What Makes a Great Gift for a Child with ADHD?

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

It’s that time of year again when we all work hard to find just the right toy or gift for our kids. If you have a child with ADHD, gift giving is yet one more area where you may find yourself being even more thoughtful than most about the items you choose. The team at ADDitude Magazine recently published a whole host of gift ideas for kids with ADHD, ranging from fidget kits to stress relievers, to books to toys. Their articles cover great non-tech toys (https://www.additudemag.com/slideshows/gift-ideas-adhd-kids/), gift ideas for kids with sensory issues (https://www.additudemag.com/slideshows/sensory-gifts-for-adhd-children/) and products designed for tactile learners (https://www.additudemag.com/slideshows/educational-toys-for-children-with-adhd/).  They are terrific resources for parents.

But outside of these recommended toys, what should you be thinking about when evaluating toys and gifts for your child with ADHD?  Try this simple checklist to help you make great decisions.

  • Does it play to their strengths and help them feel a sense of accomplishment? Between school and homework, kids with ADHD spend a lot of time involved in activities that play to their weaknesses instead of their strengths. During their downtime, look for activities that will play to their strengths, whether it’s their artistic, musical, athletic, or social abilities, and allow them to shine. Also, look for gifts that are age appropriate and within their ability level. It’s great if a toy or activity challenges your child and stretches their skills. Just avoid gifts that are likely to be too difficult and lead to the frustration and meltdowns that can quickly derail playtime for kids with ADHD.
  • Does it allow for creative play? Kids with ADHD thrive when they can play “outside the box” and create moments that fit with how they prefer to interact with their world. So toys and games that don’t “fit a mold” or have strict rules about how they are played tend to be favorites among the ADHD kid set. These toys and games allow them to express themselves through their play and bring their version of the world to life.
  • Does it keep them busy and engaged? There is a reason fidget toys are so popular with all kids, but especially kids with ADHD. It keeps them busy. They help channel that nervous, hyperactive energy so kids can feel calm and have more space for creative thinking. There are many hands-on toys available that allow kids to focus and calm their mind. For kids who aren’t very active, but need an engaging activity to quiet their thoughts, detailed coloring books for kids (and adults) paired with a big set of colored pencils can make a great gift. 
  • Is it active? Is it outdoors? Most kids with ADHD have more than enough energy to burn. When they don’t have any opportunity to be active, their ADHD symptoms become worse, and everyone in the family suffers. So, games that involve running, jumping, stretching, reaching (Twister anyone?)– anything active – will be a good fit for your child with ADHD. Outdoor games are also great for kids with ADHD, getting them away from screens and using up some of that energy. Just be wary of games that require a tremendous amount of of coordination or hours of practice to master. These games can frustrate some kids with ADHD and will be anything but fun. 
  • Is it fast-paced? Kids with ADHD are most focused and engaged when they are participating in a faced paced activity. Fast paced, shorter games leave little space for kids’ minds to wander, setting children with ADHD up for success and fun!

With so much to choose from this holiday season, finding the right gift for a child with ADHD can feel overwhelming. But with a little thoughtfulness and consideration of your child’s strengths and their ADHD needs, you can find the perfect gift that will bring hours of fun.



Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit www.huntingtonfranchise.com.

This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.

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