Now that the dust has settled from the holidays, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 media-free gifts for kids with ADHD and other impulsive behaviors that I have used, bought, and had success with in our own home with our extreme child. While I completely empathize with all parents who have counted on Dora or the Paw Patrol to entertain your child (GUILTY!!), this list steers kids away from the screen and turns them on to hands-on and free play opportunities.
- Stretch Armstrong This gift has been one that we weren’t sure about at first, but a friend bought the mini version for our son and it was a HUGE hit! He is able to take frustration out as well as use his arms to wrap around things like handles (is ours the only kid who does this?). This was so popular that other kids were fighting to try and play with it the entire day. Totally worth the minimal investment!
- Kinex These building toys allow our ADHD son to use the time he is in hyper-focus mode (usually an hour after taking his medication) to design, engineer, and construct incredible structures. Additionally, thanks to the magnetic components, they don’t tend to fall down as easily as other toys like wooden log toys. If you have younger siblings in the house, this is a necessity.
- Koosh Ball In our experience, our son throws things when he has a meltdown. We are always learning how to improve his environment to prevent or reduce his episodes, but we have patched plenty of holes in walls from books, toys, and other things being thrown during a fit of rage. Koosh balls aren’t soft so it has the feel of a real ball (he has Sensory Processing Disorder as well) but it won’t break things when thrown. Additionally, for those with autism or sensory needs, this is a wonderful addition to a sensory collection.
- Math Dice In the four years we have been going through the journey of our son’s ADHD and other behavior diagnosis, we are learning that many kids have exceptional skills in subjects like math and science as their analytical minds look at the world differently than most who’d prefer to color at this age. These math dice allow kids to play games with numbers, expand their math skills to include multiplication and division (you can start with basic addition and subtraction), as well as making school lessons fun! Our son has asked to play this even when we aren’t working on school.
- Sling Shot and Army Men Our son will literally spend HOURS putting these old school toys to work! This gift was inspired by my dad who used to play with these as a child himself. From strategy to trajectory we have worked in great lessons around these little green guys and marbles. Free play abounds when our son can set up a cardboard backdrop and let the shots fly toward the army men, setting them up and knocking them down over and over. *Warning: Not suitable for kids under 3.
- Subscriptions and Memberships This may be our favorite gift since going tiny. Buying memberships to make memories takes up no space and provides experiences for our kids who we sometimes tend to keep from big events because of their behaviors. Since downsizing, we have done memberships to the local zoo, the museum, and a regional farm with tons of activities throughout the year. We are loving subscriptions that deliver small packages with hands-on activities for our wild kiddos both for the way it puts their minds to work as well as how their faces light up when they see mail addressed to them. We’d recommend these specific subscriptions: Kiwi, Geek Fuel, Green Kid Crafts, and Groovy Lab In A Box.
- Legos To say our son is obsessed with Legos is an understatement. If a day goes by when my foot isn’t impaled with one of these plastic pieces of shrapnel, it is a miracle! However, this has proven to be a good cool down activity for our son when he is post-meltdown. We recommend the Lego kits over just barrels of loose legos because it helps him follow directions and gives him an end goal. This allows him to focus more easily on a specific task as well as to use the already constructed pieces for free play. We also incorporate Legos into his Roadschooling lessons such as math, science experiments, and building projects to go along with specific subject units (such as building a barn for farm week). This meets our son on his level with something that he enjoys doing so he is learning while having fun!
- Model Airplanes and Cars These have been a new experiment in our household and, admittedly, can cause frustration at times. We have spent several years learning our son’s triggers and doing our best to create an environment that encourages him to succeed. You may already know these wouldn’t work for you child and that’s OK. For our son’s times of intense focus, these are incredible. It also promotes bonding between he and his dad because they work on them together. We prefer the wooden kits over the metal for a few reasons-less tiny (see: injurious) pieces for our one year old daughter to find and swallow, the ability to customize without toxic paints, and less cost investment.
- Pin Art Considering our son also has a SPD diagnosis, I was hesitant with this purchase, but these are super inexpensive and apparently still cool from their initial launch in the 80s. This collection of dull pins where kids can press their hand, face, or toys into to create shapes drives our son crazy…in a good way! He thinks it is hilarious, it makes no mess, and it is completely safe for our toddler daughter.
- Balance Board This gift was completely accidental as my mother-in-law had one for working out and our son found it during a visit to their house. By the end of the evening, he was riding this thing like a professional snowboarder! We have noticed many kids with behavior diagnosis also struggle with basic developmental milestones such as balance. This is a fun workout for kids and a GREAT way to burn off the extra energy they seem to always have plenty of! It also doubles as a moving seat when he is watching a movie or playing in the floor.
Living tiny has taught us much, but the emphasis on making memories over collecting “stuff” is one of my favorite lessons. This list is one that was thought over for some time to be sure that each item would be affordable, add value to the lives of our kids with ADHD, as well as being items we wouldn’t have pitched with the rest of the things that didn’t make the cut in our pre-downsizing purges.
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