When we caught up with Dr. Roberta Golinkoff again to talk about the best gifts for 7-year-olds, we had the pleasure of hearing from her grandson Elio, age 11, as well. “Independence” is what he remembers as being a major milestone for second-graders. And Dr. Golinkoff, a professor of child psychology at the University of Delaware, agreed. “When you go into first grade, you’re not sure of which end is up, and you’re still depending on everyone,” she said. “But by the time you go to second grade, you know the drill. And if you have a good teacher, you can ask questions and have a bit of agency.”
Discussing the best ways to nurture a child’s development, no matter his or her age, she reiterated the “Six Cs,” a concept that she and her partner Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek wrote about in their New York Times best-selling book Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children: collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creative innovation, and confidence. She also stressed the importance of fostering the ability to fail and learn from the experience, and the ability to persevere. “Some call it grit,” she said.
“The key thing is that they follow their own interests,” Dr. Golinkoff said. “Whatever they want to read and like is what I would go with.” Below are 13 books, toys, games, and puzzles vetted by Dr. Golinkoff and Elio themselves that will help usher in the next stage of development for just about any 7-year-old. While you’re here, don’t forget to check out our picks for the best toys for 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, and 6-year-olds.
“I want children to love reading,” Dr. Golinkoff said. “I don’t want it to feel like a chore. And I don’t care about what kinds of books they read. Even comic books are great, like Calvin and Hobbes, which Elio is reading right now. I don’t want to tell them that they have to read chapter books. There are so many fabulous choices out there.”
This is one of Elio’s favorite books. “My kids loved Roald Dahl books, too,” Dr. Golinkoff said.
Elio also enjoyed Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby series.
“Harry Potter books could be a little hard for a 7-year-old, but I would like to say that it’s wonderful for parents to read a chapter a night to their kids. There’s nothing like cuddling up in bed and reading a good book together. When it’s shared, you’re sending your child a message that reading is really fun, and it becomes associated with the wonderful feeling of cuddling with your parent.”
Puzzles and Games
“We have data showing that the more puzzlelike games kids play, the better their math skills are. Spatial games are important, too, because we [navigate spaces] all the time.”
“Talk to them about math,” Dr. Golinkoff stresses, whether it’s at the supermarket or at home. There are apps that help kids fight math anxiety, too, like Bedtime Math. For a more hands-on approach, try Mobi, the Bananagrams-like game that has kids creating simple math equations on the fly.
Here’s the junior version of the award-winning logic game that requires strategic thinking to get the ice-cream truck through traffic and on its merry way.
Another strategy board game that develops spatial thinking, this time Mensa-approved. Compete against friends and family to get all your pieces on the board — but make sure they’re not next to another player’s piece and that each piece you put down touches at least one corner of your pieces already on the board.
Second grade is a great time for kids to start playing team sports — if they haven’t started already. Dr. Golinkoff notes that there’s no use in forcing them if they’re not interested: “Kids have to want to do it.” Ease them into baseball with this Wiffle-ball set while developing their hand-eye coordination.
“The thing that I love about soccer for little kids is they often score the wrong goal. I love that. It’s hilarious when it happens.”
Dr. Golinkoff recommends craft activities for promoting fine motor skills and further developing spatial awareness. Cat’s Cradle not only displays the infinite possibilities of playing with a piece of string, it’s collaborative, too.
STEM learning (that’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is important, but STEAM is even better, Dr. Golinkoff says, the A standing for arts, of course. This kit lets kids create erasers out of clay that are then popped in the oven to harden. The result is an array of adorable erasers that actually work.
Let your kids take their paper-airplane game to new heights.
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