The Best Toys for the ADHD Child in 2020
Toys can be the best way to teach children, but how do you know what to buy?
To be honest, I think Santa Claus may be overwhelmed with all of the toy choices available in today’s world.
I happen to love toys and I love shopping and several moms have been asking me for ideas to send to aunts, uncles, and grandparents about what toys are both fun and potentially helpful for their child. So I did a deep dive into the world of toys and put together this list of some of my favorites.
The first thing parents everywhere have to do is ask themselves this question: What is my child’s weakest skill? Said another way, “what is hard for them to do’?
Next, take a look at the toys that your child currently loves to play with and circle back around to the first question. Chances are the toy that they love focuses on the strengths that they have.
For example, a kid who struggles with handwriting, is not the kid who is going to love to color. A kid who struggles in social situations, is not going to ask to play a board game with their family. That is just typical human behavior. We gravitate towards what we love and avoid what is “hard”.
Now, hear me out, I don't want you to buy toys that your child will hate and never use. On the contrary, I want you to know that by spending time with a child playing with a toy that enhances their weakness, can have wonderful benefits.
Notice I said, spending time with a child. Here is my public service announcement: If you are not willing to spend time with your child helping them gain strength in their weakness, then don’t buy the toys that I am recommending, because your child will not choose them on their own. That, my friend, is the truth.
But I also know for sure that kids will gain confidence, curiosity, and learn that they can do hard things when they are given the opportunity to do so through supportive play.
Most ADHD children struggle with the following cognitive skill areas:
- Planning and organizing,
- Emotional Regulation,
- Time management,
- Slow Processing,
- Working Memory,
- Listening Skills
Some kids struggle in all these areas, but most can have strengths in some. If your child tells you that something is “boring” then guess what? You are on to something. The word boring to an ADHD child means that it is hard or they have trouble focusing on it. If they learn to attend and focus on things that are not interesting to them, they will have a much better chance of staying focused in class during a subject that is not their favorite.
Below is my list of the top take away toys that address the weaknesses that I see in kids today with ADHD. They are fantastic toys even for kids who do not struggle but if you want to see improvements in your kids, pick up one of these toys and watch them grow.
The selected toys vary in age according to the manufacture’s recommendations. You know your child the best so make the decision to purchase based on what you know about your kid. Sometimes older kids need to play with something that is designed for a younger age group due to the weakness in the skill area that needs to be worked on. Just as I recommend books at a lower level reading level if you want to improve your child's reading fluency, the same applies to toys and cognitive skills.
Toys to Support Planning, Organizing, and Cognitive Sequencing
- Twangled by Mindware: This is a team-building game that develops problem-solving skills and gets everyone off interacting and playing together. A modern twist to the classic Twister game.
- 5 Second Rule Jr.: This game encourages quick thinking, memory skills, cooperative play. It helps with expressive language, critical thinking skills, and processing speed because it is timed.
- Really Big Words for Kid (Ages 5 and up): I love these magnets! It is a great way to build: Letter Recognition, Alphabetical Order, Classifying, Sentence Structure, Sight Word Recognition, Phonics, Vocabulary, Sequencing, Logical Thinking, Creativity. There are so many ways to use this but one of my favorites is to teach your child to leave messages for you using the words, building sentences. If they are younger, you can use it as a vocabulary word of the day. You can also make a sentence leaving a space and ask your child to fill in the space with one of the words. So many options!
My new Favorites For Attention and Focus
- Bob Ross Happy Little Sticker Puzzles (Sticker Art Puzzles): A brilliant take on puzzles that requires focus and concentration. Set a timer and see if your child can work on this without distractions for 10 minutes. If the answer is no, then set it for 5 minutes and build with the goal being 20 minutes of attention and focus. This enhances visual-spatial skills as well.
- Extreme Dot to Dot: Destinations Set of 2: Extreme Dot to Dots are also great and can be used in the same way as the Happy Little Sticker Puzzles, above. These are all wonderful options to provide a child when you want them to decrease their screen time. You can use it as a reward: if they spend 20 minutes working on these puzzles they get an extra 20 minutes of screen time. If you have a younger child than you don’t want to use extreme dot to dot you can just use basic dot to dot worksheets that you can find online or you can find the books on Amazon.
- Color By Number Mystery Mosaics: Book 15: Color by number activities can also be used like the two previous activities but this also is fabulous for kids who struggle with near point copying.
For the Kid Who Hates to be Timed or has Slow Processing
- Head to Head Scramble POP!: A fun way to show them how to beat the clock! Kids have to think fast, move fast, and scramble like mad to get every game piece placed onto the board first before the time runs out. Getting your child accustomed to working under pressure in a fun way will help them under the pressure of timed tests.
- Sculpta-Palooza:I love this hands-on manipulation game. Two teams take turns drawing cards and using squishy Playfoam® to sculpt what they see on a card. Each team then guesses what the other team sculpted before time runs out to score a point. This is good on so many levels: visual-spatial, communication, processing, and emotional regulation.
- OffBeat Game of Rhythm: This rhythm and sequence game is full of snapping and clapping to the beat. Fall off-beat or do the wrong action? You're out of the round! Staying on beat is tough for some kids, so I love that it helps with that. I also love the sequence enhancement that this game offers.
Developing Social Skills and More
- Classic Board Games for Kids: I highly recommend a family game night. So much can be gained. A child has to attend, focus, communicate, can’t be impulsive, work to problem solve....the list goes on and on! I highly recommend the classics. Click the link to see a selection of options.
- Guess Who? Board Game: I love this game! Guess Who helps with expressive language, critical thinking, and memory plus logic and reasoning skills.
- Spot It! Card Game for Kids: Spot It! is so good for impulsivity, processing skills, and visual perceptual skills. It also is fast and easy and can be played anywhere.
Working Memory and Recall Skills
- Thinkfun Distraction Card Game: The Distraction card game helps with working memory and recall that the whole family can play.
- Highlights My First Hidden Pictures 2020 4-Book Set: This is a set of 4 beginner books geared for pre-k to second grade. These hidden picture puzzle books encourage visual recognition skills, focus, and matching skills.
- Fat Brain Toys AnimaLogic: I love this game because it works on so much! It strengthens object recognition, sequencing skills, matching abilities, logic, critical thinking, and creative thinking skills. Each puzzle is more challenging than the last, building upon and reinforcing skills as the child progresses.
Sensory Toys that Help Decrease Stress by Enhancing the Limbic System
- Sensory Fidget Toys Bundle-DNA Stress Relief Balls with Fidget Hand Toys for Anxiety Kids & Adults-Calming Toys for ADHD Autism Anxiety: This fidget toy bundle offers an assortment of great items for decreasing and managing stress.
- Putty Scents Set of 3: Bake Shoppe: I love these for kids to use while reading.
- Warmies®: A great calming toy that also increases focus and attention during homework with younger kids. Just have them hold them on their lap as they work.
- Weighted Blankets: have become really popular lately. They are great for transitioning, for calming, and for focus. You can find them a lot of places now, but Target has a good selection at good prices, including these constellation print and unicorn print versions.
These are just a few of my favorite things. The big takeaway for this blog is to challenge your child to play with something that they don’t like and that they don’t “enjoy." Here’s the thing: you as a parent will grow too. A lot of times I see parents choosing to buy things that they themselves like. Just like your kids, you don’t want to play with things that you are not great at.
I think about when my kids were into Pokemon and they wanted me to play with them. Learning the various names of Pokemon was the last thing I wanted to do after a long day at work. But guess what? I found myself enhancing my memory and recall when I started to play with my sons. Would I have rather played dress up or dolls? You betcha. But I would not have gained anything by doing that and more importantly, my kids would not have remembered the TIME that I spent with THEM.
Our brains grow when we learn something new. If we allow our kids to only play with things that they enjoy, they will continue to grow their strengths and the gap between their strengths and weaknesses will widen. The kids who thrive are the kids who have a more balanced set of cognitive skills.
The holidays are right around the corner, so start shopping!
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