, so this is also a great teaching moment to let kids know that they can use their amazing brains to do wonderful things as adults, whatever that may be.

Other books suggestions:

The Dogman series by Dave Pilkey

All Dogs Have ADHD by Kathy Hoopmann

Beautiful Oops (and the companion journal) by Barney Saltzberg

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The Tot

This fun necklace is a fun, chic statement, but it’s also a valuable sensory tool. The whole thing is designed to stand up to being played with and chewed on and the beads are made of soft silicone for safety and interest. Even the clasp is made of food safe material. This necklace will introduce your child to a whole new world of playing with jewelry.

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Melissa & Doug

Art of all kinds is another type of open-ended play. Nurture your child’s visual art skills with this set of art and craft basics, and don’t be afraid to branch out into the mediums they find interesting like loom-weaving or science experimentation. Creativity is the name of the game with this type of gift, and more options for types of papers, pens, pencils, markers and paints are often very welcome to an ADHD kid.

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Kinetic Sand is one of those sensory experiences you either love or hate. If you’re unsure about which group your child falls into, you might want to start slow with this one before buying a larger kit. But if your little one enjoys the sensation, something like this dinosaur kit can be a ton of fun. Create fossils, bury and dig for bones, or create a cave with three colors of sand. If this set isn’t your thing but the idea intrigues you, check out tons of other colors and sets to find something that will spark your child’s interest. In this same vein, consider Slime, Play-Doh, Playfoam, and Silly Putty for other textures and sensory experiences.

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