Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the increasingly-present childhood disorders that experts, ADHD specialists, educators, and caregivers especially are trying to better understand and manage every day. From what is known regarding ADHD toys and gadgets, there is some disagreement over which ones actually help children with ADHD and which actually cause more distraction.
One study concluded that increasing activity rates allowed individuals with ADHD to be able to stimulate the LC-NE system, resulting in increased arousal and allowing them to work at optimal levels.
Experts seem to agree, though, that low levels of stimulation, such as through the use of clay and putty, are useful and allow a brain with ADHD to function more optimally on primary tasks.
Here’s what child psychiatrist Matthew Lorber had to say:
“If you are trying to focus on a task, but your hands are busy doing something else, it actually forces your brain to increase your efforts to focus on the task at hand.”
Given this insight, we’ve compiled a list of our top 6 ADHD toys and gadgets and that we believe research has shown to be effective at helping to manage symptoms.
Top Six ADHD Toys & Gadgets for Kids
1. Portable Mini-Trampoline
A favorite ADHD toy amongst many parents, a portable mini-trampoline allows a child to get their exercise both indoors and outdoors. Many parents of children with ADHD find having their child bounce out their remaining exercise before bedtime allows them greater quality rest throughout the night. Mini-trampolines can also be of use prior to a child sitting down to do homework or cleaning their room, helping the body rid its need to move or fidget.
For children with ADHD, some studies have found that simulations, including physical outlets (like trampolines), correspond with improvements in motor agility and motor planning, reduction in hyperactivity, and a reduction in behavioral problems.
2. Hopper Ball
Many times, children with ADHD aren’t able to properly focus or apply themselves because their bodies are too busy humming with energy. 504 plans for a child with ADHD may often contain verbiage regarding the child needing an extra recess or the ability to walk around the room when others are expected to be still. This is because a child with ADHD very often has the hyperactivity variable of the diagnosis and needs an outlet for the energy in order to do their best work.
The American Journal of Occupational Therapy published a study in 2003 indicating that, for students with ADHD, “sitting on therapy balls improved behavior and legible word productivity. In other words, students using ball chairs were able to sit still, focus, and write more words clearly.”
The hopper ball is an excellent tool that can be utilized for not only excess energy but aid with concentration and focus. With this ADHD toy, a child has to work at grasping the handle and manipulating the ball or bouncing simultaneously, keeping the mind focused and concentration where it needs to be - on the teacher or caregiver. The ball can be used indoors or outdoors and the combination of hand coordination, balance, and movement are unbeatable when it comes to toys that help children with ADHD expel their energy!
3. Watchminder Watch
Like Goally, the Watchminder Watch is an amazing electronic toy for kids with ADHD. These types of handheld, tangible devices allow children to literally hold their independence in their hands instead of sorting through to find an ADHD apps on a tablet or iPad. This waterproof watch has a sporty, fun design and allows individuals with ADHD to better keep their focus utilizing pre-programmed messages, reminders, and timers for daily tasks. It is quiet, utilizing vibration instead of loud alarms so that it is not disruptive or disturbing to focus, attention, or anyone nearby.
Watchminder was designed by a child psychologist who focuses on attention and learning disorders. This device aims to improve the relationship between parent and child, allowing children to be more independent and their parents to “nag” less.
4. Weighted Lap Pad
Some studies show that weighted lap pads and blankets may help children with ADHD, Autism, and other disorders improve focus and attention. While further research may be needed to confirm these existing studies, a weighted lap pad or blanket may be recommended by your child's Occupational Therapist or physician.
This Fidget Lap Pad is excellent because it only weighs 2.5 pounds and incorporates fidget items and sensory loops to better aid a child in their focus and learning abilities. ADHD specialists worldwide frequently recommend using some type of weighted lap pad in the classroom and beyond to help keep children still, calm, and focused. Weighted lap pads work by using deep touch pressure therapy, which helps to release serotonin in the brain, creating a sense of “calm and well-being.”
An oldie but goodie, legos are great ADHD toys because they provide both mental and physical stimulation. They allow kids to think creatively without making the process too complex. Kids can envision an end goal or simply build and see where their imaginations take them. Each piece connects simply so children don’t typically get overly frustrated or focused on trying to build their goal project.
Dr. Randy Kulman believes that legos help to “build the vital thinking skills that can allow them to focus better at school and during other non-play activities.” Dr. Kulman also discusses the development of critical thinking skills when children with ADHD play with legos.
6. Goally for Children with ADHD & Autism
We couldn’t end the list without mentioning our favorite electronic device for children with ADHD (or Autism) - Goally! This is a handheld electronic device that helps kids with ADHD become more independent.
Goally prompts children with ADHD to follow their parent-set routines independently while earning points and rewards. It allows for greater peace of mind for parents and greater self-confidence for children. The software is designed by leading behavioral experts, ADHD specialists, learning experts, and child psychologists who understand the challenges that may arise in the balance between helping your child with ADHD and allowing them to learn and do things on their own.
The Benefits of ADHD Toys for Children
Some parents and teachers may be a little skeptical when it comes to their children toting ADHD toys around their homes and schools. The logic does seem a little backward - how could there be any productivity in giving a child who already has challenges with attention a toy to play with during class? As mentioned, however, experts agree in the basic concept that “physical activity — even a little foot-tapping or gum chewing — increases levels of the neurotransmitters in the brain that control focus and attention.”
Allowing a child who has ADHD to do two tasks at once better allows them to concentrate on the primary task at hand. This might include things like having a fidget gadget in their hand during classroom instruction or listening to music while studying.
The theory behind this approach is that if the brain is focused on manipulating the handheld gadget, it cannot zone out because it is active with something else. Therefore, the child has the attention of their brain, their energy is being expelled through their hands and fingers, and thus, they can better concentrate on their assigned task or listening to instruction.
ADHD toys for children aren’t just confined to the limits of handheld gadgets, however.
Toys made for children with ADHD aim to challenge their ever-busy minds, help them with time management, focus, knowledge retention, and self-regulation. Electronics such as Goally and the Watchminder Watch have software designed by experts such as ADHD specialists so that each function serves a purpose and better assists a child with ADHD.
So many great resources exist to help children with ADHD with various tasks and challenges. Our favorite ADHD toys include those that stimulate the brain but also allow them to slow down, focus, and perform better overall. The list of our top three ADHD toys also keep children learning and busy, rather than zoning out in front of a favorite television show or YouTube channel.
All of our suggestions are tried and true on real children who have ADHD and use materials in the classroom and beyond to manage their symptoms!
We hope you love them, too!
Ashley Lavoie is a mom of three and manages both child and adult ADHD and neonatal diabetes. She is advocating for awareness and loves writing and connecting with other families like hers.
Editor's note: This information is not meant to diagnose or treat and should not take the place of personal consultation, as needed, with a qualified healthcare provider and/or BCBA.