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5-year-olds have tons of energy and are on the cusp of some very exciting milestones, like going to kindergarten, learning to read and write and take more ownership over their daily routines. But they’re still incredibly young at heart and love toys and games, which makes shopping for this age group tons of fun.
Though your choices are nearly endless, keep an eye out for toys that allow real-world play, says Dr. Natasha Burgert, a pediatrician in South Overland Park, Kansas. These toys are crucial for social and emotional growth, plus they allow for hours of open-ended play. Look for things like building blocks, dolls and stuffed animals, pretend play sets, and arts and crafts, in particular, she explains.
Here, the best gifts for 5-year-olds.
Best Doll: Madame Alexander 12" Peekaboos UniCat
As 5-year-olds develop, they may begin to experiment with open-ended play. Dolls, like the Madame Alexander Peekaboos Unicat, are a great way to promote creativity and encourage your little one to use her imagination.
The doll, which is offered in three different skin tones, has a soft vinyl head and fabric body, so young children can hold the doll and play with it comfortably. It features a pink unicorn onesie with a hood that lifts up and down, making it easy to play a few rounds of peek-a-boo as well.
Best STEM: Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar Toy
This caterpillar can be assembled in a range of different ways with each of its eight segments lighting up and being programmable to travel left, right or forward, creating countless variations.
This toy aims to help develop planning and sequencing skills as kids plot out the code-a-pillar's movements and try to get it to reach prearranged targets. The motorized head makes cute sounds as kids problem solve to get their new pet to travel in a variety of ways. It’s suitable for children ages 3 to 8, but is a big hit with Kindergarteners looking to take charge and call the shots.
Best Classic: LEGO Classic
You just can't beat Lego. Invented back in 1932, it has delighted children for generations and helped them to use their imagination to create whole new worlds. You can now get Lego kits inspired and licensed by major movie franchises, superhero characters, and more—but the classic bricks will always be appreciated by the Kindergarten crowd.
This kit comes with a range of bricks in 35 different colors and includes window pieces, and 18 tires and wheel rims to create a range of vehicles. The storage bin has a retro vibe and helps to keep all the tiny pieces organized and easy to tote to Grandma's house or to a friend’s place for a playdate.
Best Tech: Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet
Tablets can be educational and can also be a lifesaver on long trips or when frazzled parents need to keep the little ones busy for a moment. Kids can be hard on tech though, which is why the worry-free, no questions asked, replacement policy on this Fire kids tablet is so hard to beat. If it’s broken for any reason they will replace it with a new one! With a 7" IPS display and 16GB of internal storage, you’ll have plenty of space for the included 1 year of FreeTime Unlimited which ensures you will have all the apps, games and videos to keep kids entertained, including educational content from PBS Kids, Nickelodeon, and Disney.
The battery lasts up to 7 hours so movies won't need to be interrupted for recharging. Parents can add additional content from YouTube and Netflix and the schoolyard favorite Minecraft. When playtime is over, parents can use the dashboard to see exactly what their children have been viewing and learning about while using the tablet.
Best Pretend Play: Little Tikes 2-in-1 Food Truck
This 2-in-1 food truck, serving either hot dogs or ice creams, takes the cool trend of mobile restaurants and allows kids to make believe they have their very own trendy food truck. The ‘order up’ bell and cash register lend a feeling of authenticity plus 40 pieces of food and utensil accessories ensure they are ready for any customer request. At just 10 pounds, this multi-functional toy can be picked up and moved to different areas of the house with ease.
Best Creative: Crayola Silly Scents Marker Maker, Scented Markers
It’s no secret that kids love to draw and color, and this kit allows them to actually make their own markers in a unique customized way—and with a scratch and sniff feature they even smell great! Your 5-year-old can either follow the enclosed guide with the bottles of blue, red, and yellow fruit-scented ink, which tells them exactly how to make some of the most popular colors, or they can go off script and design their own mixes.
The set, which allows them to make 16 pens, comes with a sticker kit to name and label the markers and coloring pages to try them out. Kids will probably need a little adult help to make sure they don't get too messy when making the markers but once they are assembled they can create their beautiful artwork totally solo, giving parents some valuable quiet time.
Best Camera: VTech Kidizoom Action Cam
The VTech Kidizoom Action Cam is like a kid-sized GoPro that can be attached to the child's helmet, bike or skateboard. It’s sturdy and can handle all the inevitable bumps and knocks your little adventurer can dole out as they cycle, skate or even swim. With the included waterproof case it can be taken down to a depth of 6 feet underwater.
The 1.4-inch color screen can capture video and still pictures including the ability to take stop-motion videos and time-lapse photos to keep your little future filmmaker busy for hours. It comes with an included micro USB cable so that they can upload their movies as soon as they get home.
Best Imagination: Kiddey Princess Castle Play Tent
What kid doesn't want their own tent that they can escape and play pretend in? This fairy princess tent will let them play indoors and out with its easy set-up that makes a great gift for families that travel a lot. All you do is open the case and pop open the tent and it's ready to play in.
If you want to get them something a little more, perhaps add some puppets to the gift so they can stage their own show. The ideas are endless with this tent—it's all about let them be creative with how they use it.
Best Active: Razor A Kick Scooter
If your 5-year-old is eager to zip up and down the sidewalk, a razor scooter can be a fun way to let them explore. Not only will boys and girls love this toy, but parents will also enjoy that it gets their kids outside and active. With safety always the top priority, you might want to add a helmet and perhaps some knee pads with this gift to keep them safe while they're cruising along the neighborhood.
This comes in six different colors and can hold up to 143 pounds so it will be around for the long haul.
What to Look For in Gifts For 5-Year-Olds
When shopping for a 5-year-old, be sure to glance at the toy’s age rating, says Kristin Morency Goldman, senior advisor of strategic communications for The Toy Association. This marker is there to help guide you towards the right products—for both safety reasons and engagement.
Look for toys that help advance the skills your 5-year-old is honing in a fun and interactive way that feels more like play than overt learning. Even traditional toys—like a pretend cash register, for example—can teach real skills like counting, math, and even social interaction.
5-year-olds may begin to evolve both physically and emotionally, so look for toys that will grow with your child in both respects. Toys suited for open-ended play, like dolls, and toys with adjustable sizes, like scooters and bikes, are great.