Best Toys for Kids With ADHD

Expert picks for items that engage and entertain.

boy playing with digital tablet in bed Ariel Skelley/Getty

Children with ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, often have a hard time focusing on tasks and interacting socially. When you think about toys and games for your child with ADHD, consider your goal, says occupational therapist Heidi Tringali, of Tringali Occupational Therapy Services in Charlotte, North Carolina. You may want an item that solely entertains, or you may be looking for something that builds skills. Some good options include:

Computer Games
One common characteristic of children with ADHD is hyperfocus, or the ability to be completely absorbed by an activity they find enjoyable. Many kids with this disorder use that kind of hyperfocus to play computer games. “They’re drawn to the rate of the game,” Tringali says. “If we all lived on a metronome, the typical human metronome rate is 50 to 60 beats per minute. A child with ADHD can run as high as 120. Computer-based games run at a rate that is so much faster than the real world.”

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Turn-Taking Games
Social skills like patience, turn taking, and waiting to speak are difficult for kids with ADHD. You can challenge them and help them hone those skills with games that require them to practice. “You want to figure out where your child is functioning and challenge her slightly above that level,” Tringali says. A game like Ker-Plunk, in which players try to remove plastic straws that have formed a lattice under a pile of marbles, moves fairly quickly. Or you can try a game that takes more time, such as Uno, Sorry! Sliders — where players slide their pawns to home, or their opponents’ pawns into Sorry! Spaces, and Hedbanz, in which players take turns asking questions to figure out what picture card is tucked in their headband.

Movement-Based Games
If you have a child with some hyperactivity, movement based games will be a hit. “Try Twister or tag or Frisbee or even something like an indoor trampoline, where he gets to bounce around,” Tringali says. And bowling is a great game because it involves grasping a weighted ball; children with attention difficulties often feel more calm and better able to focus after doing activities that involve significant joint pressure.

Games That Require Quiet Attention
If your child is primarily the inattentive type, he’s probably drawn to more isolated activities. Your goal might be to engage him socially with a game that involves quiet turn taking, such as Life or Checkers. “There’s some engagement, but it’s not intense,” Tringali says, adding that a game like Twister would be harder because it’s a demanding game that requires continual physical, social, and cognitive involvement.

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Toys That Allow Them to Switch Tasks
At a younger age, Katherine Slack’s son enjoyed puzzles — but he would do two or three at a time. “He would sit and go back and forth with each puzzle spread into sections,” Slack says. “One to his left, one in front, and one to his right.”

Electronic Gadgets
For the same reason that computer-based games are entertaining for children with ADHD, kids enjoy playing with tablets and their corresponding apps. “We have both an iPad and an Android tablet,” says Jilea Hemmings, whose 6-year-old son has ADHD. “We have found great apps that keep him busy for long stretches of time and have helped him to focus.”

    Life with ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder

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