Even this year, when everything we know about school has been upended, entering first grade remains a major milestone for kids — that and the holidays. By age 6, kids start to grasp the concepts of cooperation and sharing. They understand the importance of friendships, group play, as well as, some good ole jingle bell. And while they continue to have tantrums, they are able to better regulate their emotions and communicate their needs and feelings. The best gifts for 6-year-olds help them with their development and encourage their love of learning and discovery.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children has some clear guidelines on the types of toys that will resonate with 6-year-olds.
The Best Toys and Gifts for 6-year-olds
- Toys that help with problem-solving, like puzzles and building blocks.
- Toys that facilitate pretend play, like transportation toys, construction sets, child-sized furniture, dress-up clothes, dolls with accessories, puppets, and sand and water play toys.
- Toys that help kids create stuff, like art sets and modeling clay.
- Toys that encourage physical activity, like balls and bikes.
Easy enough for kids to follow but complex enough to keep them endlessly engaged, this magic kit teaches them to perform 150 sleights of hands. Included is the classic cups and balls trick, in which balls disappear, appear, and switch places inside moving cups. And prepare to have a rope pulled out of your mouth.
Houston, we don't have a problem. In fact, what we do have here is screen-free play at its finest. Crafty kids get everything they need to build and decorate three spacecrafts. This fantastic kit includes three spaceships, as well as paint and paint brushes.
Engineers get 116 pieces to build whatever robot they want. They can either follow directions, or dig into their imagination. They can even build a bot with treads that moves along any surface.
This microscope makes science come to life: It has two sets of optical glass lenses providing 20x and 50x magnification, and it lets kids look at specimens on slides, or look at 3D objects in detail. The set includes 10 prepared slides, and all the tools kids need to make their own slides so they can see what a drop of milk (or a fingernail) looks like in intricate detail.
STEM meets hands-on creativity as dough figures come to life with lights and sounds with this beginner electric circuit kit. Insulating and conductive dough let kids learn about electric circuits with hands-on play. This starter set includes 25 LED lights, in red, green, yellow, white, and blue, plus insulating and conductive dough.
One of the most popular kits you can buy is this Super Mario starter set. It comes with seven action bricks for different interactions with the LEGO Mario figure; he has a color sensor, plus LCD screens in his eyes, mouth and belly to display more than 100 different instant reactions to movement. It even comes with a speaker.
A love of science is just one slime experiment away. Let you kid play mad scientist with this 18 piece set featuring multiple science-themed activities. If you're itching to get something with the STEM label, this one checks that box too.
Kids will tap into their creative side with this soap crafting kit, which shows them how to melt and mold 10 soaps entirely from scratch. The kit includes molds, soap stickers, and skin-safe glitter. And best of all, this encourages them to bathe.
The ultimate DIY jewelry kit, this one includes eight thread skeins, 40 felt strips, 692 assortments of beads, 120 jump rings, two needles, and a carrying case with handle. Designers can make their own unique necklaces and bracelets.
It's axe throwing, minus the whole 'might lose a limb' aspect of the activity. The axes in this case have suction cups that will stick to the target board. So it's fun, without a trip to the ER.
A surprise toy we can get behind. Kids cast the eggs, and then chisel away to reveal the creatures hidden inside each shell. And then they identify and classify each creature using the included guide.
One of the most innovative building sets we've seen, this one lets kids create 3D toys that light up and move. And it's easy enough to be fun, while still being challenging: They follow the directional arrows to connect the pieces, thus activating lights and motion.
Maybe your kid is next Stan Lee. This comic book kit guides your 6-year-old through the whole creative process, as they create their characters, settings, and storylines, and illustrate everything in an 18-page comic book. There's even an 'about the author' page.
Kids work on their creativity and develop their spatial and problem-solving skills with these 1,500 precision-cut micro jigsaw pieces in 15 different colors. They can design whatever they want, or follow templates.
Encourage your budding Annie Leibovitz or Ansel Adams to view the world a little differently with this easy-to-use starter camera for kids. Your kid can drop this on the ground, throw it down, kick it around (not that we encourage these things but hey, we're realists), and it will hold up. It's an actual digital camera with a 2.4 inch color LCD screen and can take photos and videos and, of course, selfies.
A very cool audio player designed specifically for kids, this one either plays back custom content that you create, or content cards from the brand's curated library. It's Bluetooth-enabled, and the content cards run the gamut from storybooks to music to podcasts to math classes. If you're away, you can record your own card reading a book to your kid.
A portable, rolled-up piano that encourages kids to experiment with sound and rhythm. The rainbow keys make learning music that much simpler, and it has a record and play back functionality so kids can share their masterpieces with parents.
Engage their inner artist with this 3D wall art kit, which has everything your kid need to personalize their space. They can add photos and foam spacers, but the kit includes prints, sticker sheets, and uplifting sayings and quotes.
Sometimes, the simplest ideas are the best ones. Case in point: With reusable bricks, kids build their own structures. The set includes soluble corn extract-based mortar to create the house or cottage of their dreams. To rebuild, kids simply soak their structure in water, allow the bricks to dry, and start all over again.
Build whatever you want, be it a Mars explorer or a car or a truck or a wagon, with the magnetic pieces, and use the motor to make it move. This brilliant 51-piece set includes lights, track wheels, motor and a remote control. In other words, hours of fun.
This set includes one laser peg and 66 tinted interlocking building pieces. Kids built whatever the hell they want and once the whole thing is connected to a power base, it lights up. It's an open-ended kit that is compatible with Legos, so it never gets tired.
What exactly are Cubelets, you may ask? They're small blocks of hardware, with software inside. Each Cubelet is unique, so how kids connect them will change how their robot behaves. They use the app to manipulate the robot and change what it does.
The goal here is twofold: First, seafaring adventurers find weapons, cannons, and other things to help defeat the Kraken. Which brings us to goal number two....when kids do defeat the Kraken, his jaw will pop open, coins will fly out and the elusive, coveted treasure chest will be revealed.
This is not your grandma's marble maze. With 194 cubes and 5 types of exits, it can built and rebuilt and rebuilt over and over and over again.
Space cowboy archeologists dig through 26 different levels to dissect the alien and find the gem hidden inside. Best of all, it comes with its own dissection tray to keep keep the mess nicely contained.
The goal here: Build tricked-out motorized vehicles and machines, which can be controlled via an infrared remote control. Kids get 182 pieces and three motors that can be combined to make complicated creations in up to 10 different configurations.
The updated version of Botley still lets kids engage in screen-free coding. And he's still just as cute. But he now has night vision and does sweet 45 degree turns.
Dogs. Cats. Unicorns. Dragons. Mermaids. Or ... cars and houses. Kids get 85 translucent, colorful 3D shapes, including 14 square pyramids, 18 triangular prisms, 40 cubes, 6 hexagonal prism and 7 rectangular prisms, to build whatever they dream up.
A fantastic coding kit that works without screens or devices. Instead of having to download apps and sync anything up, kids lay down a sequence of physical code cards to program the robot to move around, activate its output gear, light up its LEDs, play sounds, and be a general badass.
Zoobs are cool because they're made up of gears, axels and joints that snap, click, and pop together, allowing kids to build all manner of creatures, cars, and creations.
Sometimes all it takes to spark a few hours of imaginative pretend play is an accessory. This reversible cape doubles as both a king and a knight, so the possibilities are endless.
This fun STEM toy marries science and creativity, as kids work to first build a skeleton and then add layers of modeling clay to the outside. You can decide to create a gator, shark, chameleon or, perhaps the coolest, a hybrid creature of your own design. The instructional guide also includes impressive animal factoids.
Open-ended play is the best play and with this set, kids can build the roller coasters and cars of their fantasies.This killer set includes a motor, which powers whatever your kids build. Speaking of building, kids get 529 parts, including different sizes of connectors, rods, and wheels that click together for whatever configuration they want.
Five games fold into one convenient base and carrying case. Kids can kick a soccer ball that will never go missing as it's attached by string to the base, set up the net for a game of volleyball, try their hand at swingball or tailball, or throw the disc back and forth.
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