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The Best and Worst Gifts for Children with ADHD

November 22, 2023

The perfect holiday gift is seldom obvious. Just because it’s on your child’s wish list or strategically placed by the register doesn’t mean you should bring it home. Finding a gift they’ll truly love — and one that won’t trigger headaches or fights — begins by considering what not to buy. Knowing what to avoid will help narrow down a list of items that will uniquely delight your child — and not drive a wedge into your relationship.

In a recent survey, ADDitude readers shared the best gifts and worst gifts they ever bought for their child. Below, find their holiday strategies based on past gift-giving mistakes, plus a list of classic gifts that never fail to bring joy.

4 Gift Categories to Avoid

  • Avoid shopping based on your child’s latest obsession. ADHD interests can change as quickly as the tides — and often do. “For a long time, LEGOs were a favorite, but not since he turned about 10 or 11,” said Laureen. “Our child has lots of short-term interests, so I’d say we’ve had a lot of toys that lost appeal very soon after he received them.”
  • Toys with lots of small parts are initially fascinating but overwhelming and easy to lose. “American Girl and the related doll accessories (Generation Girl at Target) have these sets with a bazillion little pieces like forks, knives, cups, and plates,” said Amanda from Ohio. “My kid is drawn to them because she likes all the tiny little items but ends up losing them or loses interest.”
  • Stay away from games with overly complicated instructions and a single winner. “[My son] has a really hard time being patient, following the rules, and accepting if he loses the game,” said one reader.
  • Be cautious when purchasing craft items that your child will use haphazardly. Slimy, putty, goopy — if you buy it, you might also be cleaning it up. “The worst gift was an expensive acrylic paint set,” said Thohahènte. “Learning techniques, setting up to work, and cleaning up after are too much for her ADHD brain. Her phone and paper sketch pad have the immediacy and accessibility that work for her.”

[Download: How to Prioritize This Holiday Season]

Gifts Ideas That Deliver

Headphones have helped with motivation. My son listen to music while doing homework or chores or any undesired tasks.” — Allie, Louisiana

“My 10-year-old girl gets super hyperfocused on conquering brain games. She was all in with Rubik’s cube and speed cubing.” — KJ, North Carolina

“A spinner ring has been very helpful for two of my daughters to be able to fidget while completing a task or sitting for a longer period of time.” —Vicky, Virginia

“My 9-year-old loves stuffed animals. She never leaves the house without one. I recently realized they are her comfort item and make her feel more regulated, so I let her carry them around.” — Heather, Wisconsin

“I had a large inflatable exercise ball when I was a teen and loved it because it helped me stim and increased dopamine. Then, I got one for my kid. We forgot about it, he grew up, I pulled it out the other day, and now at 14 (same age as when I had mine) he has been drawn to it like a magnet. It helps him stay engaged in movies and get his energy out in a fun way. It fills my heart with so much joy to see him get out of it what I did — until my brother took it outside and popped it (still working on forgiving).” — Jen, Utah

More ADHD-friendly gifts recommended by readers:

ADHD Gift-Giving: Next Steps

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