If you have a 5-year-old, a) God bless you and b) it might be time to start thinking about kindergarten learning. This means that when it comes to birthday gifts (or any gifts) and toys for 5 year olds, start thinking stem toys, toddler puzzles and all the things that get them learning (while having fun). As your little one officially starts their school education — woohoo, more #MeTime for you, mama! — you might notice more pressure on the shoulds.
“There is often a new emphasis on what children ‘should’ be able to know and do by the time they enter kindergarten,” says Lisa B. Fiore, Professor and Co-chair, Education & Director of the Child Homelessness Initiative at Lesley University. Now that there’s more emphasis on academic progress, Fiore explains to Scary Mommy, it’s important to support your child’s personal interests.
“It’s important for caregivers to recognize that their own expectations may not sync with a child’s natural rhythms or interests,” Fiore explains. “It’s therefore critical to support children’s interests, to ask questions of experts and educators if there are concerns about a child’s development, and continue to allow children to develop their own passions and explore their evolving skills and interests.”
You know what helps with that, mamas? Toys! No, seriously, toys can be totally educational and really help your kid hone in on their skills, likes, and dislikes.
At 5 years old, typically children are writing, reading, sounding out their words, and beginning to develop more elaborate scenarios for play with other children,” adds Pamela Morris, MSEd, Early Childhood Director of the Early Childhood Learning Center at the East Valley JCC in Chandler, AZ.
With all these expert recommendations in mind, these are the top toys and educational gifts for the 5-year-old in your life.
Books for Toddlers
According to Morris, rhyming books are even better at this age “especially with funny words thrown in.” Morris says that books with repetitive refrains (i.e. Brown Bear, Brown Bear) is a another great option “because kids at this age are starting to read and they can read these books easily which helps them start to recognize words in other books and it is an upward spiral from there.”
Fiore adds, “Books that include adventure and sometimes mishaps are often big hits. Children enjoy predicting what might happen, and they like to catch the author or adult in something that’s ‘wrong’ based on their evolving understanding of the world.”
Even children can enjoy non-fiction books about heroes that they can identify with. (It’s not just us adults!)
This entertaining read is one that boasts a message we can’t help but support and want to spread: Women are heroes, too! Based on real history, this age-appropriate children’s book, A Is For Awesome!, will introduce your little reader-in-training to 23 iconic women who actually changed the world. It’s the perfect gift for a little girl or a little guy who wants to learn more about how cool gals really are and even better, it’s written by a pretty cool gal herself. The author, Eva Chen, is an Instagram queen who’s worked at Instagram, Teen Vogue, and Lucky Magazine. See? It takes a bada** woman to write about other bada** women! After all, by this age, chances are your kindergartener has already been exposed to plenty of men who get to wear the cape in mainstream media. Why not give some amazing, influential, and inspiring women their very well-deserved turn?
Sooooo, can the Curry family just, like, adopt us already? Well, if Ayesha and Steph don’t have room for us at their homecooked dinner table, then we guess we can at least make room for them on our favorite five-year-old’s bookshelf. Stephen Curry: The Boy Who Never Gave Up is an ultra-cool story, based on no other than Golden State Warriors legend Steph Curry, that will undoubtedly be a new favorite for any little girl or boy. Especially if they love basketball. But even if they don’t, Steph’s story is one about perseverance – something all kids should learn about. If you want to teach your kid the value of trying hard, practicing hard, and always leading with perseverance, then this is the perfect story for your family. This tale encourages stick-to-itiveness, practice, and the value of getting up even after falling.
Musical Instrument Toys for Toddlers
“Children’s joy in making music and listening to music is evident from birth,” says Fiore. “Children’s dexterity improves over time and having the opportunity to play instruments encourages their exploration. Some children enjoy ‘jam band’ activity, where they can play together and come up with their own ‘hits’ and favorites.” Morris says if your child is musically inclined and you are considering lessons, “then I would look into the Recorder, simple guitar or simple piano if your child is truly interested.”
This insanely adorable KidKraft Lil’ Symphony Guitar will inspire any young musician to strike a chord (literally) and sing a song. Made for small strummers, young learners, and delicate ears, this bite-size guitar is gentle and easy enough for your Taylor Swift-in-training to master. Complete with six authentic guitar strings that can be tuned, this kid-friendly acoustic is a way better option than some of the other kids’ guitars that feature basic wire strings. Plus, it’s the real deal. Need some help motivating your child’s interest in music? No worries – just enlist the help of Disney. Throw on the animated favorite Coco! If Miguel and Ernesto de la Cruz can’t incite the musical spirit in your little one, then what can?!
This piano starter kit for your little Elton John-in-training is the best of all worlds. It helps kids get friendly with musical notes, promotes musical confidence, and even functions as a STEM toy. (After all, learning piano develops essential motor skills, encourages increased hand-eye coordination, enhances memory skills, and hones your child’s musical intelligence.) The piano comes with three musical props, two key-mapping stickers (so they can get acquainted with the keys!), and a foldable gamepad with a magnetic play area. Because first and foremost, music is playtime. Download the Plugo app for some extra tips and tricks! The app is armed with tutorials for 50 songs – including some recognizable jingles. The app is free, compatible with iPads 3rd generation or newer and also works with Samsung tablets, Android phones, and some Amazon Kindles.
STEM Toys for Toddlers
Speaking of STEM toys, anything that challenges your child’s brain is a good go-to. According to Fiore, “It’s never too early to give a child a toy or material that encourages exploration of the natural world and how things work and fit together to create something new.”
Fiore adds, “Children might love being given an old/broken radio or telephone and a screwdriver so that they can explore what the inside looks like. If you’re thinking more about robotics or maker-space materials, then I think there are absolutely some items that children can play with to get a sense of ‘bots’ and how pieces fit together to create something new.”
Morris agrees. “Using technology as a tool instead of a toy is also very helpful to start at this age — using the tablets or phones with parent participation to look up their favorite song on YouTube or read a story on the tablet — these are all great options!”
This Botley coding kit is ready-to-play-with right out of the box. (As long as it’s gifted with five AAA batteries, of course!) No other smart devices are necessary for a kiddo to spend time with Botley the Coding Robot, so it’s a really a thoughtful gift for everyone involved. So, how does it work? The Botley coding kit is a 77-piece activity set that includes a coding remote, detachable arms on Botley, 40 coding cards, six double-sided tiles, 27 obstacle-building pieces, and a starter guide full of coding challenges designed for 5-year-olds. You might think your kindergartener is too young to start with STEM toys, but it’s simply not true. In fact, the younger they start, the more of a chance they have to get the hang of stem earlier on! The Botley coding kit is the perfect STEM toys for beginners. It makes for a beautiful, complete, educational, and low-maintenance gift that just keeps on giving!
Five-year-olds are able to learn legit life skills with this cool toy by Educational Insights. So, how does it work? Good thing you asked, mama! Kids can use the toy drill (which really, actually drills), to screw the colored bolts in or out of the included clear board. Why is that considered a STEM toy? It gets kids building, focusing on their imagination, and even works hard to build coordination skills. Drilling may seem easy AF for us adults, but for 5-year-olds, drilling is a real challenge. That’s why the more they do it, the better at it they’ll become. Kids get their inspiration around which patterns to create from the included creation cards, or they design their own original patterns. This kit makes for an unexpected, yet totally age-appropriate gift! Who knows? This STEM toy might just inspire the little one in your life to study science and become the next Albert Einstein!
Interactive Group Games for Toddlers
“Interactive games with friends are terrific, and it’s important to both allow children to select their game-playing friends as well as to encourage children to interact with people that they don’t know as well yet,” says Fiore. “Children may like to create new rules for familiar games, and to stretch the rules to see how they can create new interpretations of games. Depending on the children in a classroom, family backgrounds and cultural traditions can infuse new play opportunities into the setting, too.”
The ThinkFun Yoga Spinner game is more than just a physical break from brain-tuning games. Not only does it get kids moving, but ThinkFun also works hard to develop children’s critical skills. It’s not just about solo work, either. This yoga-inspired game encourages teamwork as much as it promotes flexibility and teaches balance. By twirling the spinner and landing on different challenges, kids can learn how to strengthen and stimulate the mind. With 54 yoga pose cards, this is an activity or “game” the whole family can enjoy together no matter each member’s skill level. The ThinkFun Yoga Spinner is mom-approved, kid-approved, and has even won a few impressive awards like the Parent Tested, Parent Approved Top Pick of Toy Fair 2016 and t the Creative Child Magazine Preferred Choice Award Winner. You go, #GlenCoco!
Playtime for 5-year-olds does not have to be about STEM toys, math, and science skills. After all, there’s so much more to learning about life than mathematical problems. Sure, being able to solve math equations helps (especially when you’re in school), but there is so much more to live. Emotional maturity, for example. The Feelings and Dealings card game is perfect for kids ages 5 and up and requires anywhere from two to six players, so everyone in the fam can join in on the emotions game. It features 24 common emotion cards, 48 expressive cards, and eight super fun sub-games. As people still learning how to do #adulting, we know that emotions can get so much more complicated than just happy, sad, or angry. Teach your kids about emotions (and how they all have value!) with this therapeutic game. You might just notice a big change in your child’s ability to express their feelings after a few rounds.
Bikes for Toddlers
“Bikes of different kinds are always a favorite,” says Fiore. “Some children may move from three- to two-wheel bikes at this age, depending on their opportunities for practice and their own physical development. It can be helpful to have some bikes without pedals so that children can practice their balance by ‘walking’ the bikes as opposed to riding them.”
This gorgeous starter bike comes complete with an age-appropriate seat and training wheels. And – bonus – it’s gender neutral, so it is perfect for any child. This training bike makes it totally easy for a five-year-old to zip around the driveway (or park!), learning to gain the confidence needed to fly sans training wheels. It comes with up-to-par safety features, like an additional foot brake in case little hands don’t have the power to bring the bike to a full stop using the hand brake. (That makes for a mama that’s totally rest assured!) Most of the bike is pre-assembled, so less work for you. But if you’re planning on giving the JOYSTAR Kids’ Bike as a gift, we recommend putting the rest of the bike together real quick – should only take about 20 minutes – so that your kid can unwrap it, thank you, and then immediately enjoy it. You may want to pair this gift with a helmet though!
Tactile Arts & Crafts for Toddlers
“All opportunities for art and creative activity are so important, particularly with open-ended expression,” says Fiore. “Different materials, such as natural materials found in the neighborhood as well as recyclables, are wonderful additions to the materials.” According to Fiore, clay, in particular, is a really important material. “It gets children to use their hands and fingers, it’s ‘forgiving’ in the sense that a little water can refresh or change something that someone wishes to change about the clay (for a limited time). It gives children the opportunity to pound, poke, pinch, cut, tear, roll, etc. There is something really special about clay — the scent, feel, and transformative experience of waiting for clay to dry (or fire if using a kiln).” Other favorite materials for kids to experiment with, according to Morris, include markers, colored pencils, stickers, and foam.
What do nearly all five-year-olds have in common? A desire to get crafty! Art is a language almost all kindergarteners can speak – even if they can’t read or write yet – so the Hey Clay kit is the perfect gift for little artistic hands. The kit includes 18 tins of colorful, air-dry clay that children can play with for hours and hours and hours. Mold animal creations, recreations of food, and so much more. The coolest part about this clay kit is that it comes with a code that opens access to a free app. The app then instructs the creator how to build each individual animal character to perfection! Once a character is shaped, let it air-dry and then put it on display somewhere special. The easy-to-sculpt clay is light and flexible – two important features for small hands!
Now that your 5-year-old is all set, check out more mom curated toys for kids of all ages.