Being a 10-year-old can be tough, especially as kids this age begin to transition into adolescence. “Parents, teachers, and caregivers need to understand that it can be stressful for a 10-year-old to deal with the physical and emotional changes of growing up,” says Glenda Stoller, LCSW, a psychotherapist in private practice in Manhattan. “As well as the social pressures to fit in and the increasing demands of school work,” she adds. To help them during this period, Stoller recommends that the adults in their lives encourage them to develop their specific interests and talents as well as encourage them to participate in group activities. “They can support their increased autonomy and respect their need for privacy,” she adds.
With these developmental milestones in mind, we selected the best toys and games for 10-year-olds, and even spoke to librarians at the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library — plus an educational consultant with Forum Education NYC — about their favorite books for fifth graders. We’ve also got gift guides for kids of all ages, including 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 9-year-olds, and 11-year-olds.
And if you’re looking for holiday toys, don’t miss the top kid’s toys to buy before they sell out — we talked to experts to find 2018’s hottest toys. Don’t miss all of the Strategist’s holiday gift coverage right here, too.
Best toys for 10-year-olds
“Cognitively, children at 10 can think more abstractly and have language skills and the ability to gather information and formulate well organized thoughts,” says Stoller. In addition to enjoying reading chapter books and nonfiction related to their particular interests, “their attention span is increasing and they can spend longer periods of time working on activities they enjoy.” Building off their addition and subtraction skills, they’re also increasing their fluency in multiplication, division, and fractions, she says. To encourage them to think outside the box, try this robotics kit powered by solar energy that teaches kids about solar power, engineering, and scientific learning.
Or, try this set that allows kids to break open real geodes and take a peek into naturally occurring crystals like quartz, fluorite, calcite, and amethyst.
“10-year-olds enjoy science projects,” says Stoller, and this crystal-growing kit is a hands-on way to teach them about crystal growth, geology, and experimentation.
According to Elly Yonan, a former public and private school teacher and now an educational consultant and private tutor, as kids these days become more socially advanced, they begin to move away from imaginative play and toward more creative pursuits — making jewelry, for instance — that yield end results quickly. Here’s a pom-pom-making kit for creating over 20 adorable creatures in a variety of colors.
“Their fine motor skills are also improving,” says Stoller, “which enables them to do more detailed artwork.” Try this kit that uses strings and pushpins to create webby, whimsical artwork of owls.
“10-year-olds also enjoy taking pictures,” says Stoller, “so cameras are another possible gift.” For instant, analog satisfaction, gift the Fujifilm Instax camera, great for kids to take pictures of their friends and the world around them.
And to take it to the next level, try this claymation kit that allows kids to make their own movies from still images.
Best games for 10-year-olds
In this classic game, players lay tiles around a medieval fortress in the South of France to build out their territories and elaborate their features.
It’s like charades: players team up to guess a word or concept based on the placement of tokens on a board covered in icons.
In this game of strategy and resource management, players compete to become the most powerful jeweler of the Renaissance by purchasing gem mines, trade routes, and storefronts.
Best graphic novels for 10-year-olds
“Most kids likes funny books,” says Lisa Goldstein, a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library, “and every graphic novel is funny.” Also, graphic novels are books like any other books, and not just for the reluctant reader, so parents should not discourage kids from choosing them over chapter books. Goldstein advises: “Children should get to choose books themselves. There is proof that kids who get to choose are better at reading. Be open to what your children are interested in.” She recommends this graphic novel, in which a series of “hazardous tales” from American history are narrated by Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale. “He’s telling these stories to a hangman, who’s very cheerful and friendly, as he’s about to be hanged. It doesn’t shy away from the gruesome and terrible aspects of American history, but it’s also infused with humor and you learn so much.”
Goldstein also likes this wacky graphic novel about a seventh-grader who feels lost in her new middle school. She inherits a magic sketchbook, and anything she draws in it comes to life, including the perfect friend. “It’s a book about how you conjure friends,” says Goldstein. “A lot of kids like to read stories about friends, relationships, and that kind of shifting social situation that happens at this age. This book does it in a really surreal and funny way.” Stoller echoes that sentiment: “Socially, 10-year-olds enjoy more complex friendships. They often have a best friend. They are trying to find their own talents while also trying to ‘fit in’ with their peer group and often gravitate toward team or group activities. They are also developing a better sense of themselves in the world and may have more control over their emotions and be more skilled at handling conflicts and working out solutions with friends. At the same time, their emotions can be highly changeable.”
“Coding is a strong interest of a lot of kids,” says Goldstein. “Each volume builds on the next, and it’s almost like you can get a coding course through this series.”
Lynn Lobash, manager of the Readers’ Services department at the New York Public Library, also recommended a selection of books for 10-year-olds released this year, including this graphic novel about a Russian girl in the suburbs: “Vera feels too Russian for her friends in Albany,” says Lobash. “When she hears about a summer camp for Russian-American kids, she’s sure she’s finally found her place.”
Lobash also likes this “fast-paced and action-packed” series about two robot brothers: “When an evil robot unleashes a sinister plan, robot brothers Alex and Freddy must save the day.”
Here’s another recommendation from Lobash, about two sloths: Peter, “who loves to stay at home in the tree,” and Ernesto, “who loves to travel.” She says: “These sweet, funny, unlikely friends tackle overcoming fear.”
Best fiction books for 10-year-olds
According to Goldstein, a lot of books released this year reflect the increasing diversity of voices in fiction. One of her favorite books is Front Desk by Kelly Yang, based on the author’s own experience of emigrating from China to California with her parents in the ’90s to run a hotel. The protagonist, Mia, often runs the front desk of a hotel that hosts a few sketchy characters, including the owner. “This book doesn’t shy away from some of the really hard realities of being an immigrant, says Goldstein. “They have fellow immigrants coming through their hotel who actually don’t have enough money for food, or are being taken advantage by pretty violent people who have their money. But it’s also so funny, and Mia’s such a wonderful character who’s really resilient and funny.”
This is the latest in the Track series of books by Jason Reynolds. Goldstein says of the first book, Ghost: “It’s about a boy who learned to run after his father tried to kill him and his mother. It’s for 10-year-olds, but the author does a good job balancing the real issues children live with. It sounds very dark, but it’s also appropriate for kids.”
“Harbor Me is a book in which a group of children gather after school to talk about their lives,” says Goldstein. “You learn about where they’re coming from, and while it sounds heavy, it’s written for and is appropriate for that age. It’s a good way for kids having these life issues to see themselves in a book.”
Yonan recommends this book by Laura Geringer Bass: “I really appreciate a story that evokes emotions and tugs at your heartstrings. This is a very special and emotional exploration of grief and resilience, dealing with conflicting emotions that arise in a family facing the unexpected death of a parent.”
Yonan also recommends this historical fiction classic by Lois Lowry. “Number the Stars takes readers on a journey of love, loss, friendship and perseverance, all while exploring the persecution of Jews during World War II,” she says. “I have read this story so many times, and each time I discover something new about friends, courage, prejudice, and fear.”
Here’s another classic that Yonan recommends: “This story teaches us an extremely valuable lesson on perspective, and seeing the world through a different lens. The themes of family, home, sacrifice, community and society building, independence, technology, and environmentalism are woven throughout the text, which uses animals to convey a much larger and very important message to the reader.”
Here’s a recommendation from Lobash that also doesn’t shy away from the realities of life: “A funny, touching story about a Korean-American boy named Ok. He attempts a get-rich-quick scheme and wins the talent competition at school, all the while coping with the loss of his father and financial hardship at home.”
Lobash includes this book, a “light fantasy with relatable characters,” in her fiction recommendations: “Visiting her grandmother in Australia, 10-year-old Livy remembers a promise she made five years earlier to a green creature named Bob.”
Best nonfiction books for 10-year-olds
According to Goldstein, nonfiction books work really well for kids reading at different levels, “because you don’t necessarily have to read it from page one; you can dip into it and read it as much as you want, and they’re usually heavily illustrated,” she says. We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices is an anthology of different pieces and artwork by a variety of illustrators and authors around the book’s theme. “It’s a great way to introduce kids to new authors and includes anecdotes from their childhoods, about things like the civil rights movement, with accompanying art. A lot of the stories are memoirs from the authors, advice, or poetry,” she says.
Yonan’s nonfiction pick is I Am Malala. “It’s such an inspiring memoir about one young girl’s heroic actions and campaign for human rights, especially a woman’s right to education,” says Yonan. “This powerful true story discusses truth, justice, forgiveness, and equality, all of which are universal human values.”
According to Lobash, this book is “a gorgeous examination of a self-taught artist, entomologist, and the first to document the metamorphosis of butterflies,” with Merian’s original artwork showcased throughout.
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