Early Signs of ADHD in Young Children and Toddlers


Attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD, is a behavioral disorder that is usually diagnosed during childhood.

ADHD can continue into the teenage years and adulthood, so it’s important to begin recognizing the symptoms during early childhood. The symptoms begin before the child is 12 years old, but sometimes they’re noticeable in children as young as 3 years old. ADHD is difficult to diagnose in very young children, but there are still some signs that parents can keep a lookout for.

3 Key Areas

There are 3 key categories for the most common signs of ADHD. These categories are inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Some behaviors to keep an eye on include the following:


  • Trouble staying focused during play
  • Problems finishing tasks before getting bored
  • Difficulty following instructions and processing information
  • Trouble listening to others due to distractions
  • Loses or forgets things


  • Overly reactive with aggressive and emotionally intense behavior
  • Severe and frequent tantrums
  • Consistent self-injury
  • Interrupting others’ conversations, games, or activities
  • Difficulty waiting for their turn
  • Prone to outbursts and has difficulty controlling their emotions
  • Displays impatience with others


  • Constantly in motion, running from toy to toy
  • Fidgets or squirms in their seat
  • Trouble playing or doing an activity quietly
  • Difficulties engaging in quiet activities

Typical Toddler Behavior or ADHD?

Distinguishing typical toddler behavior from possible ADHD can be difficult, as many of the common signs are things that neurotypical children experience as well. The main difference is that toddlers with ADHD will experience these symptoms more frequently and more intensely. Signs of intense impulsivity are easier to see in toddlers with frequent tantrums, aggression, and self-injury being the most evident.

Source: https://www.additudemag.com/toddler-tantrums-adhd-emotions-early-signs/#footnote2,3,4,5



Keep in mind that some symptoms can also be present in young children without ADHD, as they can be a part of typical developmental behavior. If you are concerned about your child’s behaviors, it is never a bad idea to seek help from a professional. An official diagnosis from a psychologist can be extremely helpful to know for sure if your child’s signs are reflective of ADHD.

Insight offers services in assessment and treatment for ADHD for children above the age of 3. Support for parents & caregivers is available as well. Contact us today to learn more about the presence of ADHD in your child.



Buzanko, C. (2022, January 21). When toddler tantrums are actually ADHD: Early signs of ADD and emotional dysregulation. ADDitude Magazine. https://www.additudemag.com/toddler-tantrums-adhd-emotions-early-signs/#footnote2,3,4,5

Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/adhdadd

Legg, T.J. (2020, March 22). Signs and symptoms of ADHD in toddlers. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/toddlers

Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adhd/symptoms-causes/syc-20350889