Even this year, when everything we know about school has been upended and no two school districts are the same, 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, and sharing. 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.
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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.
The world may be vast, but we're all connected. And here's a globe that makes geography accessible and fun. When kids tap the globe with the stylus, they hear facts about the country, continent, or city they're looking at. The stylus is attached to the globe, so it won't go missing. And when kids touch, say, Australia, they watch live-action, BBC-produced videos on the 2.7-inch video screen.
Crafting, but make it magical. Kids make a unicorn headband, sew a unicorn stuffie, make a unicorn necklace, create rainbow garland, and design a vivid unicorn tail. In other words, all things mythical creatures, all the time. But also, really solid gross motor skill development.
Kids get two reusable soap molds to make 20 gemstone soaps; the molds were made from 3D scans of real gemstones, so they look like actual gems. And there's no creative limit here: Kids can experiment with hues and patterns.
Drawing is fun and engaging and creative. But throw in a 3D pen, and things really get to the next level. This kid-friendly one is designed with no hot parts. It's a fabulous tactile learning toy that melts plastic that cools and hardens rapidly, letting kids create endless towers or three-dimensional creatures.
Water isn't just something that pours out of the faucet. And with this kit, kids learn all the different ways they can experiment with H2O. They figure out how to turn a cup of water upside down without spilling a drop, how to create giant soap bubbles, and even unleash a tornado.
A thoughtfully-made STEM toy for the ages: Kids work their hand-eye coordination using a vice, wrench, screwdriver, and ample amounts of screws to build whatever design their minds dream up. Everything is sized just right for first grade hands. The set includes 72 pieces, perfect for open-ended STEM play.
Not only is this a fun and unique way for kids to make little meaningful gifts for their friends, which is always a win. But because each necklace features a word, it helps with letter recognition and phonics.
Not only is this a crazy-fun toy because it lets kids bounce and bounce and bounce some more, but it also helps them work on their sense of balance and coordination. The weight limit is 250 pounds.
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.
An absolutely wonderful starter microscope, this one is easy to use, but full of smart details. Scientists can view images 3x larger, using two extra-large eyepieces and an easy-to-focus knob. There's a comfortable double eyepiece and low magnification, which provides a wide field of view. Plus, it comes with 15 very cool slides; kids can zoom in to see a leopard's fur in intricate detail, bringing science and nature to life.
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.
A DIY kaleidoscope. Yes, really. The kit includes 60 assorted beads, plus engineered wooden sheets, bands, green, red, yellow and blue walls, and a mirror strip. The rest is up to your child, in this brilliant mashup of STEM and art.
How, exactly, do magnets work? Kids find out through 33 experiments, as they learn which materials are magnetic and which are not. Plus, they make invisible magnetic fields visible using iron filings in a transparent box. Oh, and there are also games galore.
Speaking of art, this set includes 10 dab markers in a variety of colors, each filled with 2 fl oz (60ml) of ink that never dries out. So kids can create watercolor masterpieces for everyone in the family. A really nice way of encouraging concentration and self-expression.
These 224 Lego bricks can be transformed into a roaring lion, an ostrich and a warthog. Boredom? Not a chance.
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.
A fun and funky intro to STEM learning: Kids build a series of motorized robotic animals, including a unicorn, sea otter, a fox, a bear, a baby Llama, and a narwhal. Because you always need a narwhal. The creatures move using a battery-powered motor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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