The Best Gifts for 5-Year-Olds, According to Child Development Experts

Finding the perfect gift for a 5-year-old isn’t easy. It’s the age when most kids are starting kindergarten (with first grade on the horizon), so class birthday parties are becoming more common and gifting is starting to feel like a full-time job. Plus, age 5 is a turning point: Kids this age are no longer toddlers but they’re not yet big kids, so finding an age-appropriate toy can be tricky. Not to mention the pressure to find a something that’s STEM-related and screen-free.

The best toy for a 5-year-old should acknowledge their developmental milestones. Many 5-year-olds can 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 might suddenly become a thing. 

The experts at the National Association for the Education of Young Children have a few guidelines for choosing great 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.

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

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

There’s no limit to the different ways in which kids can play with this toy — which is entirely the point. It comes with dominos, a tipper car, a tipper arm, a ball track, and a series of ramps that are used to create a robot production line. How they build it is up to them. There's no right or wrong way to do it. This incredible — and incredibly satisfying — domino set was our 2019 Toy of the Year.

From Australian company Q Toys, an imagination-boosting twist on the classic dollhouse. It's sort of the un-dollhouse, with endless possibilities for freeform play. Comes with two dolls, a hammock, rope ladder, and tiny rough-hewn furniture. Made from solid, sustainably-sourced lychee and acacia wood, and just under two feet tall.

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.

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.

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, 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 construction kit is made up of 34 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.

Truly the gift that keeps on giving, this science kit comes with eight activities — all parts included. The experiments are simple enough for young kids to grasp, and even if you could do some of them without the kit, pre-portioned ingredients and step-by-step instructions make things much simpler. This at-home science kit is the STEM toy of your dreams.

Kids can create towers and monsters and cranes and houses and whatever else they can dream up. And you can buy more Zoobs if you run out. Yes, they can get messy and yes, they get underfoot. But Zoobs really do prove that with imagination, the sky is the limit.

Yet another surprise toy that rewards your child with a treasure he or she unearths inside the box. Unleash your kid's inner Indiana Jones, and let him or her chip and dig through different layers to reveal the secret treasure inside.

As kids start to have more and more play dates, this Plus-Plus set is an ideal way to keep them busy. It 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 is a surprise toy with a STEM twist. Kids place one of two creatures into a Reactor Pod within the chamber, pump in the reactor liquid, and reveal their very own creatures. It takes at-home science experiments to the next level. A perfect toy for 5 year olds, this is a imagination-boosting lab that doubles as a working science set, complete with experiments and surprise toys.

This 22-piece play set lets kids design their own coding challenges. Each coding animal comes with a storybook full of coding challenges. Kids can code Ranger and play fetch with him — and care for him — as they would a real pet.

This crazy maze of a racetrack accommodates two players at once, and can be connected to other Hot Wheels tracks. Just watch for the crash zones... or don't.

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.

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.

Kids are keen observers of what goes on in the kitchen, and they will love having their very own set of kitchen tools. Not only will this set help them develop their fine motor skills and make better sense of the world around them, it’s an opportunity to rebrand healthy eating as fun.

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 pointe. The updated version of paper dolls includes three sheets of interchangeable magnets.

Kids slam the ball back and forth while developing their hand-eye coordination. It's ping-pong, but sans table. The door pong set is great for one kid or two, attaches to any doorframe, and has an adjustable string length.

A totally non-genderized doll house that encourages pretend play and helps kids learn to work together, solve problems together, and use their imaginations to create the home of their dreams.

Give the pets a day off at the pet hotel. Kids will use their imagination with stimulating open-ended play, and learn empathy through caring for pretend animals. Nothing says imagination like a pet hotel.

This colorful dough is made from organic flour and produced in a food facility. The best play dough you can buy for this age.

This buildable toy encourages STEM learning — and might just inspire future actual space exploration. Take imaginative play way, way out there...

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, fire fighter, and criminal), a two-carriage freight train, 14 road tracks, and 10 wooden rail tracks.

The whole family competes to see who can come up with the wackiest face. You spin the spinner and choose from the nutty assortment of reusable colorforms to stick on the face card. The crazier, the better. What's not to love?

Aspiring wizards will be into this interactive Harry Potter Great Hall set, which includes Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, and Albus Dumbledore mini figures. Muggles can connect with their inner witch or wizard by making food vanish after eating, or by summoning a snake to the table. Plus, the set includes the famed sorting hat.

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