When it comes to ADHD gift-giving, it is highly unlikely that a toddler would be diagnosed with ADHD. Toddlers by nature are hyperactive, have a short attention span, and a short fuse. But if you have ADHD yourself, you've probably heard the statistic that kids with even one ADHD parent have a 35% chance of developing it themselves, so if you're like me, you're probably looking out for signs. That's why I believe that during this critical time, what we can do as parents is provide them a nurturing environment. That's how I came up with this gift guide! The ADHD-friendly gifts for toddlers below encourage those executive functioning skills we may lack in ourselves: focus, organization, sustaining effort, emotional regulation, memory, and initiative.
Aside from being a mama, I have an extensive teaching background. I taught 6th grade Social Studies for almost a decade, I was a graduate assistant at a Reggio Emilia preschool for 2 years, I was a nanny and babysitter all throughout college and grad school for a range of ages, and now volunteer at a Montessori-ish school where my daughter goes.
After allllll these years, I can say without a doubt that less is more. It sounds counterintuitive, but having less options, less “stuff” is what keeps kids busy for hours and hours. And it's not just keeping them busy, but by having less stuff, you're actually helping them on an emotional and intellectual level.
About the Guide
My top choices for toddler gifts are ones that will grow with them into childhood, are open-ended (for imaginative and creative play), and also aren't an eye-sore sitting in your house — because that matters to me, haha! Another important piece of this ADHD-friendly guide is that these items are so fun to gift because they're actually useful, so mamas everywhere will be grateful for your thoughtfulness and consideration.
Most conventional “toys” get old quickly and just take up space. I focused on “non-toys” that encourage pretend play, creativity, imagination, critical thinking, gross motor and fine motor skills. Kids are SO smart. They can make something out of nothing, but these are the gifts that help give them a little push in that direction.
- Wooden Toy Pram — I can't even tell you how much use we've gotten from this. We got this one from Etsy. My toddler loves pushing her baby and stuffed animals in it and my 1 year old used it to learn how to walk! Here's another wooden option.
- Pretend Shopping Cart
- Pretend Kitchen Tools — We love how realistic these are!
- Balance Bike — A key component of this ADHD-friendly gifts is that it supports important gross motor skills.
- Wooden Musical Instruments — listening to and creating music is so beneficial for memory and focus!
- Train Set — I love how open-ended these are, and they grow well into late childhood.
- Pretend Food Set — We love non-plastic play food. Wood is great but felt is even better because the paint won't chip off! Pretend food (and real food) is one of the best imaginative play option because the possibilities are endless.
- Magnetic Tiles — A must for toddlers. These tiles give us endless hours of play. If a toddler you love already has some, consider gifting the add ons like the Marble Run and Race Track.
- Wooden Play Kitchen — This one is pricey but we split it with my parents 3 years ago and it's the most loved “toy” in our whole house. It's even pretty enough to keep out in our living room! I also love this option. Less expensive and still pretty!
- Costumes — Forest (2) and Marina (almost 4) both love dressing up as a firefighter! I'm thinking of getting them either an astronaut or doctor costume this Christmas
- Doctor/Dentist Kit — One of the best Amazon purchases ever
- Baby Doll and Doll Diapers — Doll play activates brain regions associated with empathy and social skills. This is important for both boys and girls!
- Child Size Cleaning Pretend Play Set — The book Hunt, Gather, Parent talks a lot about encouraging kids to help out around the house and this set always gets my kids going! Also, this mini vacuum actually works!
- Bounce House — one of the greatest gifts we have ever received. We have even rearranged the living room to blow it up inside on rainy or cold days haha!
- Realistic Animal Figures — Farm & Safari animal figures help build vocabulary, promote pretend play, and encourage creativity
- Scooter — Our favorite outdoor toy. We literally take this thing wherever we go. My toddler learned how to ride it before 2 but it's adjustable so she'll use the same one til she's at least 5!
- Outdoor Play Set — a great investment for all year round!
- Pikler Arch and Triangle — A top choice for Montessori-based gross motor play. Open-ended gifts are always ADHD-friendly. Bonus if it also encourages movement!
- Magic Painting Books — a lifesaver at restaurants!
- Kinetic Sand — so great for sensory play, and the sand sticks to itself so wayyyyy less messy than a lot of other options!
- Favorite Books for Toddlers — You can't go wrong with gifting books! These are the books my toddler asks for over and over and over again!
- In My Heart
- The Napping House
- We're Going on A Bear Hunt
- I Love You Forever
- Little Blue Truck
- Everyone Poops
- I Am A Bunny
- The Boss Baby
- I Love You, Stinky Face
- When I Am Big
- Press Here
- Little Pea
- The Runaway Bunny
- Where the Wild Things Are
- Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site
- The Gruffalo
- Llama Llama Red Pajama
- It's Okay To Be Different
- The Giving Tree
- The Pout Pout Fish
- Bear Snores On
- Giraffes Can't Dance