With the school year in full swing, birthday invites for classmates’ parties will no doubt be flying out the door. For those stumped on what to gift an 8-year-old, we spoke to child therapist Glenda Stoller, LCSW, co-founder of Village Parenting NYC, for advice on how to choose the best toys for third graders.
“There’s a tremendous growth spurt in physical, emotional, and cognitive development at this age,” says Stoller. In terms of choosing gifts for 8-year-olds, Stoller advises parents to think about two things: “They need to think about the child’s interest and also about exposing them to new things. I always encourage something that has some kind of creative aspect to it or something that allows a child to feel like they’ve really mastered something.” With these tips in mind, here are 11 gifts for 8-year-olds chosen by the Strategist. Check out our gift guides for 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds, 9-year-olds, 10-year-olds, and 11-year-olds. Don’t miss all of the Strategist’s holiday gift coverage right here, too.
“In terms of physical development, kids at this age begin to refine their skills, coordination, and muscle control, and start to develop so-called athleticism,” says Stoller. “They’re much better-able to turn, spin, jump, perform, catch balls, and balance.” Kids may already enjoy biking, so it’s a great time to introduce an activity that requires a little more balance, like riding a scooter, so that they can develop their new-found motor skills.
“Socialization is very important at this age, too,” says Stoller, and she encourages parents to involve their kids in group extracurricular activities like soccer, dance, and gymnastics. But playing together in smaller groups is also a great way for kids to develop self-esteem: “They’re more competitive at this age and love to play games together, so peer interaction is very important.” Try this balancing game for up to four players that shifts and changes shape with each piece that’s added on.
The classic matching game of SET would also make for a fun family (or friend) activity.
“In terms of their cognitive development, their attention span is increasing and they can focus more,” says Stoller. “Literacy skills at this age are increasing. Children are reading more for content and meaning.” That means kids are beginning to choose the topics they’re interested in, and Stoller encourages parents to take them to the bookstore and the library and let them choose their own materials. A perennial favorite, this Roald Dahl collection encompasses 15 books, including classics like Matilda and The BFG, and will get young imaginations going.
Or try this other classic, D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, which has been in print for over 50 years.
A good companion book would be this introduction to astronomy and star-gazing by Michael Driscoll, which includes “the achievements of the great scientists, the history of space exploration, the story of our solar system, the myths behind the constellations, and how to navigate the night sky.”
In school, 8-year-olds are learning about science, so Stoller encourages parents to facilitate this: “In terms of toys, a great gift to get a kid is something that allows them to do a science experiment at home, as long as it’s appropriate to their age level.” This science kit comes with 11 “mind-blowing” hands-on activities that cover the basics of chemistry and more.
This award-winning toy by Elenco is another great opportunity to introduce your third-grader to the world of electronics. With over 30 color-coded real circuit components, kids can build up to 100 different DIY projects that feature circuits and devices that actually work. “When kids make something, they feel good about it,” says Stoller.
“At this age, kids can do more math and problem-solving,” says Stoller. “Parents may want to look into games like brain teasers and puzzles that encourage that kind of development.” This game takes simple wooden nesting cubes and bouncy balls to create endless variations of challenges that require hand-eye coordination, strategic thinking, and improvised rule-creation.
“Some kids are more inclined to sports, while some kids are more inclined to be involved in more creative endeavors like imaginary play,” says Stoller. “It really depends on the child and what they’re exposed to.” One of the most important things parents can do for their kids at this age is encourage them to develop their specific interests. This 3D doodling pen would be great for the 8-year-old who wants to take his artwork to the next level.
Or, if pen and paper are your budding designer’s media of choice, try this relaunch of the classic Spirograph design, which uses interlocking gears and wheels to create countless combinations of shapes and colors.
“One thing that kids really love are Legos. It’s a huge favorite,” says Stoller. “When they make something, like a huge tower built out of Legos, they feel really good about it.” For those interested in architecture, this modular home set can be transformed from a modern house to a lakeside getaway to a garden cottage.
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