The Smart-Toys Guide to ADHD Toys
Shopping for toys for kids with ADD (attention deficit disorder) or ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) can be challenging. Flashy gifts are overly distracting, and complex toys are often overwhelming. Building confidence and self-sufficiency in kids with ADHD – or even sometimes, just keeping them occupied and entertained – can be an uphill battle. For kids with more extreme attention difficulties, board games that entice other kids may feel overwhelming, and even classic toys from your childhood like LEGO or K’Nex can be overly frustrating. So what do you do?
You can help your child concentrate, focus, and follow through by appropriately directing their attention; while also building skills that will become cooperation, communication, negotiation, sharing, turn-taking, and more.
10 tips for picking toys for an ADHD child
1.) Keep it simple
Some kids with ADHD do not enjoy classic building kits, because they get frustrated by feeling “boxed-in” by the instructions. If your child prefers to make their own open-ended creations, try Play-Doh or Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty , both of which let them experiment with a multitude of different colors and shapes without having to conform to a specific design.
You can incorporate creative sculpting tools from home and kitchen supplies that you already own, such as utensils, cookie cutters, rolling pins, and bottle caps, or buy a special kit with different tools .
2.) Keep the hands moving!
Let their hands squeeze, knead, stretch, twist, and shape their play objects. Kids with ADHD often benefit from toys that can be manipulated in an open ended way (ie., without specific instructions). Channeling this inner energy in this way often allows them to better focus on other, more demanding tasks at hand. Stretchy, flexible, or textured fidget toys usually work best. Our favorite fidget toys for ADHD kids are:
3.) Keep the games short!
Kids with ADHD can reap the social benefits of board games just like any child, but they may struggle with certain games. Research shows that a 15 minute board game from start to finish is the optimal length for a child with ADHD, ruling out marathon family board games like Monopoly and Risk. The best board games for kids with ADHD will have more, quicker rounds, and lots of interaction. Apples to Apples, Zingo, Word-A-Round, Chutes and Ladders, The Memory Game, Connect 4, and Sorry are good bets.
Every child is different, but it is important to help them figure out what will best help them blow off steam when they begin to get overwhelmed. This can avert disaster!
We love the Calm Down Jar, because soothing colors, gel and bubbles cascade down every time it is inverted. You also can never go wrong with a good, old-fashioned stress ball, and self-conscious older kids may prefer objects that won’t get noticed by classmates, such as the a Gear Ring.
5.) Rehearse social behaviors and consequences
Especially during elementary school years, kids develop increasingly complex cognitive and social abilities that remain with them for the rest of their lives. Play that allows kids to rehearse lifetime skills is invaluable, and is especially crucial period for ADHD children; failing to keep up with their peers in this area can set them up for future failures.
“Dress-up play encourages emotional, social, and intellectual development, and gives them a safe outlet for expression – which is of particular importance for kids with ADHD.”
Costume play and role-playing is fantastic for practicing this behavior. Younger kids can be taught to take turns, play by the rules, pay attention to detail, strategize, handle frustration, deal with failure, and recover from disappointments through this type of role-playing behavior. ADHD children, who are often chastised, are also typically much more open to correction during role-playing behavior.
6.) Keep Active
One of the reasons that recess is so important for kids with ADHD is that it allows them to exercise off their pent-up energy, leaving them free to focus on subsequent activities. Some of these best fidget toys for ADHD are often useful for keeping kids active in circumstances where this would otherwise be difficult or distracting, like in the classroom.
7.) Mix in longer and longer attention-requisite tasks.
As your child develops, it is important to gradually expose them to tasks that will require more and more focused attention. Since doing so too quickly can be overwhelming, it is important to ease them into tasks that practice their attentiveness.
Puzzles are great, although you may need to ignore the age recommendations on the box and go with your gut. Open ended construction sets (ones without instructions that can be made in many ways) or blocks work great.
8.) Get outside!
Do whatever you can to encourage outdoor play. Kids with ADHD (and all kids!) get numerous benefits from playing outside, and it’s always useful to burn off some excess energy. Avoid toys that need high levels of coordination or lots of practice to master, but do try to mix in activities that encourage balance and vestibular skills, such as Bilibo, stilts, or scooters.
9.) It’s the journey, not the destination.
Incorporate arts and crafts with a focus on the process rather than the final product. Avoid overly-complicated kits which may be overwhelming, but be sure to have enough variety of materials to keep the child engaged. After a particularly frustrating day, a coloring book can be exactly what a child with ADHD needs to unwind.
10.) Play to your child’s strengths.
You know what your child is best at! Focus on the area of play that they enjoy and excel in most – then gradually work in the areas in which they need improvement.
Thank you for reading about toys for ADHD.