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Child Development

10 Therapeutic Toys to Help Your Child with ADHD Improve Focus and Attention

May 31, 2023
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    Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often face challenges related to focus, attention, impulse control, and other skills. For example, fine motor, gross motor, and social skills.

    However, the right toys and types of play can help kids with ADHD fill in the blanks and navigate their symptoms if used correctly. "Therapeutic toys" generally describe toys that are either designed for or can be used for therapeutic purposes, which is why many providers use certain toys in their work. This approach is both effective and fun for children.

    Parents, caregivers, and educators can use many of the same items to support a child with ADHD and help them meet their individual goals. This article will discuss the benefits of therapeutic toys for kids with ADHD, types of toys to consider, and tips for selecting and using therapeutic toys effectively.

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    Understanding the Benefits of Therapeutic Toys for Children with ADHD

    Play is a crucial part of childhood development. This is true whether a child does or does not have a condition like ADHD. Toys and games naturally help children develop life-long skills we all use daily, such as problem-solving, creative thinking, and concentration. When it comes to the use of therapeutic toys specifically, you'll often have certain goals for a child in mind. Accordingly, you want to pick toys and activities that help the child meet that goal.

    How therapeutic toys can improve focus and attention

    Most toys and play activities require some level of focus, working memory, and other cognitive skills. Therapeutic toys used for this purpose can help children with ADHD boost those skills. Some toys also give kids a chance to move around, which is known to aid attention and focus in people with ADHD and can help kids relieve excess energy (hyperactivity), which might otherwise impede focus or lead to inappropriate behavior.

    How therapeutic toys can promote social skills

    Games and toys that require friendship skills, like taking turns, can promote social skills in children. If social skills are one of the primary areas you want to work on with your child, some of the best toys will be those that kids can either roleplay with or that involve multiple people.

    The role of play in ADHD therapy

    Professionals like occupational therapists are masters in using play to help kids learn a variety of skills. They may work on focus, coordination, emotion regulation, habits and routines, or something else. Some toys, like sensory toys, might be used to calm a child so they can concentrate or move through high-stress, restless moments. Others will be used to show kids how to interact with others and apply other practical skills.

    In addition to providing skill-building opportunities, children often communicate through play. This is part of why play therapy is so popular for kids experiencing an array of concerns, such as anxiety, ADHD, or trauma.

    10 Recommended Therapeutic Toys for Children with ADHD

    The following toys are all used frequently in therapeutic environments for children with ADHD and related disorders. These picks may help kids with paying attention and other skills.

    Fidget toys

    At the top of the list of ADHD toys, the fidget toy is among the best. The right fidget toy can be a game-changer. Not only are they a way to release excess energy, but for kids with ADHD, the extra sensory input and movement may aid focus. Most fidget toys are small, quiet, and transportable. Fidget toys can be used at home, doctor's appointments, in the classroom, on road trips, or elsewhere.

    Fidget toys come in many different forms. Popular picks for kids with ADHD include but aren't limited to the following:

    • Fidget spinners.
    • Pop-its.
    • Monkey noodles.
    • Sensory slugs.
    • Tangle fidget toys.
    • Putty.

    Price point: Most are under $10

    Kinetic sand

    Kinetic sand stimulates a child's creativity while keeping their hands busy. Because it gives kids appropriate stimulation, much like fidget toys, it can aid concentration. It comes in an array of bright colors, and it's easy to shape or clean up. Some kinetic sand sets come with molds, but various colors may also be sold separately.

    Price point: $2.99 to $35.

    Squishy stress balls

    Squishy stress balls are largely used for stress relief but can also be used to fidget or occupy one's hands when it's time to focus. Stress toys come in diverse colors and shapes nowadays, including those that are child-friendly. In-person or online, you can find stress relief toys for kids that take the form of land animals, sea creatures, and many other different shapes.

    Price point: Under $10.

    Building sets

    Building sets give kids a chance to practice fine motor skills, concentration, and problem-solving. They stimulate the brain, and kids can play with them alone or with other people. 

    Examples of building sets to try include:

    • Model-building sets.
    • Legos.
    • Jumbo blocks.
    • Lincoln logs.
    • Letter blocks.

    Price point: Depends on product type.

    Puzzle toys

    Puzzle toys support an array of different skills. They can help kids boost problem-solving skills, memory, and hand-eye coordination, all while giving kids a chance to practice paying attention and maintaining focus.

    Types of puzzle toys include but aren't limited to the following:

    • Classic puzzles.
    • Board games (the Tetris board game, Jenga, etc.)
    • Puzzle cubes and boards.

    Price point: Depends on product type.

    Play tents

    Play tents are fun for children and can help create a relaxing, safe space for them. As for therapeutic play tents, many families find that sensory tents are particularly helpful for kids with ADHD, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, and related concerns. One solid example is the sensory tent calming hideout for kids, which you can get in person or online.

    Price point: Sensory tents often go for around $70-90. Other play tents may vary and can start at around $20.

    Balance boards

    Balance boards have many uses. Often, occupational therapists use balance boards with kids to improve balance and coordination, provide sensory input, or give them the opportunity to practice focusing on a task. Parents and educators can do the same. Teaching a child how to use a balance board is relatively simple, and they make great additions to PE class, recess, or play areas. Even better, research indicates that balance boards are effective in reducing inattention symptoms in kids with ADHD.

    Price point: $30 to $80

    Calming sensory toys

    There's a diverse selection of sensory toys on the market. Many children with ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, and related conditions will find that the right sensory experience boosts their focus, helps to reduce anxiety and stress, and aids self-regulation.

    When you pick a sensory toy, think about what sensory needs your child tends to have. Do they tend to need more stimulation, or are they more apt to want relief from sensory overload? Having a selection of sensory toys at home can be ideal.

    Calming sensory toys include but aren't limited to:

    • Sensory swing or hammock.
    • Hugging "peapod" chair.
    • Chew necklaces and toys.
    • Sensory tubes.
    • Weighted stuffed animals.
    • Scooter board.

    Price point: Depends on product type.

    Art supplies

    Creative play is healthy and essential for all children. Making art helps kids practice staying focused on a task, can reduce stress, and of course, encourages creativity. Keeping different combinations of arts and crafts supplies at home is a great way to make sure that you'll always have a way to occupy your children when needed.

    While an extensive range of items could fall into this category, some examples include:

    • Non-toxic paint, markers, crayons, and pencils.
    • Glue and glitter glue.
    • Pipe cleaners.
    • Jewelry-making supplies.
    • Model-painting kits.
    • Sand bottle kits.
    • Nail art kits.
    • Clay.

    Price point: Depends on product type.

    Musical instruments

    Sometimes, kids will listen to music in therapy and other supportive environments for calming, attention-related, or other purposes. Musical instruments are also used at times. Playing instruments requires that you maintain focus, but that’s just one advantage. They also inspire confidence, persistence, memory, and so much more.

    Depending on your child's needs, you might try:

    • Guitar.
    • Piano/keyboard.
    • Bongo drums.
    • Regular drums/drum sets.
    • Ukulele.
    • Maracas.

    Price point: Depends on product type.

    Tips for Selecting and Using Therapeutic Toys Effectively

    Many children will use and benefit from a mix of different toys in the list above. With that said, some tips can help you select and use therapeutic toys effectively. Consider the following as you make your choice.

    Your child's needs and preferences

    The most important tip for selecting therapeutic toys effectively for kids is to choose what you think will work best for your child. Is there a toy that seems like it could be too dangerous for your child? What kind of toys does your child gravitate toward, and what are their needs?

    A high-energy child might be most drawn toward toys and games that require movements, like a fidget toy or scooter board. Similarly, if you opt for musical instruments, you may want to go with one that a high-energy ADHD child can move around with while they play, like a guitar.

    On the other hand, a child with sensory issues that result in distress or disrupted focus may lean toward a toy that soothes or suitably stimulates their senses, like a weighted stuffed animal or sensory swing.

    A child's age, developmental level, and the skills you want to work on all matter. The best toy(s) for younger children might not work for an older child and vice versa. If a specific toy requires supervision (e.g., some art projects or craft kits), ensure that adults are available to watch the child closely.

    Set clear goals and expectations when applicable

    If you have a goal or expectation, it should be clear and reasonable so that kids understand. An example of a realistic goal could be balancing on a balance board for longer than the time before (you might use a timer to count the seconds a child remains on the board).

    Expectations might relate more to how or when toys are used. For example, noisy or otherwise disruptive items might not be the best toys to take to school. In that case, the expectation you set could be that certain toys are reserved for specific times or environments.

    Use therapeutic toys in conjunction with other treatments

    While many toys are recommended for kids with ADHD and are used by professionals who specialize in the condition, they can't replace medical treatment. Therapeutic toys should be used alongside any other treatments and supports a child has in place, such as medication, individual therapy, parent training, and behavior plans.

    Incorporate therapeutic toys into your child's routine

    If a toy's a part of a child's regular, expected routine, it'll help them get into the swing of using it. Many therapeutic toys can be incorporated into a child's daily schedule easily.

    For example, a child may:

    • Sit in a sensory swing during reading time or another scheduled time of day.
    • Take small fidget toys or calming sensory toys to doctor's appointments, stores, and other spaces where they may get restless or experience nervous energy.
    • Practice musical instruments regularly.
    • Take approved toys to school.

    Practical Applications of Therapeutic Toys for Children with ADHD

    To a child, using therapeutic toys will often feel like regular play. However, children may need some direction from adults if the toys are used to help kids meet specific goals. Here are some practical ways families and teachers can use the toys in this article.

    At home

    If your child has an occupational therapist or works with another provider who uses toys in their practice, they may have certain exercises for you to complete with your kid(s).

    With that said, here are some approaches you can use at home:

    • Narrative play. For kids who get distracted easily, extra engagement is helpful. Parents may ask kids to narrate what's going on during play. You can also ask kids to describe objects (e.g., "The stress ball has a squishy texture and is purple"), which can support language skills as well as concentration.
    • Multi-player toys and games. Kids need a mixture of independent play and play that involves others. Most of the time, kids learn to connect with other people for the first time through interactions they have at home with parents, caregivers, and other adults. Outside of asking kids to narrate, you can get them involved by playing with certain toys (e.g., building toys) together.
    • Modeling. Similar to toys that allow you to play together, you can model the use of certain toys in front of your child to get them involved. For example, you might practice using a sensory or fidget toy together. It's easier for kids to start something if they aren't the only ones.
    • Contests and games. For toys like balance boards, challenges like "How long can you balance?" can help kids get started.

    At school

    For younger children, play is often a part of classroom life as is. Regardless of the age group you teach, many therapeutic toys make fantastic additions to the classroom. For example, you might build a basket of sensory toys and similar items, like stress balls, in class that kids can use throughout the day. Most of these are of great value and are easy to find.

    In some cases, a child with ADHD will have accommodations in place that let them use therapeutic toys that might otherwise not be allowed in school. For example, a child's 504 plan might allow fidget toys.


    Toys are frequently used in therapeutic settings to help kids learn important skills and express themselves. Parents, educators, and other adults who have kids with ADHD in their life can use the toys in this article to promote focus and an array of other skills. Sometimes, kids will gravitate toward therapeutic toys and benefit from them on their own. Other times, adults will need to work with kids on using certain toys or working toward specific goals. While therapeutic toys for kids with ADHD can be beneficial, remember that they don't replace working with an occupational therapist, mental health professional, or another provider. Always seek help and support from a child's healthcare team if needed.

    If you found this article helpful, visit the Joon Parenting Resource Hub for more. 


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.