-FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE-
Contact: February 17, 2006
The ADHD Child Can Play
Toys for Children with ADHD*
New Orleans, LA - February 17, 2006 -- Childhood should
be playful. Play is said to be the work of children. But, sometimes,
the ability to play becomes strained when children have conditions
such as Attention Deficit Disorder, with or without hyperactivity
Part of living with a child with ADHD is to understand the
special needs of these children in order to maintain a happy and
healthy balance. This includes the necessity of selecting the
right playthings so playtime activities do not become more stressful
by conflicting with what these children can comfortably manage
and enjoy. One way we've heard ADHD described is that it's a performance
disorder and not a deficiency of knowledge or skill. It is primarily
manifested as a set of symptoms that interfere with the ability
to focus on a task and get it completed.
Child psychologists and psychiatrists value the importance
of play in therapy for children with ADHD. The right types of
play allow children to express themselves in ways they can't do
otherwise. Play within the right context and with the right supervision
can also improve a child's focusing abilities and help him or
her to learn the basics of getting along more cooperatively with
other children. Medical attention for proper diagnosis and consideration
of medication are certainly the core of treatment of ADHD. But
in many situations, proper managing of a child's environment and
activities can do a lot to keep the symptomatic behavior under
A toy doesn't have to be full of moving or electronic parts
to stimulate a child's imagination. Children with ADHD often have
difficulty with multi-step instructions and have an inability
to stay focused on the task at hand. They frequently become frustrated
with themselves in these situations. Toys can be very simple and
still do a better job of keeping a child focused and entertained
as well as giving them an outlet to express their feelings. Two
such toy categories are pretend play and art supplies.
The flexibility of these traditional play activities can be
as simple or involved as the opportunity permits. So, because
these types of play are events of totally variable lengths, a
child can complete the activity and feel a sense of accomplishment
and build confidence.
Another advantage of pretend play and artistic activities for
children with ADHD is that these categories of play allow parents
and caregivers to provide positive feedback and reinforcement
that is invaluable in keeping the child focused...and invaluable
for the child's self esteem.
Pretend Play - Children of almost every age enjoy pretend play
and benefit from the exploration of feelings that it affords.
Dolls and action figures, puppets, costumes and even blocks are
all toy categories that allow a child to fantasize and act out
situations. Under the right supervision, children with ADHD can
learn the value of considering the consequences of their actions.
As they decide what happens next in their fantasy, they can get
a better understanding of how others react to certain actions.
In situations where you can encourage them to finish their story
line, you also can help them get used to following through on
Drama - Dramatic activities such as skits, recitations, puppet
shows and simple storytelling can let a child concentrate on being
a different character for a short time. Put a costume on them
and watch how quickly they start getting into character. However,
it may take direction from you to keep them focused and enjoying
Costumes need not be elaborate to let a child be another character.
It need only be representational. A single feather in a headband,
a necktie, a hat, sunglasses, scrubs or even just a sign or patch
fastened to clothing is enough to let a child jump into another
role. Let the child use his or her imagination to help find costume
pieces as part of the dramatic play process. And don't restrict
them to the costume box. Colanders make great space helmets.
When Sid's children were growing up, they had a "costume
closet" with an assortment of coats, brightly colored shirts,
hats and accessories such as scarves, belts, wigs and, of course,
masks. If an article of clothing became outdated, before disposing
of it, they'd consider its costume potential. Putting together
a costume for Halloween was always a big event. On top of that,
living in New Orleans offered them Mardi Gras as a second costuming
event each year.
Playhouses and play tents - Giving a child a space of his or
her own is a great way to encourage imaginative pretend play.
Whether it's stretching a sheet over dining room chairs to make
a house or a purchased indoor or outdoor playhouse or play tent
with a theme, a child is free to role-play and make up scenarios
that could happen in the space.
At The Creativity Institute, we carry several types of playhouses,
play tents and tunnels in themes that include a teepee, theater
tent, castle and military camouflage. We also carry puppet theaters
that can double as play stores and other types of play spaces.
Our big foam blocks are large enough to construct make-believe
buildings and tunnels a child can climb over and under. We also
have play panels that can be moved around to create an ever-changing
mix of play environments. This type of pretend play is also conducive
to playing with others, offering an opportunity for a child to
develop those all-important socialization skills.
Puppet shows - Puppets allow a child to act out many different
roles and have fun with character voices. There are many sources
for skits that can be adapted to the puppet stage and even ready-to-perform
scripts in your library and on the Web. At The Creativity Institute,
we have a section devoted to puppetry with puppets and puppet
theaters. You'll find links to script resources on the Internet,
puppeteer tips and even a free sample scripts we adapted for the
puppet stage. To make it easier to get started, we've bundled
together puppets and puppet theater packages and even grouped
puppet casts with accompanying scripts, ready to perform. There's
an Aesop's Fables Puppet Starter Set with five puppets and four
fables adapted to the puppet stage. There's also an Old MacDonald
Puppet Starter Set with Farmer MacDonald and seven barnyard animal
puppets and an accompanying script of the song. Again, your direction
will be invaluable in providing enough structure for the event
that will let the children have a greater sense of accomplishment
and stay interested longer.
And because puppets offer a degree of separation from real
issues, they can offer lots of opportunities for learning about
inappropriate behaviors. For example, if a child with ADHD has
been overly aggressive with other children, acting out the consequences
with animal puppets can offer a more painless and effective lesson.
Record it - Getting the performances down on tape gives everyone
more opportunities to laugh and enjoy it all over again. There's
a difference between taping the children playing at creating the
performance and "making a movie" of the show, and both
are wonderful to watch again and again. Taping the children at
play shows their performance, as well as the behind-the-scenes
preparation. Making a movie is just a matter of trying to capture
what the audience would see. All you have to do is prepare the
children for the scene and start and stop the camera at the right
times - and move on. You can even start with a title card the
children can make for the show - using their own artistic skills.
If the child acts out while taping is underway, continue shooting,
but keep your reprimands to a minimum. Put your energy into trying
to refocus the child's attention toward continuing the performance
or easing into a hastier conclusion. Later, when viewing the tape,
the child may be able to see problem behaviors more clearly, rather
than focusing more on your anger.
Dollhouses and activity sets - Playing with dolls and action
figures is another valuable opportunity for pretend play. Dollhouses,
toy pirate ships, castles, firehouses, farms and other traditional
activity sets have the magic to let children get lost in their
imaginations. Even the more popular activity sets based on movies
and TV shows allow the same opportunities. And don't forget what
imaginations can do with boxes, blocks and anything that can become
the setting for a creative play session.
Blocks - Toys for children with ADHD should be simple and encourage
the use of their imaginations, and one of the most basic of toys
is building blocks. Block play can be great for many ages. From
simple stack-up and knock-over fun to imaginative building. Blocks
teach problem-solving skills, because a child discovers how stacking
and matching can produce different results. They can also become
components of pretend play, because a child can fantasize what
the structures are. There are also big foam blocks that are almost
"life size" and let children create their own fantasy
playhouses. These lightweight blocks are so versatile, they can
be climbed on or tunneled under. Magnetic block and construction
sets have pieces that connect in more ways than can conventional
plastic snap-together blocks and allow even more imaginative opportunities.
We also carry a selection of traditional and colorful wooden blocks
that are full of fantasy building opportunities.
Blocks, like many traditional toys, have other educational
advantages for a child with ADHD. The number of positive outcomes
is limitless, so children can continue playing until they've reached
a level of personal satisfaction. Whether the child is building
with traditional blocks or shoeboxes, try to show interest in
every structure. Encourage the child to name creations, even
if it's simply Wobbly Land or Crazy Tower. Showing interest without
criticism offers your child valuable, long-lasting affirmation.
Art Activities - Any medium such as crayons, markers, chalk,
paint and clay can give a child a wealth of expressive opportunities.
Sometimes you may want to suggest a subject idea to get them started.
Art supplies are some of the least expensive educational toys
you can provide. Gwynn used to bring home old stationery and unused
printed samples to give her children a virtually unlimited supply
of art paper. She'd also purchase low-end copy paper, offering
the kids free rein on a giant stack of blank paper.
And here's something you can try on a big scale. Sid used to
get leftover paper billboards from the local outdoor company and
tack them on his backyard fence, backside out, to give the children
blank giant-size panels for murals. The change in scale of their
artist's canvas gets them thinking of possibilities in a different
perspective and keeps them intrigued for hours. Another way to
give structure to art activities is with their own easel. We carry
a selection of folding, double-sided and adjustable easels that
provide a convenient supply of paper and drawing surfaces in a
self-contained, accessible environment.
One rule of thumb to follow to help inspire your kids to express
themselves is to encourage all efforts. Today's crooked stick
figure could lead to tomorrow's Picasso. Most important, artistic
expression is highly therapeutic to your child, even if it doesn't
happen to please your eye.
Books - There are many books that can hold a child's attention.
The public library is a great start and your librarian can help
you. Garage sales and community book fairs are a great way to
build a library of your own. Collections of rhymes, poems or
short stories are a good way to start with a child who is easily
The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio listed the top toys for children
with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and included,
among other things, a magnetic construction set, a tree-house-theme
dollhouse play set, a decorate-it-yourself birdfeeder, board games
and a simple, basic rubber ball. Oppenheim also suggested the
toy general categories of dramatic play and artistic activities.
The Creativity Institute is an online store that offers toys
and information dedicated to helping parents enhance creative
development in children, from infant through school age. The store
handpicks each educational toy based on its potential for bringing
out creative potential in children and includes such items as
puppet theaters, toy musical instruments, art supplies and building
blocks. The founders of The Creativity Institute are Gwynn Torres
and Sid Berger, both former advertising creative directors who've
raised five creative children between them.
*The National Institute of Mental Health recommends that if
ADHD is suspected, the diagnosis should be made by a professional
with training in ADHD. This includes child psychiatrists, psychologists,
developmental/behavioral pediatricians, behavioral neurologists
and clinical social workers. After ruling out other possible reasons
for the child's behavior, the specialist checks the child's school
and medical records and talks to teachers and parents who have
filled out a behavior rating scale for the child. A diagnosis
is made only after all this information has been considered.