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When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.At age 6, kids often start showing more independence in play and more complex motor skills than younger kids.With the advice of a developmental psychologist, an occupational therapist, and a list of the year’s top toys, we’ve rounded up 21 great gift ideas for 6-year-olds.You can check out all of our 2020 holiday gift guides here to shop for everyone on your list.Sign up for Insider Reviews’ weekly newsletter for more buying advice and great deals.Settled right between early childhood and elementary-age, 6-year-olds often have a wide variety of interests. Six is an age of learning independence, experimenting with play, and being silly just because. But 6 can also be an age that makes it tricky to find that perfect gift.With guidance from a developmental psychologist, an occupational therapist, and lists of the year’s best toys, we poured over the options to find the gifts that are both exciting to unwrap yet developmentally appropriate.”At 6 years old, kids begin to demonstrate more independence as they practice all kinds of developmental skills through play, including self-care skills and more complex gross motor and fine motor skills,” said Claire Heffron, an occupational therapist and blogger at The Inspired Treehouse.As a mom to a daughter who will soon be turning 6, I also looked for toys that don’t make big messes and still work if a piece gets lost.Here 21 of our favorite gifts for 6-year-olds:
An imaginative craft kit to build their own toys
Toy Starter, available at Toyi, $21.90Developmental psychologist Mariana Brussoni said that the best toys are flexible, limited only by the child’s imagination. Toyi isn’t a toy — it’s a set of parts so children can design their own toys. Mixed with items from around the house, such as the recycling bin’s contents, kids can create a toy, then continue to use their imagination as they play with it. The Toyi starter kit includes wheels to construct vehicles as well as feet and eyes to create different characters and joints, sticks, flexible rings, and junction pieces to put it all together.
A kit for epic sand (and snow) castles
Create a Castle Pro Tower Kit, available at Amazon and Walmart, $49.99Building sandcastles is a childhood rite of passage, but those castles will be even more epic with Create a Castle. With a two-piece tower mold, the kit creates realistic turrets, complete with a brick pattern in sand or snow. The set isn’t a cookie-cutter sand castle kit where every kid is going to make the same sand castle, however. It also includes three tools for custom-shaping sand and adding windows and stairs.
A kit for building sweet blanket forts
Fun Forts Fort Building Kit, available at Amazon, $21.95Right around age 6 was when my two oldest kids became obsessed with building forts, and I would suddenly find the furniture rearranged and the entire blanket closet emptied. Think of the Fun Forts Building Kit as a set of giant K’nex for building blanket forts. Using a set of ball connectors and rods, kids can create a variety of support structures — the only other thing that you need is a blanket. For many 6-year-olds, this will be an activity to do together before they get the hang of it.
A new take on the classic ‘Floor Is Lava’ game
The Floor Is Lava Game, available at Amazon, Target, Walmart, and Kohl’s, $16.97Remember jumping off the furniture and throw pillows as a kid because you were pretending the floor was hot lava? The Floor is Lava includes 25 colored squares and a spinner. Players have to jump to the color selected by the spinner to avoid that pretend molten lava. Designed for between two to five players, the game also includes 25 added challenge cards.
A jump rope kit that starts with a craft and ends with an outdoor toy
Fat Brain Toys
Surprise Ride Make a Jump Rope Activity Kit, available at Amazon, Walmart, and Fat Brain Toys, $24.95Craft kits can help encourage creativity, while outdoor play promotes too many skills to list. This jump rope craft kit offers both. The included activity book walks kids through constructing the jump rope using the included cord, handles, and beads. Designing the jump rope is fun for 6-year-olds that enjoy craft projects, and threading the large beads will encourage fine motor skills.
A scooter to practice balancing and burn energy outside
Razor A3 Kick Scooter, available at Target and Walmart, $59.99 Both the developmental psychologist and occupational therapist we talked to suggested outdoor toys like bikes and scooters as excellent options for 6-year-olds. The Razor A3 Kick Scooter is a well-built outdoor toy that encourages balance and active play while being still relatively affordable. The A3 scooter also has an adjustable handlebar, so it’s not a gift that will be outgrown in a year. Unlike some more affordable scooters, the A3 uses a folding design that takes up less space in the garage, fits easily in even small car trunks, and is still a suitable gift for apartment dwellers.
A storybook take on the classic Magna-Tiles building toy
Magna-Tiles Hungry Caterpillar/Brown Bear/Grouchy Ladybug, available at Target, $76.49Magna-Tiles Very Hungry Caterpillar, available at Target, $29.74Magna-Tiles Brown Bear, Brown Bear, available at Target, $29.74Magna-Tiles Carle Papa Please Get the Moon, available at Target, $29.74Magna-Tiles are a fun magnetic building toy, but the Eric Carle collection adds a new twist ideal for the books’ fans. Inspired by stories like “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” these educational toys help build even more skills than classic Magna-Tiles. Kids can retell the story, put the pictures in order, and practice shapes and numbers.
A fun, representative puzzle
Large Veterinarian Girl Puzzle, available at Puzzle Huddle, $16.95Puzzles make excellent quiet activities. This 54-piece puzzle is large enough for 6-year-old fingers to manipulate easily. Featuring a veterinarian with a dog, the puzzle could easily be a hit with kids who are interested in animals. All puzzles will help build skills in concentration and problem-solving, but this one made our list for offering a more diverse representation. This gift idea comes from Puzzle Huddle, a small business promoting diversity through puzzles that feature children of color, often in inspirational roles from president to scientist.
An imaginative play set to explore outer space
Playmobil Mars Space Station, available at Amazon, Walmart, and Target, $52.80Six-year-olds can explore spacecraft and their imagination with the Mars Space Station. Earning the Toy of the Year Award for best play set, the Mars space station includes two astronauts and a robot exploring inside the space station and out with removable pods and tools. The accessories even include dollhouse-like items the astronauts need to live there, including food and toothbrushes.
An open-ended, fun marble run
Fat Brain Toys Mega Marble Run Marathon, available at Amazon, Walmart, and Fat Brain Toys, $39.95This marble run doesn’t have to follow a specific set of instructions — making it a great, open-ended STEM toy. The 200-piece marble run set includes various tracks, from straight to curved to spinners and 25 marbles, so a lost piece is no big deal. The ability to design the marble run in different ways and watch how the different designs change the course of the marble promotes creative engineering and even a touch of physics.
A unique, customizable doll
Creatable World Deluxe Character Kit, available at Amazon and Walmart, $19.19Dolls are a common gift idea for young girls (and shouldn’t be disregarded as an idea for boys), but no dolls are quite like the Mattel Creatable World. Creatable World allows kids to swap hairstyles as well as clothing, creating a more versatile as well as gender-neutral toy. Most sets include long and short hair and a mix of apparel, while additional accessories are available to expand the possible looks. Unlike a traditional Barbie, articulated limbs allow for easy posing.
A build-your-own obstacle courses game
Bed Bath & Beyond
Play Monster Ultra Dash Game, available at Amazon and Walmart, $16.83Obstacle courses are excellent for active play indoors or out, and Ultra Dash will encourage young kids to build their own and compete with themselves or friends. “At this stage of development, kids are able to combine multiple gross motor skills and are drawn to play interactions with peers, which makes gross motor games even more fun,” Heffron said. Ultra Dash includes an electronic tagger and five targets. Kids race to each target, insert the tagger, and race to the next, all while the tagger keeps track of their time.
A ‘library’ of arts and crafts supplies
Kid Made Modern Arts and Crafts Library Kit, available at Amazon, $39.99While step-by-step craft kits are great for teaching kids how to follow directions, allowing kids to make their own creations is excellent for encouraging imagination and creativity. This box from Kid Made Modern is full of more than 1,000 craft supplies. It includes pipe cleaners, pom poms, wood pieces, felt, beads, sticker jewels, googly eyes, and string, as well as scissors, glue, and sewing needles, all enclosed in a giftable case. That’s a lot of open-ended crafting.
A kit to create your own puzzle creations
Fat Brain Toys
Fat Brain Toys Jixelz Creator, available at Amazon, Target and Fat Brain Toys, $39.95Puzzles make great gifts, but Jixels aren’t your typical puzzle. These small plastic puzzle pieces fit together to create different patterns, with each piece being one pixel. The end result is pixelated custom puzzle art. Jixelz can be used to follow the ideas in the included booklet or for kids to assemble their own pictures as open-ended play. The set contains 3,000 pieces in 15 colors, while the booklet includes 40 designs and lined paper for kids to make their own.
A Hatchimal that hovers over their hands
Hatchimals Pixies Crystal Flyers, available at Target, $24.99A cross between a doll and a toy drone, the Crystal Flyers are toy fairies that kids fly using only simple hand gestures. Hatchimals are a coveted toy for many kids, and the Pixie Crystal Flyers offer the potential for more play beyond the initial hatching excitement. Unlike toy drones that use remotes, the Pixies encourage more active play since they move with the child’s hand. The toy recharges via USB, so there are no batteries to buy.
A building toy that moves
Brio Builder Motor Set, available at Amazon, $59.99Open-ended building toys are excellent. “Look for things that are flexible in the way that they are used,” said Brussoni. Building toys, by nature, are ideal for open-ended play, but this set adds in another fun element — a motor. Using this 121-piece set, kids can build creations that move, thanks to a battery-powered motor. They can create their own designs, with or without the motor, and the mix of plastic and wood pieces. A Parent’s Choice 2020 winner, this STEM toy is well loved by both kids and adults.
A play kitchen with realistic sounds and movement
Hape Fun Fan Fryer, available at Amazon and Target, $30.95Pretend play was always my kids’ favorite in the early elementary years, and this play stove from Hape looks ripe for imaginative play. The wood tabletop stove has a fan built in, so it actually makes stove noises and the felt food meals jump around the pan. Its small size means it’s not going to take up lots of room.
An unrestrained box of Legos
Lego Classic Creative Bricks, available at Amazon, Target, and Walmart, $13.50Building toys with instructions help teach kids how to read and follow instructions, but sets without instructions help encourage creative thinking. This set of 221 classic Lego bricks offers both. Unlike predesigned sets, kids are free to build whatever they can dream up. But for working on skills related to following instructions, there’s an idea booklet included, too. The set comes in a very giftable plastic storage container.
A low-mess portable sandbox
Kinetic Sand Folding Sandbox, available at Target and Walmart, $29.99Playing in the sand doesn’t have to stop when summer ends. Kinetic sand is sand that’s mixed with a polymer, creating squishy, dough-like sand. The sand sticks to itself, so cleanup only requires taking a ball of the sand and rolling it on top of any loose pieces. Like modeling clay, Kinetic Sand makes for excellent, open-ended sensory play. This set includes a case for storage and containing the mess during play.
A snow tube for downhill sledding fun
H2OGO! Winter Swirl Snow Tube, available at Target and Walmart, $9.99Sleds are fun toys but often a pain to store during the non-winter months. The H2OGo! Snow Tube is an inflatable snow tube for taking advantage of winter slopes, yet it can deflate for easier storage. Made from a weather-resistant material, it also has oversized grips that are designed for grabbing while wearing gloves.
An air rocket that actually lights up
National Geographic Air Rocket Toy, available at Amazon, $19.99Air rockets are excellent outdoor toys, but this set steps up the fun with LED lights. It includes a launchpad and three light-up rockets that can fly up to 100 feet in the air. Kids can choose the launch angle with the adjustable launch pad, while parents will appreciate the folding legs for easier storage. This toy encourages balance, coordination, and whole-body movement, but National Geographic also encourages STEM learning with an included booklet with different experiments and information on how rockets work.
A classic balancing game
Melissa & Dough Suspend Jr. Balance Game, available at Amazon, Kohl’s, and Michael’s, $16.99Like a reverse Jenga, Suspend Jr. is a game that requires balancing plastic pieces to create a hanging structure. Kids flick the spinner, then add a color-coded stick to the design. Age 6 is young for a lot of board games, but Suspend Jr. is simple to play while encouraging skills like hand-eye coordination. And, of course, it’s fun to play. Recommended by Heffron, Suspend Jr. is also a favorite among parents.
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Insider Picks 2020
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