Even this year, when everything we know about school has been upended and no two school districts are the same, entering first grade remains a major milestone for kids – and their preferred toys change accordingly. By age 6, kids start to grasp the concepts of cooperation and sharing, and they understand the importance of friendships and group play. And true, they may have the odd tantrum or five, they are able to better regulate their emotions and communicate their needs and feelings. Therefore, when you’re selecting toys for the 6-year-old in your life, aim for those that help with his or her development and encourage a love of learning and discovery.
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The National Association for the Education of Young Children has some clear guidelines on the types of toys that will resonate with 6-year-olds.
The Best Toys and Gifts for 6-year-olds
- Toys that help with problem-solving, like puzzles and building blocks.
- Toys that facilitate pretend play, like transportation toys, construction sets, child-sized furniture, dress-up clothes, dolls with accessories, puppets, and sand and water play toys.
- Toys that help kids create stuff, like art sets and modeling clay.
- Toys that encourage physical activity, like balls and bikes.
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The Best Building Gifts for 6-Year-Olds
Open-ended play is the best play and with this set, kids can build the roller coasters and cars of their fantasies.This killer set includes a motor, which powers whatever your kids build. Speaking of building, kids get 529 parts, including different sizes of connectors, rods, and wheels that click together for whatever configuration they want.
Zoobs are cool because they’re made up of gears, axles and joints that snap, click, and pop together, allowing kids to build all manner of creatures, cars, and creations.
Dogs. Cats. Unicorns. Dragons. Mermaids. Or … cars and houses. Kids get 85 translucent, colorful 3D shapes, including 14 square pyramids, 18 triangular prisms, 40 cubes, 6 hexagonal prism and 7 rectangular prisms, to build whatever they dream up.
Kids work on their creativity and develop their spatial and problem-solving skills with these 1,500 precision-cut micro jigsaw pieces in 15 different colors. They can design whatever they want, or follow templates.
Crafting, but make it magical. Kids make a unicorn headband, sew a unicorn stuffie, make a unicorn necklace, create rainbow garland, and design a vivid unicorn tail. In other words, all things mythical creatures, all the time. But also, really solid gross motor skill development.
Kids get two reusable soap molds to make 20 gemstone soaps; the molds were made from 3D scans of real gemstones, so they look like actual gems. And there’s no creative limit here: Kids can experiment with hues and patterns.
A thoughtfully-made STEM toy for the ages: Kids work their hand-eye coordination using a vice, wrench, screwdriver, and ample amounts of screws to build whatever design their minds dream up. Everything is sized just right for first grade hands. The set includes 72 pieces, perfect for open-ended STEM play.
These 224 Lego bricks can be transformed into a roaring lion, an ostrich and a warthog. Boredom? Not a chance.
One of the most innovative building sets we’ve seen, this one lets kids create 3D toys that light up and move. And it’s easy enough to be fun, while still being challenging: They follow the directional arrows to connect the pieces, thus activating lights and motion.
One of the most popular kits you can buy is this Super Mario starter set. It comes with seven action bricks for different interactions with the LEGO Mario figure; he has a color sensor, plus LCD screens in his eyes, mouth and belly to display more than 100 different instant reactions to movement. It even comes with a speaker.
Sometimes, the simplest ideas are the best ones. Case in point: With reusable bricks, kids build their own structures. The set includes soluble corn extract-based mortar to create the house or cottage of their dreams. To rebuild, kids simply soak their structure in water, allow the bricks to dry, and start all over again.
The Best Artistic Gifts for 6-Year-Olds
Drawing is fun and engaging and creative. But throw in a 3D pen, and things really get to the next level. This kid-friendly one is designed with no hot parts. It’s a fabulous tactile learning toy that melts plastic that cools and hardens rapidly, letting kids create endless towers or three-dimensional creatures.
Speaking of art, this set includes 10 dab markers in a variety of colors, each filled with 2 fl oz (60ml) of ink that never dries out. So kids can create watercolor masterpieces for everyone in the family. A really nice way of encouraging concentration and self-expression.
Kids will tap into their creative side with this soap crafting kit, which shows them how to melt and mold 10 soaps entirely from scratch. The kit includes molds, soap stickers, and skin-safe glitter. And best of all, this encourages them to bathe.
Encourage your budding Annie Leibovitz or Ansel Adams to view the world a little differently with this easy-to-use starter camera for kids. Your kid can drop this on the ground, throw it down, kick it around (not that we encourage these things but hey, we’re realists), and it will hold up. It’s an actual digital camera with a 2.4 inch color LCD screen and can take photos and videos and, of course, selfies.
A very cool audio player designed specifically for kids, this one either plays back custom content that you create, or content cards from the brand’s curated library. It’s Bluetooth-enabled, and the content cards run the gamut from storybooks to music to podcasts to math classes. If you’re away, you can record your own card reading a book to your kid.
This fun STEM toy marries science and creativity, as kids work to first build a skeleton and then add layers of modeling clay to the outside. You can decide to create a gator, shark, chameleon or, perhaps the coolest, a hybrid creature of your own design. The instructional guide also includes impressive animal factoids.
The Best Learning Gifts for 6-Year-Olds
The world may be vast, but we’re all connected. And here’s a globe that makes geography accessible and fun. When kids tap the globe with the stylus, they hear facts about the country, continent, or city they’re looking at. The stylus is attached to the globe, so it will not go missing. And when kids touch, say, Australia, they watch live-action, BBC-produced videos on the 2.7-inch video screen.
A surprise toy we can get behind. Kids cast the eggs, and then chisel away to reveal the creatures hidden inside each shell. And then they identify and classify each creature using the included guide.
The goal here is twofold: First, seafaring adventurers find weapons, cannons, and other things to help defeat the Kraken. Which brings us to goal number two …. when kids do defeat the Kraken, his jaw will pop open, coins will fly out and the elusive, coveted treasure chest will be revealed.
Space cowboy archeologists dig through 26 different levels to dissect the alien and find the gem hidden inside. Best of all, it comes with its own dissection tray to keep the mess nicely contained.
The Best STEM Gifts for 6-Year-Olds
The updated version of Botley still lets kids engage in screen-free coding. And he’s still just as cute. But he now has night vision and does sweet 45 degree turns.
Water isn’t just something that pours out of the faucet. And with this kit, kids learn all the different ways they can experiment with H2O. They figure out how to turn a cup of water upside down without spilling a drop, how to create giant soap bubbles, and even unleash a tornado.
A fantastic coding kit that works without screens or devices. Instead of having to download apps and sync anything up, kids lay down a sequence of physical code cards to program the robot to move around, activate its output gear, light up its LEDs, play sounds, and be a general badass.
An absolutely wonderful starter microscope, this one is easy to use, but full of smart details. Scientists can view images 3x larger, using two extra-large eyepieces and an easy-to-focus knob. There’s a comfortable double eyepiece and low magnification, which provides a wide field of view. Plus, it comes with 15 very cool slides; kids can zoom in to see a leopard’s fur in intricate detail, bringing science and nature to life.
Engineers get 116 pieces to build whatever robot they want. They can either follow directions, or dig into their imagination. They can even build a bot with treads that moves along any surface.
A DIY kaleidoscope. Yes, really. The kit includes 60 assorted beads, plus engineered wooden sheets, bands, green, red, yellow and blue walls, and a mirror strip. The rest is up to your child, in this brilliant mashup of STEM and art.
How, exactly, do magnets work? Kids find out through 33 experiments, as they learn which materials are magnetic and which are not. Plus, they make invisible magnetic fields visible using iron filings in a transparent box. Oh, and there are also games galore.
A fun and funky intro to STEM learning: Kids build a series of motorized robotic animals, including a unicorn, sea otter, a fox, a bear, a baby Llama, and a narwhal. Because you always need a narwhal. The creatures move using a battery-powered motor.
STEM meets hands-on creativity as dough figures come to life with lights and sounds with this beginner electric circuit kit. Insulating and conductive dough let kids learn about electric circuits with hands-on play. This starter set includes 25 LED lights, in red, green, yellow, white, and blue, plus insulating and conductive dough.
A love of science is just one slime experiment away. Let you kid play mad scientist with this 18 piece set featuring multiple science-themed activities. If you’re itching to get something with the STEM label, this one checks that box too.
The Best Active Gifts for 6-Year-Olds
Not only is this a crazy-fun toy because it lets kids bounce and bounce and bounce some more, but it also helps them work on their sense of balance and coordination. The weight limit is 250 pounds.
This is not your grandma’s marble maze. With 194 cubes and 5 types of exits, it can be built and rebuilt and rebuilt over and over and over again.
Just in time for that tropical vacation, trip to the coast, or Saturday at the public pool, this aquatic ball allows children to use it in a variety of games and play. It’s neutrally buoyant, making it a great pick for both above the surface and down below. There’s even rules for its own game, though it’s adaptable to many others normally played on land.
Get your little Mamba or Griner shooting free throws now with this pint-sized basket. Starting from five and a half feet, it extends up in increments of six inches to grow with your child until he or she is ready for regulation. Its water- or sand-filled based is stable enough for strong winds or dunk competitions.