gifts they might actually want

The Only Gift Guide for a 7-Year-Old You’ll Ever Need

Photo-Illustration: Photo-Illustration: Stevie Remsberg; Photos: Courtesy of the retailers

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For 7-year-olds, life is all about finding a sense of independence. “When you go into first grade, you’re not sure of which end is up, and you’re still depending on everyone,” says Dr. Roberta Golinkoff, a professor of child psychology at the University of Delaware. “But by the time you go to second grade, you know the drill.” This is true outside of the classroom as well because kids this age become more coordinated and better at sports and hobbies, not to mention able to focus for longer periods of time. So the toys that are best suited for them often speak to that newfound bit of agency — think pop-up goals for practicing soccer — or let them put their enhanced focus to work by getting creative with Post-its and other arts and crafts.

To find the best toys for the 7-year-olds in your life, we asked for recommendations from Golinkoff and other experts, including experienced professional nannies, cool parents, and toy-trend forecasters. We then took their suggestions and grouped them by price. If you have a specific budget in mind, you can use the table of contents to jump right to that section. Otherwise, read all the way through to discover all 28 toys we heard about. Whether you’re shopping for a birthday or the holidays or any other day, it’s a list that keeps on giving.

Meanwhile, if you’re also shopping for kids in other age groups, we have gift guides for 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 9-year-olds, 10-year-olds, 11-year-olds, and 12-year-olds — plus the meticulously curated Strategist Toy Store, filled with all our greatest hits.

Under $25

Snap Circuits Jr.

When Ruka Curate, founder of the Tiny Treasures Nanny Agency, consulted her Facebook group of 50,000 women for help in recommending the best toys to us, Snap Circuits was a popular response. Its color-coded, easy-to-assemble components can be combined to form working circuit boards like the ones inside a television or a radio (there’s even a music-integrated circuit and a speaker). “Of all the Manhattan families I know with kids between ages 7 and 10, most of them have at some point received Snap Circuits as a gift,” says Curate. Personally, she’s gifted it multiple times over the years, because she’s seen how engaging it is, all while encouraging STEM and STEAM learning.

Jennifer Lynch of the Toy Association recommends this update of the popular guessing game for screen-free family fun. To play, you take turns putting a picture card on your headband while everyone else shouts clues to help you guess what it is. “It’s got a built-in timer, so if you don’t guess the character on your head in time, the card shoots off your head into the air,” she says.

This isn’t a toy, but according to Jacob Cohen, a teacher in Brooklyn, the Fly Guy book series is just as exciting as any toy for the 7- and 8-year-olds he works with. “They’re very competitive about collecting the whole set,” he says. This easy-reader series is full of funny drawings and slapstick scenarios, and it’s perfect for independent reading time.

“Talk to them about math,” Dr. Golinkoff stresses, whether it’s at the supermarket or at home. A fun way to get that conversation going is with Mobi, a Bananagrams-like game that has kids create simple math equations on the fly and connect them in Scrabble-like grids. Put succinctly in an Amazon review: “A great game to get your kids excited about learning, because they don’t even realize they are.” Also, who doesn’t love a whale-shaped carrying pouch?

“It’s almost like chess,” says Curate, but in primary colors. Each player gets a set of red, blue, green, or yellow Tetris-esque pieces, and the goal is to get as many of your color on the board as possible (they have to be touching each other, but only at the corners). It requires the type of strategizing that can be a newly available skill at this age. “You have to think about your moves ahead of time,” Curate notes. “I played with a 7-year-old kid, and we had so much fun.”

This kit that lets kids create erasers out of clay that are then popped in the oven to harden. The result is an array of adorable erasers — emoji, sushi, animals — that actually work. According to Golinkoff, craft activities like this promote further development of fine motor skills and spatial awareness.

Ali Mierzejewski, editor-in-chief of the Toy Insider, says this mobile-game maker is a perfect gift for 7-year-olds who like to draw or are into playing video games. It comes with three guidebooks, templates for 16 different games, and a set of washable colored markers. Kids draw their games on paper, take a picture on a phone, and upload it into the app to create a playable game. “They can actually edit their drawings in the app, which teaches them trial and error. Once they figure out how to make their games work, they can share them with their friends, which is really cool,” she says.

If your kid won’t stop talking about Pokémon, this Lego-like building toy comes recommended by Roberson Keffer, a toy-trend expert and VP of home at Macy’s. It combines the fun and creativity of construction toys, the allure of collectible toys, and the fan-favorite Pokémon franchise all in one package.

“Kids this age are geniuses at improvisation,” says Rumaan Alam, a novelist and father of two. “A pad of Post-its is a flip book; it’s a storybook; it’s a wall mosaic that won’t cost your security deposit; it’s two-dozen very small paper airplanes. It doesn’t sound like much of a gift, but trust me: Kids love office supplies.”

The boys and girls I’ve worked with over the years have always loved origami, especially once they’ve gotten a little bit older, like 7 or so, because it’s an age when they really start using their imagination in new ways,” says Kasia Dabrowska, a longtime Manhattan nanny. “There’s an instruction book to follow, but it’s not just about following instructions. They can just come up with their own animal shapes with these bright colors and patterns, then create pretend scenes with them.” This set by Creativity Kids stands out because, as one satisfied Amazon customer noted after considering other options and ultimately choosing this one: “The best part is that they have YouTube videos for each” of the many different designs you can fold in 3-D.

“We got some Plus Plus as a gift years ago and have since given it to so many of our friends,” says Alam of this building toy where every recycled-plastic piece has the exact same shape, but the construction possibilities are endless. The set pictured here has 70 pieces that let you build a pretty realistic bumble bee. Alam says it’s something to take with you whenever you dine out: “It’s so fun to work with; it keeps kids busy and (crucially) quiet.”

The long-lasting slime trend has diversified to include squishy slime-filled toys like these stretchy Heroes of Goo Jit Zu action figures. They’re full of goop and beads, and according to Adrienne Appell of the Toy Association, kids love to pull and stretch their arms and legs to feel the stuff inside. They come in several different characters, including some classic Marvel heroes.

With this kit, kids dig into a molded block of clay that appears to be straight out of the desert and use chisels and brushes and a magnifying glass to uncover highly realistic fossils — dinosaur bones, shark teeth, sea urchins, etc. “It makes kids feel like real scientists,” says Elizabeth S., a nanny for the New York–based SmartSitting agency. They can also classify the fossils using the accompanying learning booklet. “I gave this gift to a 7-year-old, and he and his 9-year-old sister were digging for the better part of a rainy day inside. Next time I saw them, they couldn’t wait to show me what they’d uncovered.”

Under $50

This comic-book-making kit guides budding illustrators and writers through each step of the process. Lori Caplan-Colon, a speech and language pathologist at Montclair Speech Therapy, says it makes a great gift because “it doesn’t leave the child alone to possibly get frustrated.” Kids end up with their very own comic and a little more of “the discipline all creative endeavors need to be fruitful,” she says.

Caitlin Meister, founder of the Greer Meister Group, a private-tutoring and educational-consulting practice in Brooklyn, likes playing this game with her own kids, because each time you play, it’s different. The pieces are magnetic and attach through the board to metal ball bearings underneath. Before you start playing, one person sets up the secret labyrinth and a set of little walls underneath the board. “If you hit a wall, your ball-bearing drops off the bottom of your piece. There’s this very cool sensory component to try to find your way through the maze,” Meister says.

These miniature collectible Squishmallow characters come with a variety of play sets including a tree house, a bakery, and a beauty salon. According to toy expert Chris Byrne, who goes by the Toy Guy, they are particularly well-suited to elementary-school kids who love to compare their collections and trade characters with friends.

For kids who are getting into hobbies and sports, Golinkoff recommends supplies and equipment that nurtures those interests. If you know a 7-year-old who loves to kick a ball around, this set of soccer goals and practice cones doesn’t involve any annoying assembly: The nets pop right out of their carrying case (and then fold back in with a simple twist).

Under $100

Unroll this rubbery keyboard to reveal 49 different keys. The preset tones can make it sound like a clarinet or violin or a whole orchestra. In addition to the standard piano option, you can record your songs and play them back. Beth Beckman, a co-founder of FOMOFeed Kids, also likes it for the space-saving design. “It’s great for apartments,” she says. That “and the fun rainbow design make it a crowd pleaser.”

Lindsay Bell, founder and owner of Bell Family child-care company, recommends this Hedgehog toy that’s “cute, spiny, and teaches children about programming” because in putting together all 172 pieces, you can’t help but learn about all the mechanics and gears and inner workings that make it go. When you clap, it will roll into a ball and tumble backward.

This microscope comes with a host of science-lab accessories including blank and prepared slides, a petri dish, stains, forceps, and a dissecting needle. Amazon reviewers were especially impressed with the microscope’s dual lights and three magnification levels (40x, 100x, 400x). One such reviewer, a self-identified microbiologist, called it “a good working microscope.” Another raved that their son “decided to keep it near his bed in order to ‘keep exploring’ when he woke up.”

“It’s never too early to start teaching good fiscal policy,” says Zibby Owens, author, mom of four, and host of Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books. This battery-operated ATM-meets-piggy-bank helps kids learn how to budget and save money; they use their pretend debit card and pin code to deposit bills or coins in the designated slots and can look to the digital screen to see their savings accumulate (or dwindle as they make withdrawals). It can be serious business, adds Owens: “My son started charging me to enter our pantry!”

Byrne also recommends this series of fashion dolls inspired by the colors of the rainbow. Each doll comes with two mix-and-match outfits that are modeled after real-life designers.

Legos of any variety are typically a hit with this age group. There’s something for every kind of kid, whether you choose a classic open-ended set to let them “free build” or a themed set that speaks to specific interests — from a race plane to a unicorn to a Harry Potter pencil cup to this Frozen 2 set that lets them build an enchanted-forest tree house. “My daughter got so into this creation that she would take the doll and bunny into the bath with her,” says Owens. The 302-piece set includes the aforementioned bunny figure and those of Anna, Olaf, and Mattias as well as a tree-trunk bedroom setup, mythical stones, camping and fly-fishing accessories, and a zip line that leads from the tree house to the forest floor.


Playmobil sets tend to stand out in the same way that Legos do — as one of the most tried-and-true toys you see kids play with more than anything else. “This is the first indoor toy I thought of when I was thinking of the best toys,” says retired kindergarten teacher Annamarie Mazzella. In this version, you can build out a tropical water park complete with two slides (one of which has a trap door at the top), two figures, eels, fish, a palm tree, and other accessories.

When we asked Paige Hirsch, chief content editor of Plinkit and a former elementary-school teacher, about the best outdoor toys, she recommended this rather intense-looking obstacle course, saying it’s all about challenging children to problem-solve and practice resilience. It’s recommended for children as young as 5, but the fact that it’s difficult to master at first is part of the point. Parents can design and redesign the course in all kinds of ways, including those that are best suited to their kids’ age and ability.

$100 and up

This award-winning robot, recommended by Caplan-Colon, is used in over 20,000 schools nationwide. Playing with it helps younger kids learn rudimentary coding skills that will help them as they prepare for middle and high school. “It’s packed with technology and is full of interactive surprises,” Caplan-Colon says. Dash comes with five free apps and simple guided missions to get kids started, and you can purchase additional accessories that allow the robot to play the xylophone, launch objects into the air, and create original works of art.

We named this bike the best overall in our story on kids’ bikes thanks to the recommendations of two experts we interviewed: Natalie Martins, owner of the review site Two Wheeling Tots, and Kristen Bonkoski, founder of the kids’-bike website Rascal Rides. Both of them recommend this REI two-wheeler because of its affordable price, light aluminum frame, and the company’s stellar return policy.

American Girl continues to release new historical dolls each year that speak to diverse audiences. Melody is a 10-year-old facing upheaval during the Civil Rights movement in 1960s Detroit; she comes with an era-specific A-line dress, cat-eye sunglasses, and a felt pillbox hat. Appell recommends any of the historical dolls because they help children connect with and learn about important moments in history. Or you can create your own Truly Me doll to look just like the child who will receive it.

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The Only Gift Guide for a 7-Year-Old You’ll Ever Need