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Five-year-olds are fun. They’re off to school, they’re making friends, and their whole world is exploding with new ideas and new perspectives. It’s also an age when they have a lot more opinions about which toys are cool and which ones are not. As they are declaring their personalities and tastes, they can be a bit more tricky to shop for.
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While their ever changing curiosity and new-found independence can make shopping for them a bit more challenging, it’s infinitely more gratifying when you get it right.
Here at Reviewed we are constantly testing and trying new toys. Here are some of our standout picks, as well as recommendations from other parents and industry experts.
1. For the one who is fairy-obsessed: A Fairy Finder
Fairies are having a moment, and this might be the most fun fairy toy we’ve tested. It’s interactive and imaginative, and it takes technology and makes it playful. Use the magical jar to find, catch, interact with and trade fairies who appear on a glowing LED screen where they show their style and express their personalities. Collect 100 different fairies, each with different looks and personalities.
2. For the one with the great sense of humor: Squeakee the Balloon Dinosaur
Playing off the success of last year’s Squeakee the Balloon Dog, this year’s hot toy for the kindergarten set is a stomping, roaring and dancing dino. These interactive toys are just hilarious. They respond to your voice and your touch and kids will get a kick out of this balloon-style toy that has a ferocious roar and epic dance moves.
3. For the one on the go: The Micro Kickboard scooter
A scooter is easy-to-transport fun and the Micro Kickboard, with its adjustable handlebar and motion-activated light-up wheels, is the ultimate gift for Christmas morning. Our testers tried out nine different scooters and this one came out as the clear winner. Best for ages 5 to 12, this model will grow with your child, no matter what neighborhood excursions they may tackle.
4. For the resident crime-fighter: PAW Patrol
The parents we spoke to said PAW Patrol is huge at this age (and that’s been our experience as well). With the PAW Patrol movie release this year, the crime-fighting canine team is hotter than ever. This year’s must-have PAW Patrol toy is the multi-level Adventure City headquarters from the movie. It’s filled with amazing discoveries and cool features including a transforming light-up rescue ramp, command center, vehicle lift, pup elevator, holographic city maps and so much more!
5. For the resident fort builder: Crazy Forts fort-building kit
Buyer beware with fort-making kits: So many are too tough for little kids to assemble on their own, and many fall apart when a sheet goes on top. This award-winning set is noted for its ease of build and for its durability. Kids can get creative as they build their dream fort with this 69-piece kit. We also love the glow-in-the-dark balls and attachable lights, which will mean this is one fort that won’t result in burnt-out flashlights once the kids have moved in.
6. For the budding architect: Magna-tiles
If they don’t already have Magna-tiles, now is the age to buy them. Our son is almost 8 and he still plays with his Magna-tiles non-stop. This is a toy with serious longevity! The key, though, is to have enough tiles to let their creativity soar. The new Metropolis set, with its cool add-ons, really lets them build the cities they are creating in their minds.
4. For the one who wants a dream house: Barbie’s Dream House
The Barbie Dream House you grew up with got a gut job to totally modernize it and make it a modern-day dream abode. Updated this year, it’s a dream house for a thoroughly modern Barbie. This new model offers 360-degrees of play and 10 living areas, including a pool, a roof deck (complete with bar and disco ball), an elevator, a swing chair and more.
5. Hot Wheels City Robo T. Rex Ultimate Garage
Recommended ages: 3 and up
This is the kind of jaw-dropping dream toy that will have them remembering this Christmas morning as the epic year they got a T. Rex-eating car garage. This robo-city multi-level garage parks over 100 cars, has a multi-course speedway and it has a chomping T. Rex that the racing cars need to outrun. Basically, this is everything awesome about childhood in one toy. Amazing!
6. For the kid who likes to pretend: A costume kit
Imaginative play is big at this age. It’s when they begin to really see where they are in the world and envision how they can participate in it. This set comes with everything they need to be a gardener, a chef or a construction worker. We also love the high-quality accessories that allow them to really dive into their imaginative activities.
10. For the STEAM-loving kid: Bright Stripes Sculpture & Science Kit
For a full day of creative and science- and technology-based learning, these three-activity kits are great for getting their little minds to grow. This one by Bright Stripes has immersive activities that are based on sculpture and science. These activities really help kids make the connections between how the arts and sciences are interconnected—all while they’re having fun making really cool projects that are just right for this age.
11. For the future influencer: KidiZoom PrintCam
This camera is a kid-friendly version of the Instaprint cameras that are trendy right now. What makes this kid-friendly, beyond its sturdy construction, is that it allows kids to add fun little stickers and skins for a creation where they can express themselves. It also lets kids view their photos on a digital screen and edit them to stay in color or get arty by converting it into black and white.
Ali Mierzejewski, editor in chief of the Toy Insider, said she thinks this will be a top toy for the season.
“With tons of templates to browse through and a selfie camera, kids will love capturing the perfect shot with this camera,” says Mierzejewski.
12. For the one who loves story time: Yoto Player
Our reviewers are huge fans of screen-free listening systems. Parents want their kids off their tablets, but it’s hard to go completely screen-free when tablets and TVs really are the ultimate babysitters.
Enter the story speakers that are gaining popularity right now. For slightly older kids, we like the Yoto Player. This cute, 4-inch, white plastic speaker narrates popular and classic kids’ books by way of small, pre-programed credit-card-sized content cards.
Our reviewer calls it one of “the best ‘toys’ we’ve gotten in recent years” and says that “it's the only thing we've found that can compete with the lure of a tablet loaded with YouTube kids.”
13. For the one who really wants a puppy: Scruff-A-Luvs Cutie Cuts
Kids this age still love their plushies, but they don’t tend to get the same mileage as they did when they were younger. This toy puts a new twist on plush pets by giving kids a customizable experience that builds the bond between child and toy. Just like a real pet, this plush can be washed and groomed. With “real” (not really—these are totally kid-safe) clippers, kids can cut and style their puppy’s fur into fun and funky fashions. They can finish off with a blow dry, accompanying accessories and they can even paint their paws to change color.
14. For the kid who loves imaginative play: Playmobil
Playmobil toys are such a great way to build on their love of imaginative play. They are sturdy, posable and kids love using them to act out any scenario their creative little minds can conjure.
For mermaid-lovers, we are crazy about the Mermaid Cove set. It comes with an illuminated dome for extra magical play, and it doubles as a buildable marble run (for a little subversive STEAM play).
Dino fans will love Playmobil’s entire Dino Rise line. It comes with weaponized, armor-covered dinosaurs that are loads of fun to play with.
And any kid will go crazy for the ever-popular zoo, which can be built upon as the years go on.
15. For the one who may be a bit too competitive: Outfoxed Cooperative Game
Kids at this age can still be a bit prohibitively competitive. Channel that competitive nature into team building with a cooperative game. We love the suspenseful nature of this whodunit game, where players work together to figure out the whereabouts of Mrs. Plumpert’s prized pot pie! Players work together to gather clues and evidence to find the hungry hooligan and bring them to justice.
16. For the one who likes to tell time: eeBoo Around the Clock Puzzle
Kids are starting to get a grasp on time at this age. This is a fun 2-in-1 toy that starts as a puzzle and then turns into a time-telling toy with movable hands. It marks the time by hours and minutes and not only teaches kids how to tell time, it introduces them to the concept of a 24-hour day.
17. For the future Oscar winner: Sloth in a Hurry game
A fun twist on charades, this is a game that’s not only great for 5-year-olds, but one the whole family can get behind. Even a cynical tween sibling will have a hard time not warming up to the wholly silly nature of this game. Players draw a “who” card and a “what” card, which not only gives them a great little subject/predicate primer, it puts their “who” characters in truly hilarious situations—like walking on the moon while eating a sandwich, or dancing in mud on a unicycle.
18. For the one who likes the latest trends: Pop It! XL
The popularity of Pop Its shows no sign of waning, so you best be sure to have it on your 5-year-old’s holiday list. “They’re great to help kids’ focus and to help manage anxiety and any other big feelings, and can serve as a coping mechanism and help kids at this age build healthy habits,” says Mierzejewski.
She recommends Pop It! XL for a super-sized pop it experience.
19. For the one who wants to save Gotham City: Batman Bat-Tech Transforming Batcave
If you want to be the hero this holiday, then take a look at this toy. This 30-inch Batman action figure transforms into a battery-powered Batcave complete with an elevator, a zipline, a tool shop, a jail (for tossing away the bad guys) and more. Mierzejewski recommends this toy for its two-in-one play pattern, which she says gives a ton of added play value to this toy.
20. For the one who likes to be cozy: Sh*t that I Knit Little Beans Beanie
Our Parenting editor, Anna Lane, is in love with the hats and balaclavas that are hand-knit by this mom-owned business. Super soft and cozy, these aren’t your typical caps—they also aren’t your typical balaclavas. Made with kiddos in mind, these are non-scratchy and they fit like a cap and scarf combo where the scarf is never lost and the ears are covered up against the biting cold.
“I’m obsessed… it’s adorable and so cozy,” says Lane.
21. For the future chemist: KiwiCo Young Chemists 3-pack
Many moms we spoke to said that kids this age love mixing kid-safe chemicals and colors to discover and learn about their reactions. Kids are little scientists and this three-kit chemistry set is sure to be a hit, especially when we are looking for activities to fill the time during the winter months. We tested this one by KiwiCo against competitors, and it’s our top pick for science-based kits that keep learning fun.
22. For the one who wants to go on safari: GeoSafari Jr. Talking Microscope
Five-year-olds are sponges for information, and this talking microscope is filled with just the kinds of fun facts to satisfy their curious minds. Narrated by the voice of Bindi Irwin, this cool child-sized—and child-safe—microscope rattles off kid-friendly nature facts on each of the accompanying 20 slides. After kids are done soaking up all of the fascinating information told to them, they can switch to quiz mode where they can answer questions about the fun facts they’ve learned.
23. For the future baker: Play-Doh Rising Cake Oven
Kids of all ages love creative compounds, and Play-Doh is constantly coming up with new ways to keep their iconic toy fun and fresh for new fans. This toy is filled with "wow factor" when kids create cakes that magically "rise" in the play oven, with a bell that dings when they’re ready. This fun set allows you to create all sorts of creations, including surprise rainbow sprinkles-filled desserts and multi-layer rainbow cakes.
24. For the one who is into coding: Botly the Coding Robot
Our reviewers are big fans of Botly the Coding Robot. It’s just right for early coders who want a big bang for their efforts. Botly 2.0 is the next-generation of Toy of the Year-winning version, with all sorts of innovative upgrades. Botly teaches kids how to code with 100% screen-free play, and this version has implemented 16 fun interaction modes, which can transform Botly into a train, police car, ghost and more.
25. For the budding builder: Legos
Of all of the parents we asked, one thing was unanimous: You can never go wrong with Legos. Age 5 is when kids graduate from Duplos to the smaller bricks. This is the time they can really get to building to make some truly satisfying creations.
At this age not all Lego sets are age appropriate. For a confidence-boosting set that’s just right, we like the Lego Juniors line. From Jurassic World, to Spiderman to Lego Friends, these are great starter sets to get their brick-building passion going.
26. My Squishy Little Dumpling
Recommended ages: 4 and up
For a mini interactive toy, My Squishy Little Dumplings are sweet, adorable and silly. They come with names like Dip and Dot and each dumpling “wakes up” and jumps up to reveal its legs and body when you “squeeze” its cheeks. They giggle and glow and they chatter about in their own language. These are collectable and silly and wildly entertaining. Be forewarned: If you have one, your kid is going to want them all.
27. Magical Hogwarts Mini Castle
Recommended ages: 5 and up
This amazing replica of Hogwarts Castle stands at almost two feet tall and is the perfect toy for kids who want to enter the wizarding world of Harry Potter and friends. Here they can relive the magic that resides in the hallowed halls of Hogwarts, with interactive lights, sounds and fun magical elements. With 12 accessories and an exclusive 3-inch Hermione mini doll included, they'll have a spellbinding time reliving scenes from the books. Additional characters are sold separately (and make for excellent stocking stuffers).
28. MicroMachines Corvette race track
Recommended ages: 4 and up
Back to the "mini" craze, this will appease both any mini and/or car obsession your child may have. MicroMachines are tradable and collectible and this cool Corvette pop-open raceway just makes them all the more fun. It pops open to be assembled into a multilevel raceway with lots of tips and turns and drag race functionality. It’s cool, it’s compact and it packs away easily, making it the perfect toy to take with them on family trips.
“It’s just a really fun toy and the design is great,” says Stephanie Oppenheim, co-founder of ToyPortfolio.com.
29. Purse Pets
Recommended ages: 5 and up
Packed with purse-onality, these fabulous purse-sized pets are fun, interactive and each has their own individual personality—just like a real pet! Each responds to touch and really blinks as they interact with their owners. Each has more than 25 exciting sounds and reactions unique to each Purse Pet’s style! A perfectly portable toy, these little pets are great for on-the-go adventures.
30. Papaton Shadow Theater
Recommended ages: 3 to 8
This beautiful toy has been racking up parenting and toy-maker awards, and for good reason. It’s a beautifully designed shadow puppet set that’s perfect for developing narrative storytelling skills, and it’s just right for family time.
The shadow puppet kit comes with over 30 characters and props to enact four well-known fairy tales, including Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, The Tortoise & The Hare and The Lion & The Mouse. You upload the accompanying app to your phone that narrates and sets the story to music, while also shining a light on the stage. Children take over and act out the stories for your enjoyment.
“Here’s why I really like it: It engages kids in narrative creativity and storytelling. It’s a gateway to writing, creative thinking and problem solving. And kids love puppets—I think people are really going to like this one,” says Byrne.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
This article originally appeared on Reviewed: The best toys and gifts for 5-year-olds