The Best Toddler Gifts, 5-Year-Old Edition

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Before writing this piece, I was given one rule: “Start out the article by saying that spending time with your child is the biggest gift that a parent can give.” That’s from Dr. Roberta Golinkoff co-author of Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children (and who helped us find the best toys for 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and 4-year-olds). Just a few days before we got back on the phone for 5-year-olds, Dr. Golinkoff’s partner’s son, Benj Pasek, won a Tony Award for the Best Original Score he wrote for Dear Evan Hansen. He’s halfway to an EGOT now (he has an Oscar for writing “City of Stars” for La La Land) and has become living proof that Dr. Golinkoff and her partner, Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to raising creative and successful children. Since she doesn’t quite understand the appeal of fidget spinners (“What the hell is the draw?” she asks me before we begin), Dr. Golinkoff recommends an array of classics for 5-year-olds.

best-5-year-old gifts

“Hama Beads are fun and very creative, that’s for sure. By this age, they’re not going to eat the small pieces, so you don’t have to worry about that. My grandkids have a lot of fun with these.”

Buy
Perler Beads Sunny Days Activity Bucket $9, Amazon
best 5-year-old gifts

“Walkie-talkies encourage communication, collaboration, and creativity. Kids can go into their own imaginary worlds, but they have to tell each other stuff that the other one understands. It could be really fun. More fun than a cell phone, although kids love apps.”

Buy
Little Pretender Walkie-talkies for Kids $27, Amazon
best 5-year-old gifts

“What about the old-fashioned favorites? Chutes and Ladders and Connect Four are great for pre-readers. Board games in general are great for any age group. Think about what happens: You’ve gotta talk; you’ve gotta count; you’ve gotta be nice. There isn’t much in the way for creativity because you’re following the rules, but as they get older, you realize you can make up your own rules.”

Buy
Classic Chutes and Ladders Board Game $15, Amazon
best 5-year-old gift

“Let’s not forget the physical stuff. Jump rope, that’s really fun. You can do that with a few kids.”

Buy
Green Toys Jump Rope $11, Amazon
best 5-year-old gifts

“Did you ever play games with a bouncing ball? There are all kinds of things you can do with a small pink bouncing ball and hand-clapping. I played those for a long time when I was a kid. As a parent, you can teach your kids these games (if you don’t know any, look them up on YouTube), and then they’ll go and teach the other kids, which is really great and so much fun.”

Buy
Spalding High-Bounce Ball $3, Amazon
best 5-year-old gifts

“They’ll love the big fat pastels and colored chalk that you use on the sidewalk.”

Buy
20-Piece Jumbo Washable Sidewalk Chalk $7, Amazon
best 5-year-old gifts

“Anything that spurs the imagination is great. A miniature anything, like this doll house, will make kids want to do role-play, which is very powerful for building creativity and imagination. It can be done alone or with other friends and family members. ”

Buy
Modern House Kit $24, Nordstrom
best 5-year-old gifts

“To go with that, make sure you get figurines that represent people of different ages — like grandma, grandpa, kids — so that kids can role-play family stuff. Any kind of imaginative role-play is good for creativity and content. If they play with other kids, they’ll argue and make cases, often about the kinds of things that boys and girls can do. One will say, “You can’t be a doctor, only boys can be doctors,” and meanwhile the kid’s mother is a doctor. This is how they learn. It’s going over the rules and roles of childhood.”

Buy
Play Build Community Figures Set $18, Amazon
best 5-year-old gifts

“There are the big kind of blocks that you see in kindergarten classrooms, but this is about the age when kids can start using Lego kits. Their fine motor skills are just about ready to build more specialized stuff.”

Buy
LEGO Creator Ocean Explorer $15, Amazon
best 5-year-old gifts

“Puzzles. The older the kid gets, the more pieces and the more abstract the picture gets. Kids love them. Stuff like this can be used as a reward for working together or doing homework by themselves.”

Buy
Melissa & Doug 60-Piece Land of Dinosaurs Jigsaw Puzzle $7, Amazon
best 5-year-old gifts

“It’s so much fun for kids to make little movies. Five might be a little young for making movies, they might need to learn how to read first, but a regular kids’ camera can work. It’s so fun, and you can work with the kid to teach it to them.”

Buy
VTech Kidizoom Spin and Smile Camera $55, Amazon
best 5-year-old gifts

“How about a bike and a helmet? You can start with a bike with no pedals to learn balance, or just take the pedals off an existing bike, and then put pedals back on to learn how to ride.”

Buy
RoyalBaby BMX Freestyle Kids’ Bike $110, Amazon
best 5-year-old gifts

Books are fabulous. Picture books for this age.”

Buy
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty $13, Amazon
best 5-year-old gifts

“Kids just love that remote-controlled stuff, and they don’t have to be able to read to use it.”

Buy
Jada Toys HyperChargers Heat Chase Twin Pack $60, Amazon
best 5-year-old gifts

“I don’t know that 5-year-olds can solve a Rubik’s Cube, but I think it’s kind of fun to play around and try this. Apparently, on the web there are guides for how to do it, and that’s maybe a nice opportunity for parents to work with kids to build collaboration and communication.”

Buy
Rubik’s Cube $11, Amazon
best 5-year-old gifts

“I think train sets are wonderful. Any type of props, so they can do the make-believe thing. And you know there are those mats that go on the floor that lay out the neighborhood? Kids love that, starting even earlier than 5 — but they love that.”

Buy
Wooden Play City Train Track Set $159, Pottery Barn Kids

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The Best Toddler Gifts, 5-Year-Old Edition