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The Best Gifts for 5-Year-Olds

From crafting to molding to STEM learning, these toys do it all.

The best gifts and toys for 5-year-olds should acknowledge their developmental milestones. Many 5-year-olds can tell simple stories using full sentences, count to 10 or beyond, copy geometric shapes, and maybe even draw a person with accurate body parts. They probably have friends, and might like to sing and dance, skip, climb, and somersault. It’s bye-bye diapers, because your kid is using the potty, and if you’re lucky, table manners and the use of forks and spoons are becoming a thing. It stands to reason that gifts should play to their strengths, and include toys that encourage them to explore the big, wide world around them. 

The experts at the National Association for the Education of Young Children have a few guidelines for choosing the best gifts for 5-year-olds. Kids this age have longer attention spans than toddlers; they ask a lot of questions and like to experiment with toys. And they now get the hang of playing with friends, and maybe even know how to share. The gift you choose for the 5-year-olds in your life should reflect that. These are some broad toy categories that apply to this age group.

A Guide to Buying Gifts for 5-year-olds

  • Child-sized “real” toys like play food sets, and kitchens
  • Dress-up toys for pretend play
  • Blocks that snap together and building blocks
  • Construction and transportation toys
  • Ride-on toys and toys that promote physical activity
  • Creative toys, like paints and chalk, as well as modeling clay

From toy cars to interactive pets to STEM toys, there’s plenty on this list to excite any kindergartener.

The Best Toys for 5-Year-Olds 2021

A hands-on experiment in the natural sciences that will thrill aspiring geologists — and all 5-year-olds. This geode-busting kit from National Geographic lets kids break open rocks to discover the crystals growing within. The kit includes 10 premium geodes, goggles, a learning guide and three nifty display stands.

A creative toy that challenges the imagination, this set comes with four illustrated backgrounds on two double-sided cards, along with three sheets of mix and match magnets. Kids use the magnets to make a frog or a bunny or perhaps a frunny? There's no limit to what they can dream up.

Kids can practice their writing skills by creating custom cards to send to family and friends. The set includes a foil glue pen, for doodles and designs, and six wooden stamps that say things like thank you and love.

Where in the world is the missing family cat? Encourage your kids to engage in pretend play with this detective kit, which includes a walkie talkie, camera, periscope, and the eye glasses as miniature Hercule Poirots and Miss Marples figure out who hid Spot, and when, and why.

Kindergarten-age kids can work on their letters and numbers on this reusable board, which lights up when kids draw on it with gel markers. And suddenly practicing writing their names, or drawing the family cat, becomes that much more fun.

Slime is gross. Slime is magical. And now, under your watchful eye, kids can make their own, and experiment with all the wondrous varieties out there. We're talking premade magnetic putty, fluffy slime, glow-in-the-dark putty, liquid slime, color-changing putty, snotty slime, bouncing putty and DIY slime lab. Clean-up is all you.

Made entirely from recycled plastic, this hands-on STEM kit is filled with magnetic sticks/rods, non-magnetic balls, triangles, squares and pentagons. So kids learn about shapes, colors, and how to put stuff together so it makes sense. It's as open-ended as you can get.

Let kids get messy in the best way possible as they grow a magic bean garden; they just need to add water. The kit includes paints (to personalize their planter, of course), a planter, a paint brush, potting mix, and three magic beans.

It's a water slide that's a castle that's actually a marble run. Because there are endless possibilities for re-configuring the layout, this marble run never gets boring. And it's also fast as all getout. Meaning, kids have a blast with some of the best hands-on STEM action we've seen.

The rocks get painted however your kids want to pain them. And then, they glow in the dark, instantly elevating any sleepover or outdoor gathering. A picture perfect art kit that includes 10 rocks.

Motion, force, and velocity become not just accessible, but fun, with this set, as kids swing the pendulum and see what happens. They're entirely in control of the strength of the swing, since there are no batteries involved.

Children use the stylus to draw anything they can think up, and the magnets respond accordingly. Because this can be used over and over and over again, kids don't tire of it. All while working on their fine motor skills.

'Tis the season for road trips, so have kids build this camper, which has a furnished interior featuring a table, kitchenette and sleeping area. And the roof is removable.

Perfect for beginner readers, this kit includes 15 experiments that are incredibly easy to follow. Kids go outdoors, explore nature, and launch a recycled rocket or make their own solar oven.

Another fantastic option for early readers, this set comes with a storybook and has an illustrated guide that empowers young inventors with detailed step-by-step assembly instructions as they build eight motorized models of the robots from the story, including an owl, french bulldog, sloth, panda, chameleon, cat, turtle, and rabbit.

Hunting for buried treasure never gets old. And it gets kids outdoors. Up the ante with this working metal detector, which has 7.5-inch dual coil that is waterproof. Plus, the sensitivity is adjustable and it detects objects up to inches underground.

This brilliant 136-piece set is the ultimate in open-ended play, with a nice STEM edge. Kids use the pieces to build whatever they think up. A car-caboose-plane that on wheels? Sure. Why not?

This construction kit is made up of 14 flexible rainbow pieces that connect together, letting kids create everything from an octopus to a clown to a castle. The clincher is: You get 2D and 3D shapes for maximum creativity.

The extra-wide eye-piece makes this microscope perfect for younger kids. Plus, to make science accessible and fun, it comes with 72 total slides and provides 8x magnification so young biologists can see cool stuff up close and personal.

We're not quite sure about the whole sparkle thing, but that aside, this is one cool 'bot. It has a swiveling head, arms, and upper body, all of which can be customized. To that end, the set includes a kid-safe mini-screwdriver, 15 colorful bolts, and decorative sparkle stickers. Kids work on their motor skills as they screw in bolts.

Kids bring the mighty T. rex, triceratops, and stegosaurus to life by covering plastic fossils with molding clay. The set includes three plastic dinosaur skeletons, five types of clay, plus molding tools and wiggly eyes.

Using only paper and glue, kids make these amazing bowls to hold all their random items. Creativity in action.

Kids have to focus and concentrate as they use the 120 beads and five cords to conceptualize, design, and put together necklaces. It's a great blend of pure creativity and motor skill finesse.

So simple yet so enchanting: Kids transform three ordinary wood space ships into mythical creations using stickers, paints, and paint brushes.

Look, there's something insanely satisfying about squishies. You mold them and squish them and you feel better. This set lets kids make their own, out of air-dried clay, adding unique accents like glitter.

Warm weather is here and it's time for kids to be outdoors. As much as possible. So have them decorate a custom birdhouse, using the paintbrush and four colors of paint.

This kit is easy enough for young kids to use, and helps them learn to follow directions and learn handy skills like basic stitching. The kit lets kids make their very own fox stuffie with clothes and accessories to mix and match.

A magic kit ideal for younger kids: This one shows them how to perform some great sleights of hand, including making a ball disappear, and a coin vanish. The instructions are super-easy to follow.

The Mongoose scooter has an extra-wide foot deck, which makes it ideal for anyone needing a little confidence boost because it's more stable and easier to coast with. It has handlebar brakes, and sturdy tires for uneven surfaces. The maximum weight is 220 pounds.

This set comes with everything botanists need to create their very own butterfly terrarium. It starts to grow in just five days.

By age five, kids become intensely curious about the world around them. This interactive globe is a delight. Kids get 10 hours of audio; they just touch the pen to the globe to measure distances, hear cool facts, and explore each body of land and water.

A very cool and engaging STEM set, which has kids making glowing slime, cobwebs, and bubbles. There are 10 experiments total.

Kids build a gyrobot who does many cool things, like walk on their fingers, walk on the tightrope, and balance on a small rod. Physics in action.

An ingenious 3D art pen, designed with no hot parts, this one lets artists bring bikes and butterflies and mermaids and dogs to life in three-dimensional designs. It encourages creativity, design, planning, building and spatial understanding.

The new and improved Botley can be programmed to follow a sequence of up to 150 steps, and can be transformed into a train, police car, and ghost. It lights up and plays music. And does it all without the use of screens.

The simplest toys are often the best, because they ignite kids' imaginations. Such as this inch wobble board. Sure, it teaches kids about balance. But it's also a tunnel or a bridge or a house or a fort. It has a weight limit of 480 pounds, which means you'll get years of use out of it.

A totally non-genderized dollhouse that encourages pretend play and helps kids learn to work together, solve problems together, and figure out whose turn it is to take out the trash this time.

These's absolutely no rules for playing with this box of bricks. Just build. And build some more. Kids get 85 colorful bricks in a slew of cool shapes.

The Toniebox is a screen-free audio player for kids. It works either as a music box, or a storytelling device. Kids place a character on top the box, and hear a story or a song. Pressing the ears changes the volume, while tapping the sides changes the track. Choose whatever character resonates with your child, be it a puppy or Cinderella.

Another ingenious screen-free toy, this one has kids building a working communication station, with a rotating radar dish and a rover charger and space rover. It's a modular toy that's a perfect blend of STEM and open-ended play.

This gorgeous 3D building kit has pieces that snap together, allowing budding architects to put together countless components to create cities and neighborhoods and resorts and villages. The colored floor tiles represent grass, roads, water and parks. The sets are endlessly modular.

The quality of this crystal growing kit sets it apart. It comes with a sturdy lab setup including real scientific tools like a beaker, test tube, and centrifuge, and supplies to complete 11 different experiments. It teaches kids patience, because crystals don't just grow overnight. But they sure are satisfying when they do.

What's better than stickers? Stickers that arrive every single month, that's what. Kids get a load of various stickers, plus paper and a pouch.

What looks like a funky wooden box is actually a very cool voice recorder, which picks up sounds including singing, talking, and storytelling, and then plays it back. Either in slow, fast, or regular mode.

Budding astronauts will dig this 237-piece kit, letting them build a Mars rover with an articulated grappling arm to retrieve geodes.

Kids can build their own robot with the blocks, and then program and control its movements with a connected app. There are 23 different parts included, for building and customization. The cool thing is, because you can keep adding bricks and combine them with interconnecting rods and parts, this robot can keep evolving — and never gets boring. The app is icon-heavy, which is perfect for those who can't read yet.

You see growth after about four days, and the kit comes with everything you need for two full plant life cycles, including a plastic mason-style jar, potting mix, organic chia and wheat grass seeds, garden figurines, decorative sand, river stones and a plant mister.

This set encourages explorative play with 300 basic pieces, 100 neon pieces, a baseplate, and an idea guide to get their creativity going. All of the pieces connect and allow kids to create whatever they can dream up. You can make mosaics or 3D shapes or detailed buildings and cars.

This game combines physical and digital components so that users can create letters and shapes with physical sticks and rings and then see them come to life on their screen. It helps kids learn their letters in a new way — just note that an iPad is required.

No more messy paper dolls. Instead, stick magnetic outfits on this ballerina, which comes with a slew of different clothing options and magnetic backgrounds. It's a perfect travel toy too. This set is totally on point. The updated version of paper dolls includes three sheets of interchangeable magnets.

Kids get a police station and a fire station, for endless amounts of open-ended imaginary play and practice with problem-solving. Bonus: The fire engine has a hydrant, a movable ladder, a movable hatch, and a siren. Hape's toys never disappoint, and this detailed set includes a station, an opening bridge, a pylon bridge, a fire engine, a police car, three figurines (police officer, firefighter, and criminal), a two-carriage freight train, 14 road tracks, and 10 wooden rail tracks.

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