Chairs for Kids with ADHD / Wobble chairs: In this post, we will review different alternative seating options that may help kids with impulsivity issues, sensory disorders or special needs improve classroom behavior and better focus.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a medical condition that affects behavior. Kids with ADHD may have trouble with self-control, and concentration. It may affect them at home and/or school.
Depending on the prevalence of symptoms, ADHD is classified in three different types:
- Predominantly Inattentive that struggle with attention, focus and concentration
- Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive. Kids seem to be in constant activity, restless, fidgety, having difficulties sitting still and showing impulsive behaviors (interrupting others, prone to accidents, acting without thinking)
- Combined Presentation, presenting equal symptoms from both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive types.
We often hear that some kids with ADHD just can’t sit for an extended period of time.
The inability to sit still may lead to problems at school, disruption in the classroom, or academic underperformance
One of the strategies that shows promising results in helping to improve performance, attention and in-seat behavior is alternative seating.
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What is Alternative Seating?
Alternative seating is a sensory-based intervention that aims to support a child’s need for sensory stimulation.
Alternative seating allows the child to move, bounce and engage core muscles by substituting the regular chair for active seating solutions .
These are some examples of alternative seating for the classroom or home:
- exercise ball chair / yoga ball
- wobble chairs / flexible seating stool / active chair
- sensory cushions / wiggle cushions
- chair bands / bouncy bands
Research on dynamic seating systems is still in its infancy but some studies on active seating options have shown some promising results when using therapy balls and wobble cushions (Disc ‘O’ Sit cushions).
Chairs for Kids with ADHD (Wobble Chairs, Cushions & Other Movement/Fidgeting Accommodations)
Let’s review ten great active seating ideas for home and the classroom:
Exercise Balls /Balance Ball Chairs
Research suggests that the use of therapy balls for students with ADHD may facilitate in-seat behavior and legible word productivity of students.
(Source: Classroom Seating for Children With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Therapy Balls Versus Chairs, The American Journal of Occupational Therapy)
These are some examples of therapy ball adaptations to active seating:
Balance Ball Chairs
Balance Ball Chairs are absolutely perfect for children with ADHD.
Not only are they fun and innovative, they’re actually effective.
Children with various different needs will want to sit in this chair. Here’s why I recommend this chair:
- Kids are able to focus more, while balancing their bodies on the balance ball.
- This chair has wheels for easy movement around the classroom or home if needed.
- Promotes healthy posture
- Keeps your body engaged and your mind focused.
The Gaiam kids balance ball is an example of therapy ball chair ⇓:
Why I like it:
- Stability balls in general help with focusing the mind, but this one allows for sitting and movement.
- Children thoroughly enjoy sitting on these chairs.
- This brand is well known for having quality products.
- They even have an adult version of this chair!
- You may need to re-inflate the ball to get to its perfect size.
- Ideally this balance ball chair is intended to be used by children ages 5 to 8 or between 42 and 51 inches tall (106-130 centimeters). For children taller than this height, the adult version may be necessary.
Peanut Balls are an amazing solution for parents and teachers looking to increase focus in children. This flexible seating product is sure to keep kids actively balancing their bodies to improve focus and concentration.
Here’s why these uniquely shaped balls work.
- studies show that balancing on a ball encourages blood flow to the brain that results in increased attentiveness
- the shape allows for more stability and a cradling effect to make things safer
- promotes healthy posture and core strength both of which decrease inattentiveness.
Why I like it:
- The unique shape seems to intrigue children and encourage them to get their “wiggles out”. It works similarly to a balance ball chair without the big price tag.
- Given its price point, many schools opt to buy multiple peanut balls for students to share as needed.
Pro Tip: For teachers looking for affordable “classroom gifts” from parents, this is a perfect option that no one thinks about!
Wobble chairs are often referred to as wiggle chairs, wobble stools or even ADHD chairs.
They are a flexible seating solution for kids who can’t sit still, and some of the benefits they suggest are:
- improves posture
- strengthens children’s core
- promotes movement while remaining seated
These are a couple of examples the highest-rated wobble stools for flexible seating classrooms:
- wobble stools for elementary and middle school students
- wobble stools for teens (adjustable height- ages 12 to 18)
They are comfortable and cushioned , and safe for children due to its rubberized bottom. No need to worry about them tipping over or getting hurt.
Why I like them:
- These chairs comes in many different colors, so kids can pick the one they love.
- They are lightweight and come apart easily for storage.
- They fit perfectly under tables and encourage students to actively learn.
- Perfect for kids with ADHD.
A weakness: It is recommended for children up to 7th grade, but it may be more effective for children in younger grades (K-5).
A Bungee Chair isn’t quite what you would expect. At first sight it looks uncomfortable, and ineffective. But when you ask children and adults who have used the chair, there’s no question whether it is effective or not. This chair can help with a number of things.
- Children who have difficulty sitting still on hard surfaces, will be pleasantly surprised with how comfortable this chair is.
- Despite its comfort level, it doesn’t allow for slumping and poor posture.
- Allows children to bounce while remaining seated.
- Allows children to focus on school work or even games!
Why I like it:
- Children love sitting in the chair, and are pleasantly surprised with its comfort. When children are comfortable, they’re more likely to be actively listening, thereby actively learning.
- This chair folds away so that it doesn’t take up a lot of space all the time,
Pro Tip: This chair might be the most effective if used periodically, rather than a permanent seating alternative. Once the child/student uses it for the allotted time, it can be folded away for another time.
Some research has shown that the use of wobble cushions as an occupational therapy intervention may improve attention in the school setting.
(Source: Effectiveness of Disc ‘O’ Sit Cushions on Attention to Task in Second-Grade Students With Attention Difficulties, The American Journal of Occupational Therapy)
A wobble cushion is often referred to as a “wiggle seat” or a “sensory cushion”.
There are plenty of cushions available in the market. I will link to a highly-rated one for your reference:
A wiggle seat is a great product that works for children of all ages.
It allows children to
- increase their body awareness, by encouraging “active sitting”
- have a comfortable sitting area, instead of a hard surface.
- sit on the floor with their wiggle seat and focus on activities such as “circle time” or “morning meeting”
- improve body posture
- reduce strain on the body’s joints
- use the textured side to meet tactile sensory needs
Why I like it:
- Wiggle seats allow children to appear as though they’re sitting still, but in reality they’re getting their much needed impulse to move.
- They also build core strength and flexibility in the process.
- It’s a very affordable way to check if this type of sensory-based intervention works for your kid -> We use our wobble cushion on a desk chair (with wheels), so we get the extra movement of the revolving chair!)
- Sedentary adults can greatly benefit from using this kind of product.
- Do not over inflate this cushion. By doing so, it will reduce the effectiveness of it.
- Chair bands can be the perfect solution for kids and adults! Whether they have fidgety feet, ADHD, trouble focusing, or all of the above.
These chair bands can help with a number of situations:
- Children having trouble staying in their seat at dinner time
- Children who need to fidget to focus on schoolwork.
- Students working in a classroom setting who need movement.
- Increasing sitting times at a desk/table in general.
Why I like them:
- You may not be able to change your classroom chairs, but these bands are an affordable option
- They are made out of durable material, convenient to install and replace.
- For many older children, chair bands allow them to fulfill their need to fidget in a discreet manner.
Pro Tip: For teachers looking to be inclusive, these chair bands work for all different types of children, with or without ADHD.
Before we move into other classroom (or home) accommodations, these are other active sitting solutions you often find in the special education classroom because of their calming effect on the kids:
- Rocking chairs
- Massage chairs
- Bean bags
Other Flexible Seating Accommodations for Students with ADHD
A standing desk is sure to keep kids energetic and motivated. Here are a few reasons why standing desks work:
- moving and fidgeting is a natural way to relieve symptoms of ADHD, these desks allow for moving without disruption.
- they increase concentration
- they improve physical health
Why I like them:
- Standing desks may help children improve focus while also being active listeners and participants in a classroom setting.
Some schools in the US are even advocating for the transition of standing desks in all classrooms for all students. The research being done highlights our need for movement and less sedentary lifestyles.
Tip: There are different desk heights available. The examples I’m linking to is ideally suited for middle school and high school age children.
An anti-fatigue mat works perfectly with a standing desk to alleviate sore feet and thereby allow users to use the standing desk more effectively. This mat also helps
- relieve stress
- work on relaxing your muscles, which reduces ADHD symptoms
- allow users to move instead of just standing in place.
Why I like it:
- This mat is durable and relatively inexpensive.
- It is made for users to balance their bodies thereby engaging their minds and bodies to keep them engaged for hours on end.
- Concentration increases, and more work gets done throughout the day.
Tip: This device is safest for children and teenagers who are able to balance their bodies without adult supervision.
Not every “in seat”product has to rely on a seating item.
In fact, a hand roller may help improves focus, relieves stress and is very discreet. Here’s a list of reasons why this product is great for ADHD students:
- completely silent
- fits kids’ hands
- travel friendly
- improves mental clarity
- allows kids to “play” during classroom instruction
Why I like it:
- The main reason this product makes the list is because it does all the things that larger items such as a standing desk or balance ball do, in a small, convenient package. Kids can take this item everywhere they go without bringing attention to themselves or causing a disruption.
- Not only is it convenient, it is also surprisingly useful. Some people uses this type of fidgeting item to help break unhealthy habits such as nail biting, skin picking, scratching and even restless leg swinging.
Tip: For small children the junior option is recommended. For older children and/or adults with larger hands, the original is recommended.
Weighted Lap Pad
Weighted products provide deep pressure touch, a type of firm pressure on the muscles (tactile and proprioceptive stimulation) that may help assist kids in calming down, engaging in activities, and improving responsiveness to instructions.
A weighted lap pad is perfect for kids looking to feel calm and focused at home or in their classroom.
It is just the right weight for young children and allows them to sit in their seat while getting the feeling of being hugged.
Here’s a list of reasons why this lap pad works!
- gives deep pressure input, which allows children to feel calm
- has ridges on fabric to promote tactile sensory input
- great for school and travel
- regulates children who are easily distracted or leave their seat often
Why I like it:
- This lap pad, allows children to feel grounded and calm all day long simply through giving them the deep touch pressure that they sometimes need to get through a given task.
- It is the perfect size and weight for young children on the go.
Related Reading: How to Use Weighted Blankets
Other Resources to Help Kids with Impulse Control
- 30 Effective Impulse Control Strategies
- How to Teach Kids to Wait (15 Best Ideas!)
- 25 Turn-Taking Activities
- Impulse Control Activities for Kids