The 22 Best Gifts for 6-Year-Olds – The New York Times

the-22-best-gifts-for-6-year-olds-–-the-new-york-times

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It can be tempting to stick with what you already know your 6-year-old is interested in, but there’s value in introducing them to new passions, as well as in encouraging preexisting ones, said John Tenuto, a sociology instructor at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, who has studied toys and collectibles. (Tenuto was also a featured expert on the Netflix series The Toys That Made Us). For example, the child who loves craft projects might enjoy building a robot; the budding scientist might like to try their hand at gardening.Kids this age are increasingly able to follow instructions and manipulate more-complex materials, so try projects and kits that 6-year-olds can work on independently or with friends (likely with some adult supervision). Being able to complete a project on their own—even if they make a mess or skip a step along the way—can help them develop resilience and confidence. Six-year-olds are often also ready for a variety of board games that require some skill and patience and challenge them to follow more-complicated rules. And kids this age still need plenty of open-ended play, exercise, and silliness, so toys that get them moving, dancing, or using their imagination are also good choices.We considered advice from Tenuto and other experts, as well as the collective experience of parents and other caregivers on our staff, to identify memorable and engaging gifts for 6-year-olds. If you’re looking for more kids gift ideas, check out our guides to the best gifts for 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 7-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 9-year-olds, and 10-year-olds, as well as wonderful stocking stuffers for kids. We also have guides to gifts for tweens and teens. And please share your own best ideas in the comments below.Under $20A roaming robot Photo: 4M4M Table Top Robot ($15 at the time of publication)We’ve noticed stock issues with this item. We’ll update this article once it’s available again. When my older son was about 6, he became obsessed with the idea of building his own robot. We ended up signing him up for a one-time robot-building class at a local makerspace, and he came home with an adorable little robot crab that could successfully skitter across the dining room table, intelligently sensing the edge and reversing course. It wasn’t until years later that I realized this beloved mini bot was actually from a simple, inexpensive set we could easily have bought ourselves. We’ve lost a couple of this little guy’s legs, but the robot crab is still active and displayed with pride on a shelf in my son’s room. We were later gifted a Tin Can Robot made by the same company. That was also a fun project, but the robotic results were less satisfying, and the crab remains my son’s favorite.—Kalee ThompsonA perfect fit Photo: Puzzle HuddlePuzzle Huddle STEM Love ($13 at the time of publication)We’ve noticed stock issues with this item. We’ll update this article once it’s available again.When Keewa Nurullah’s son received the Puzzle Huddle Future Engineer Puzzle, it was a special moment. “It’s such an awesome representation for kids of color,” said Nurullah, owner of the children’s shop Kido in Chicago. The puzzle is one of many Puzzle Huddle puzzles, which range from 15 to 200 pieces and feature Black children as doctors, scientists (as in the 24-piece STEM Love puzzle), astronauts, and other professionals. The puzzles help increase the visibility of Black people in prestigious careers—and they present just the right level of challenge for kids this age.—Kelly GlassA towering card game Photo: Rozette RagoHaba Rhino Hero ($15 at the time of publication)This silly but tricky card-stacking game is perfect for playing in pairs or with a group of friends. Players take turns carefully stacking L-shaped “wall” cards and flat “roof” cards to build a tower. The challenge lies in following the symbols on the cards, which show you how to place the walls and when to move the wooden rhino figure to the upper story, increasing the card tower’s instability as it grows taller and taller. The game is over when a player successfully places all of their roof cards or makes the tower topple. Rhino Hero offers both easy and expert modes (the latter requires you to place the cards in more-challenging, less-stable configurations), so this game can grow along with your children’s skills. This is a favorite from our guide to the board games we love for kids, and it made the recommended list for the prestigious 2012 Kinderspiel des Jahres awards for the best children’s board games.—Courtney SchleyHide-and-seek Photo: CandlewickWhere’s Waldo? Deluxe Edition by Martin Handford ($8 at the time of publication)We’ve noticed stock issues with this item. We’ll update this article once it’s available again.
The delightful Where’s Waldo? Deluxe Edition by Martin Handford features Handford’s sprawling drawings and, of course, Waldo, dressed in his signature red-and-white stripes and tucked amid the scenery. Other characters—Waldo’s dog Woof (but only his tail), his friend Wenda, and his foe Odlaw—are also craftily hidden within the scenes. Waldo addresses readers (aka Waldo-fans, Waldo-watchers, and so on) with a postcard on each spread, and then the fun begins. When my almost-6-year-old and I sat down to search, we got lost in the pages, sometimes finding Waldo immediately and other times not locating him at all. Handford’s illustrations are terrific, packed with enough wacky detail, bustling energy, and stripes to throw off even the most sharp-eyed Waldo-spotter. For the truly ambitious, each scene has a foldout panel with a checklist of even more items to find.—Ingrid SkjongClay play, plus an app Photo: Hey ClayHey Clay Animals ($17 at the time of publication)We’ve noticed stock issues with this item. We’ll update this article once it’s available again.Hey Clay is a high-quality modeling clay that comes with app-based instructions, allowing young kids to create some truly adorable critters. Each kit includes 18 mini canisters of soft, brightly colored, nonsticky clay that’s foamy and flexible, yet firm enough to produce cartoony, detailed creations. (The kits come in six versions, including animals, birds, monsters, dinos, bugs, and aliens, each with different instructions and color combinations.) A Hey Clay kit “allows young children an intro to professional clay-molding techniques,” said Ann Kienzle, owner of Play, a children’s toy shop in Chicago. Kids can mold on their own, or you can download an accompanying app that includes lively, step-by-step visual tutorials for creating specific animals or creatures. The straightforward voice instructions have fun sound effects and guide your young artist through each step; they also teach age-appropriate art techniques, such as making textures and sculpting facial features. The clay hardens fully in 24 hours, creating a permanent work of art that’s officially ready for play.—Kelly GlassScratch art for crafty kids Photo: Peter Pauper PressUnicorn Adventure Scratch and Sketch: An Art Activity Book for Creative Kids of All Ages ($10 at the time of publication)Homemade scratch paper is a thing. But if DIY isn’t for you, go for a Scratch and Sketch activity book. Available in an assortment of themes—Wild Safari, Fashion Show—the books are filled with surprises. Unicorn Adventure (pictured above) allows kids to either trace along with the story or doodle on blank pages with a wooden stylus, revealing multicolored swirls or gold and silver glitter. (Other titles aren’t traceable, but they encourage duplicating basic drawings.) To let imaginations really go wild, Scratch-Art Paper for Students (from $6 at the time of publication, depending on the number of sheets) has no predecided designs, allowing for free drawing. Wirecutter supervising editor Courtney Schley said her 5-year-old and 7-year-old have spent hours working on the pages, including on airplane trips.—Ingrid SkjongSlime, as you like it Photo: Michael HessionCra-Z-Art Nickelodeon Super Slimy Slime ($15 at the time of publication)We’ve noticed stock issues with this item. We’ll update this article once it’s available again. Play-Doh Slime Variety 6-Pack ($15 at the time of publication)We’ve noticed stock issues with these items. We’ll update this article once they’re available again.It’s gooey, squishy, stretchy, and brightly colored. It’s slime, and if your kid is 6, there’s a good chance they love it. You can buy this sticky, ready-made Play-Doh concoction in a variety pack (it has six cans with five different slime textures, including traditional squishy, fluffy, crackly, super-stretchy, and foamy). Many kids, like mine, may prefer to make their own slime and have the creation be part of the fun. We like Cra-Z-Art Nickelodeon Super Slimy Slime. The kit includes everything you need to make slime and then some, allowing kids to customize their slime batches with glitter, neon colors, scents, and tiny beads for texture.—Kelly Glass$20 to $50Tie-dyeing made easy Photo: TulipTulip One-Step Tie-Dye Party Kit (about $25 at the time of publication)The Tulip One-Step Tie-Dye Party Kit is meant to supply enough materials for a group to tie-dye together, but I like that one or two kids can get a lot of mileage and experimentation out of it on their own (with some parental supervision). The little plastic bin comes packed with squeeze bottles in 14 vibrant colors, along with gloves, rubber bands, and some step-by-step directions for achieving different effects. (Garments are not included.)—Winnie YangA do-it-yourself terrarium Photo: Uptown Farmer KidsUptown Farmer Kids Night Light Terrarium ($25 at the time of publication)Even when my little one is skipping or running 4 feet ahead of me, he always manages to stop and spot a ladybug crawling on a plant, or notice a new patch of grass cropping up in an unusual spot. Nature slows him down, in a good way. When we first unpacked the Uptown Farmer Kids Night Light Terrarium, I talked to him about the little ecosystem we were about to grow, and he was unusually patient about waiting the several days it took for the chia and wheatgrass seeds (both included) to sprout. The kit’s instructions are simple enough for many 6-year-olds to follow independently, with some oversight: You layer the soil, rocks, sand, and seeds, and then spray the surface with water. While my son waited for the first sprouts to appear, I enjoyed watching him gently water and turn his mini greenhouse toward the sun each day. The terrarium doubles as a night-light, and my son likes the colorful stars and moon it projects onto his ceiling at bedtime. Once the grasses have outgrown their space, we can replant them outside, purchase replacement seeds and soil, and do it all over again. Uptown Farmer Kids also makes a unicorn-themed terrarium.—Kelly GlassBead bonanza Photo: PerlerPerler Beads Pet Parade Kit ($20 at the time of publication)We’ve noticed stock issues with this item. We’ll update this article once it’s available again. The Perler Beads Pet Parade Kit is a great rainy-day activity for kids who have the focus and fine motor skills to pick up tiny beads with an oversize pair of tweezers. It’s simple: Junior crafters place the colorful beads on the pegboard to make animal designs (or get creative with their own patterns). Fusing the beads requires the help of a grown-up with an iron, but the bulk of the activity is solitary, self-directed fun. This kit includes 5,000 beads, five pegboards, 12 googly eyes, and one sheet of reusable ironing paper, plus instructions and tweezers. If you want to beef up your bead supply for cheap, add this set from IKEA to your collection.—Caitlin GiddingsTrick shots Photo: Fat Brain ToysFat Brain Toys Box & Balls ($35 at the time of publication)We’ve noticed stock issues with this item. We’ll update this article once it’s available again. Just like its name suggests, Box & Balls is a set of eight nesting wooden boxes and eight bouncy balls that can be arranged in numerous configurations for games requiring a creative eye and a steady hand. Note, however, that it requires some preliminary preparation to fully enjoy: If a kid jumps in without orienting themselves, they’ll be underwhelmed. Before getting started, carefully look over the game ideas printed on each box (they have names like Long Shot and Up and Over) with your kid. Once they find the ones they like and grasp how to play them, they’re in for good old-fashioned fun that lets them make up their own games, too. I particularly like the open-ended play the set encourages. I can see my son’s wheels turning as he decides on the setup that will result in musical, xylophone-like sounds when the balls bounce squarely off the boxes.—Kelly GlassA tall tube for tiny tinkering Photo: Plus-PlusPlus-Plus Super Tube ($25 at the time of publication)By age 6, kids likely have a favorite building toy, whether it’s Legos, Magna-Tiles, or classic wooden blocks. But the tiny, colorful Plus-Plus pieces offer kids something a bit different. Their unique, puzzle-piece-like shape (as the name suggests, they look like two connected plus signs) lets kids manipulate them into just about anything, from tiny figures to towering plinths. Ann Kienzle, owner of Play, a children’s toy shop in Chicago, said the versatile nature of the Plus-Plus pieces makes them a good fit for creative young minds. Kids can puzzle together flat works of art or engineer three-dimensional constructions. Plus-Plus sells project-based kits (for building rocket ships, making jewelry, and more) as well as open-ended sets. We think this ultra-size tube, standing more than 3 feet tall and filled with 500 pieces, is likely to impress a young builder. (Note that the Plus-Plus pieces are tiny—about ½ by ¾ inch—and could pose a choking hazard for younger children.)—Kelly GlassParty lights Photo: LuditekLuditek Sound Activated Disco Ball Lights with Remote Control ($25 for a set of two at the time of publication)What kid doesn’t love a disco ball? This pair of small, inexpensive lamps can sit on a table or be mounted on a wall, giving you all the multicolor-light goodness of a classic disco ball without the huge hanging sphere and spotlights. And you can use the included remote to change the lamps’ light colors, patterns, and speed. This set even has sound-activated modes to pulse along with the beat of your kid’s favorite songs.—Dan FrakesAn on-track puzzle Photo: ThinkFunThinkFun Roller Coaster Challenge (about $30 at the time of publication)The ThinkFun Roller Coaster Challenge is a puzzle that, when put together correctly, doubles as a working roller coaster. “The game gets kiddos working with their hands, thinking sequentially and logically, [and] problem-solving,” said Jena Olson, president of the STEM educational nonprofit Kid Spark Education at the time of our interview. “It’s also fun for grown-ups, which results in greater STEM learning due to having a mentor with the child.” Strong readers who are up for the challenge can try following one of the 40 instruction cards by themselves, or they can play with an adult or simply use their imagination to construct roller coasters of their own design. The true test comes when a kid places the roller-coaster car on the tracks. Does it make it all the way down? Let the experimentation begin.—Kelly GlassCatch the Hexbugs Photo: RavensburgerRavensburger Bugs in the Kitchen ($20 at the time of publication)Featuring the tiny, popular robotic insect called the Hexbug nano, Bugs in the Kitchen is a fast-paced board game that’s all about strategy and speed. Each of up to four players chooses a corner as their bug trap. The game board is set up like a maze, with rotatable barriers in the shape of forks, knives, and spoons. Players take turns rolling a die to determine which utensils they can rotate, creating a path to trap the Hexbug in their corner, thereby winning the round. All the while, the automated Hexbug scuttles and jitters randomly across the board. Winning the game requires both forward thinking (planning out which maze pieces to turn) and quick reactions (to the constantly moving Hexbug). Shelley Simon, purchasing manager at Dr. G’s BrainWorks in Champaign, Illinois, recommends this game for 6-year-olds because it’s silly on the surface but teaches some light strategy—a new challenge for the big kid moving away from purely luck-based board games.—Kelly GlassA DIY climbing wall Photo: Climbing MonkeyClimbing Monkey Rock Climbing Holds ($40 at the time of publication)Some family friends have a super-active kid who loves obstacle courses and American Ninja Warrior–style shenanigans. To burn off some of that energy, they created a mini climbing wall over her bed using Climbing Monkey Rock Climbing Holds. The set comes with 25 colorful, multishaped holds and thick hex bolts you can secure to a compatible playscape or drill into a sturdy board for a DIY climbing wall. (The holds don’t list a weight limit, but we found several reviews saying they felt secure enough for adults.) Just think: If you’re willing to break out some power tools and get creative, you could turn your entire garage into a bouldering gym for the elementary-school set.—Caitlin GiddingsOver $50Surf-style swinging Photo: SwurferSwurfer Original ($130 at the time of publication)We’ve noticed stock issues with this item. We’ll update this article once it’s available again. A family friend attached the Swurfer Original to their playscape last year, and our pack of high-energy little ones descended on it in a frenzy. Essentially just a sturdy wooden skateboard deck with ropes and handles attached, the Swurfer offers kids two options: Sit on it for a mellow, relaxing ride—or do what any junior thrill-seeker would do, and stand on the board to rock it to great heights. Control the ride’s intensity by mounting the Swurfer to a standard swing set for younger kids or to a tree for older daredevils. The included 60-foot rope is long enough to hang the Swurfer from a 15-foot tree branch (10 to 15 feet is the optimum height; anything over 20 feet is considered “extreme”). It’s easy to hang without a ladder by attaching a weighted object to the rope and tossing it over a branch (there’s a demonstration video on YouTube). For a higher orientation, you can buy a longer rope.—Caitlin GiddingsA craft subscription box Photo: Jackie ReeveKiwiCo Kiwi Crate ($60 for a three-month subscription at the time of publication)The Kiwi Crate, appropriate for kids ages 5 to 8, was our favorite of the boxed projects we tested for our guide to the best kids craft subscription boxes. Our kid testers found the activities in their Kiwi Crates engaging, and their parents thought they were clever. Parents also appreciated that some projects—like the mini pinball machine we tested—could be played with after kids made them, helping reduce useless craft clutter around the house. Rather than concentrating on traditional crafts, the kits focus on hands-on activities that explore science, technology, engineering, art, and math (an educational approach known as STEAM, which helps foster skills like critical thinking and problem-solving). For example, one kit used acids and bases to make art; another gave kids the materials to make a glowworm, so they learned about phosphorescence. We found that lower-elementary-age kids needed a grown-up’s help with many projects, which overall we judged to be both appropriately challenging and original.—Jackie ReeveA rad pack Photo: Michael HessionState Bags Kane Kids Backpack (from $70 at the time of publication)From flashy metallic gold and silver to a simple yet distinctive strawberry-and-mint color block (pictured above), Kane Kids backpacks from State Bags make a practical but high-style gift for an elementary-school kid (they’re a pick in our guide to the best kids backpacks for school). The 40 patterns and prints, which include unusual shades and patterns (indigo patchwork) and special details (quilting, embroidery), feel more modern and sophisticated than those of backpacks typically geared toward children. The durable, 12-liter pack also offers plenty of space—enough to hold a 13-inch laptop—and a panel of pockets to organize a child’s favorite little things.—Ellen LeeThe best scooter Photo: Rozette RagoMicro Kickboard Maxi Deluxe ($140 at the time of publication)We got my daughter a Micro Kickboard Maxi Deluxe scooter when she was around 6, and it quickly became as much a transportation tool as a plaything. She rides her scooter all around our hometown of Philadelphia, often for several miles at a stretch, as we go to parks or on other outdoor excursions. The scooter’s large, smooth-rolling wheels, durable build, responsive steering, and accessible foot brake in the rear allow her to navigate city sidewalks and crossings safely and confidently. She also has plenty of fun zooming around the playground or joining neighbors for scooter rallies around our block. The Maxi Deluxe is Wirecutter’s pick for the best kids scooter, and I’m confident it’ll last us for many years, growing along with my daughter until she’s well into her preteens and beyond (the scooter can carry 150 pounds, and the adjustable handlebar can accommodate a rider up to 5-foot-3). The Micro Kickboard Maxi Deluxe is also available in a foldable version (with LED lights), which is convenient for storing or toting around.—Courtney SchleyThe speediest snow tube Photo: Doug MahoneyL.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube ($130 at the time of publication)The L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube offers the fastest, smoothest, and longest ride of all the snow toys we tested for our guide to the best sleds. Unlike most inner-tube-style sleds, the Sonic has a hard-shell bottom, allowing the rider to glide effortlessly over bumps and icy patches. Thanks to this sled’s easy-to-grasp tow strap, even young sledders can haul it back to the top of the hill. The Sonic is easy to inflate, doesn’t lose any air, and is just as good on icy snow as it is on fluffy powder. The one real hitch is the high price. But considering the sled’s overall quality—not to mention the hours and hours of fun multiple Wirecutter families have had with this thing—we think it’s worth the price for people who are going to be sledding regularly. The tube comes in large or extra-large and in six different fabric patterns.—Doug MahoneyA family membership to a local aquarium Photo: Brenna Hernandez/Shedd AquariumShedd Aquarium family membership ($195 at the time of publication)An annual membership to a local natural history museum, zoo, or aquarium is a gift that can not only encourage family bonding but also support children’s developing interests in specific subjects or critters. My son had already been fascinated by sea creatures, especially the predators of the marine bunch, for a couple of years when his grandmother gifted him with a membership to Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium for his sixth birthday. At the time he carried one of a few shark toys with him everywhere, but visits to the aquarium gave him a real way to explore the world of sharks and life under the sea. In light of the pandemic, trips to the Shedd Aquarium are a bit different now—you’ll still catch a glimpse of more than 32,000 fish, sea creatures, and other animals, but moving through the space is a more structured experience (signs and arrows direct a one-way flow throughout the aquarium’s floors and exhibits). Like many aquariums nationwide, the Shedd doesn’t just offer exhibits—it provides experiences where kids can touch starfish, meet the sea otters, and even pet a penguin. Those animal encounters have gone virtual, and aquatic presentations, like the one featuring the Shedd’s dolphins, are on hold for the time being. Still, the membership holds its value compared with pricey individual visits for an entire family. (Note that you’ll need to reserve a time slot online or over the phone beforehand.)—Kelly GlassWe love finding gifts that are unusual, thoughtful, and well vetted. See even more gift ideas we recommend.
Firstly as we jump in, I’d like to say that geoFence has built in fast and accurate updates!

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