The Best Gifts for Kids with ADHD

Tips for buying toys and other presents for children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
© MSN Healthy Living // © MSN Health
When selecting gifts for children with ADHD, consider that these kids often have difficulty controlling their impulses and paying attention, yet many are also are packed with creative energy, says ADHD expert and pediatrician Patricia Quinn of Washington, D.C.
Playtime can be a rough time, toys become missiles and little siblings become drawing boards. "That said, there [are] a lot of things that are appropriate," says Quinn, including anything that will safely tap into kids' resourcefulness.
Read on to learn about some of the gifts that Quinn and other ADHD experts, including family members, consider safe and fun.
Note: The ages listed for each item are approximate; keep in mind your child's interests and abilities when considering each.
By Tina Adler for MSN Health & Fitness
1 of 9 Young boys in pirate costumes (© Xavier Bonghi/Getty Images)
Games
What to consider:
Kids with ADHD often prefer playing the same game repeatedly rather than getting stuck in a game that seems to go on forever, says Stephanie Oppenheim, co-founder of Toyportfolio.com, which reviews the best toys of the season for kids with ADHD.
A helpful tip: Know how to play the game before giving it to your children, so you can teach them quickly if needed. Also look for games that have a little more action than other board games, without being confusing.
Our gift suggestions:
Dominoes are still a popular gift. An even more entertaining version is Fundomino, which features dominoes with extra colors and directions. It helps if your kid likes math. For two to four players. Ages 5 and up.
A version of bingo. Yelling out loud is allowed! Ages 5 to 6.
Electronic HyperSlide
This small, fast-paced (and slightly noisy) tabletop game involves quickly sliding pucks under a bridge. The level of difficulty can be varied; kids can play alone or with a friend. Ages 8 and up.
2 of 9 Child playing dominoes (© Mel Curtis/Getty Images)
Sports equipment
What to consider:
Give kids lessons, such as for dance, skating or swimming, or the chance to join a team, but keep in mind the biggest part of the gift will be helping them make that activity successful. They may not be as adept socially as their peers and will need a helpful adult nearby. Look for activities that keep them moving and focused.
Our gift suggestions:
Similar to badminton, but without the net. The set includes shuttlecocks with lights and weights for all-weather, anytime play. Ages 6 and up.
This old-fashioned game involves whacking a ball that's tied to a string that's attached to a tall pole in the ground. The ball whizzes around the pole, hopefully whizzing right past your opponent. Ages 7 and up.
The racquet catches the ball easily and then doubles as a sort of slingshot for throwing the ball, called a djubi ("joo-bee"). Ages 9 and up.
3 of 9 Girls skating outdoors (© Zia Soleil/Getty Images)
Gadgets
What to consider:
Electronic gadgets should tap into kids' creative energy and let them explore the world, while also being sturdy and fairly easy to figure out.
Our gift suggestions:
Kids use this magnifying glass by plugging its video wire into a television, then focusing the bionic eye (which takes some work) on any nearby dust, dog hair, etc., and then watching the magnified image on the TV screen. It provides the instant fun that kids with ADHD appreciate. All ages.
A similar, more traditional option that's also popular with ADHD kids is to give a simple, sturdy microscope.
Kids can create glow-in-the dark masterpieces either with stencils or freehand—just the kind of flexibility that works well for kids with ADHD. Ages 6 and up.
If you have an old camera, pass it along to the kids, or consider a new one, such as the Fisher-Price Kid Tough Digital Camera. For ages 2 to 10.
4 of 9 Boy looking through microscope (© Digital Vision Ltd. / SuperStock)
Creative gifts
What to consider:
Kids with ADHD will enjoy all of the same markers, pens, glues, colorful paper, stickers and so on that other kids like. But don't bother with instruction-filled craft kits; opt for washable inks and set clear boundaries for how far the creativity can go.
Our gift suggestions:
Dress-up clothes and stage props
Some kids tell their pretend stories using the action figures described below, but others need to put their whole body into it. The props they want will depend on their interests, but may include wands, capes, fabric, shields and hats. Your old clothes, or yard sale finds, can inspire hours of play.
Music and recorded stories
Channel a case of the wiggles into dance. One mom gave her 5-year-old son the soundtrack for the movie Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. "We boogie to it a lot," she reports. Kids with ADHD might also appreciate the less-than-perfect kids in the funny songs and stories of Tom Paxton and Bill Harley.
A chalkboard and metal dry erase board combo with a storage area that will help your child keep art supplies organized and accessible.
5 of 9 Preschool-age girl playing with paints and markers (© altrendo images/Altrendo/Getty Images)
Outside toys
What to consider:
Because kids with ADHD need to move around a lot, toys that they can play with outside are favorites. Look for outside toys that are relatively frustration-free and safe.
Anything with wheels—a scooter, bike, roller blades or skateboard—is great for all kids. But adults must take extra time to help children with ADHD to learn to use them safely.
Our gift suggestions:

A good excuse to run around outside on a windy day. Kids will need help learning how to fly them. For ages 5 and up.

With this toy, kids play catch using a "smart" ball with a big mouth. The level of difficulty can adjust, thereby minimizing frustration levels. For two to six players. Ages 7 and up.

A variation on the traditional Twister game that involves running around outside (but not getting tangled up with other kids). Ages 4 and up.
6 of 9 Children riding skateboard, scooter and bicycle (© John Lund/Tiffany Schoepp/Blend Images/Getty Images)
Indoor toys
What to consider:
One of the biggest obstacles to kids' enjoying their toys is that some toys are simply not age-appropriate, says Steven Aarons, owner of Barston's Child's Play in Washington, D.C. Because many kids with ADHD don't handle frustration well, parents need to look out for toys that annoy and put them away until the child is older.
Our gift suggestions:

Parents of children with ADHD report that their kids love telling make-believe stories using action figures. Find the figures that match your kid's interests—toy soldiers, farm animals, cartoon characters or literary figures. For all ages.

Gertie Balls are easy to catch and won't frustrate. They're soft and lightweight and safe in the hands of an impulsive child. "A Gertie ball is good because if you get hit in the face, it won't hurt," notes Oppenheim. Ages 5 to 7.

These toy figures are even more fun for kids with ADHD than Legos, because once assembled they stay together well, explains Aarons. Ages 4 to 12.
7 of 9 Child playing with toy soldiers (© Banana Stock/Agefotostock)
Books
What to consider:
Children with ADHD are often reluctant readers, but many will get into short books that are part of an exciting series, says Ann Van Deusen, longtime children's librarian at Burgundy Farm Country Day School in Alexandria, Va.
Van Deusen takes pride in getting all kids excited about books. The following are some of her—and the kids'—favorite series.
Our gift suggestions:
The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. Read these stories to your kindergartners until they can read them on their own. Up to age 9.
The Fairy Realm series by Emily Rodda. A modern adventure for ages 8 to 11. Boys will enjoy Rodda's Deltora Quest series. Ages 9 to 13.
The Boys Start the War series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. The battle of the sexes is on, and usually of more interest to girl readers than boys. Ages 9-13.
The Joey Pigza series by Jack Gantos. Protagonist Joey has ADHD and his life is far from perfect, but it's relatable. "Kids say, 'This is me,'" Van Deusen reports. Ages 10 to 13.
The Bone series by Jeff Smith are graphic mystery stories. Ages 11 and up.
Resources:
For more gift ideas, consult 50 Activities and Games for Kids with ADHD (Magination Press, 2000), edited by Patricia Quinn.
Tina Adler is a Washington, D.C.–based freelance health writer.
8 of 9 Father and son lying on sofa reading a book (© Kevin Fitzgerald/Getty Images)