Gift Guide

three girls wearing tiaras and opening presents
Granger Wootz, Getty images

20 Home Run Gifts For 5-Year-Olds

They're a surprisingly finicky bunch.

Updated: 
Originally Published: 

Helping Santa find the right gift for a 5-year-old can be tough because you don’t want to get them something that seems too “babyish,” but you also don’t want the gift to be so challenging that it’s frustrating. At this age, they’re in that sweet spot between being a little kid and big kid, so the best gifts for 5-year-olds will also walk that line. Between learning to read, pretend play, hands-on fun, and practicing losing games with grace, there are, surprisingly, a lot more gifts and toys for 5-year-olds than you may realize.

As a mom to a 5-year-old myself, I know firsthand how difficult this age can be to shop for. On one hand, they’re either in or close to starting kindergarten, so they really are in the big-kid zone, but on the other hand you still have a year or two left of them believing in Santa so it’s tempting to still see them as preschoolers and go for the character toys they loved just a year ago. In this case, it’s best to start leaning toward the big-kid gifts, because a lot of the most popular toys for 5-year-olds are more generalized and offer kids opportunities to put some of their new skills, like reading and problem solving, to use.

Of course, this isn’t to say they no longer have a favorite character of some sort (I’m not sure my house will ever be free and clear of Elsa), it’s just that their “favorite” things seem to change as often as the weather, so character-specific don’t make for the best gifts for 5-year-olds. So, what should Santa bring, then? From STEM toys to games to fidget toys, ride-on cars, and an epic dollhouse, here are some gift ideas for 5-year-olds.

1

Dolls & Accessories

While the 5-year-old in your life may be enchanted by American Girl dolls, if they’re anything like my daughter they’re not responsible enough to take care of a $100+ doll quite yet. Target’s “Our Generation” line of dolls are a good alternative because they’re significantly less expensive and they still come in a variety of looks and have tons of different accessories you can purchase to dress them up in different ways. This doll, Riya, stands 18 inches tall and comes with a dress, faux-fur coat, sparkly shoes, undies, and a headband. Pro tip: spend a little extra to get the special hair brush and spray to keep the doll’s hair looking good.

2

Cooking & Baking Basics

If they’ve started to show an interest in cooking or baking, this is a good age to start letting them do a little more in the kitchen with you. There are all kinds of great cookbooks made for kids, like this one which features more than 100 baking recipes, which is a great place to start. Other kitchen essentials to consider include an apron, cookie cutters, their own set of spatulas, premade baking mixes or even a cooking kit, like this one from Raddish Kids. Basically, whatever you can get that will give them a chance to step into the kitchen and (safely) start creating is fair game.

3

A Cute Bingo Game

Bingo is a great game for 5-year-olds, because most of them can easily identify numbers, letters, and know what a straight line down, diagonally, or across looks like. Sure, you can print off some basic Bingo cards and toss some letters and numbers into a hat, but this version of the game is a lot more fun, don’t you think? It’s made to look like a gumball machine, and to get a ball to come out, just turn the little star on the front. The game comes with the gumball holder, 50 balls with numbers, and 30 Bingo cards.

4

A Fun Bath

Babies may be happy to simply splash water around during bath time, but preschoolers and kindergarteners like to make things a little more exciting. Rather than getting them another toy to play with in the tub, gift them with a bubble bar or a bath bomb instead. There are all kinds of options out there, from inexpensive bubble soap to bath bombs with toys in the center to simple color tabs that do nothing more than turn the water a bright color (that won’t stain their skin or the tub). Personally, I love Lush’s bubble bars, like this rainbow one, because they’re free of harsh chemicals, smell delightful, and create some seriously big, fluffy bubbles.

5

A Spot To Stash Their Allowance

By the time they’re 5 years old, kids have been through several holidays and birthdays where they may have been given a little cash. All of those $1 and $5 bills add up over time, and if you’re also giving your little one an allowance on top of it, then they may have a pretty solid pile of money they need to stow away. While they may have been gifted some kind of piggy bank as a baby, it might be time to get one that fits their personality and that they will be excited to use. There is no shortage of fun options out there, but if you need some inspiration, this balloon animal bank is pretty hard not to love.

6

Fidget Poppers

Remember back when kids couldn’t get enough fidget spinners? Well, now it’s all about poppers, which are basically silicone versions of bubble wrap (so it’s no wonder they love them so much). You can find these toys almost anywhere in a variety of sizes, colors, shapes, and textures. They’re designed for sensory and fidget play, giving kids something to do with their hands while they’re being asked to sit still for something like class or at the doctor’s office. They are one of those rare toys that are functional and useful without sacrificing the fun. Honestly, you may even find that you like them, too.

7

A Badminton Set

A few months back, my daughter and I found some badminton rackets and birdies at my sister’s house and decided to give the game a try. She’s not an athletic prodigy by any means, so I was surprised to see how much she enjoyed volleying the birdie back and forth and how simple it was for her. The only thing that would have made it better was if the racket were just a little larger, like these ones that are designed specifically for kids. The set comes with two rackets, birdies, table tennis balls, and a bag to carry everything. It doesn’t come with a net, but that’s fine since, at this age, they’re mostly just going to want to practice hitting the birdie back and forth before adding obstacles to the game.

8

For The Kid With Energy

Do you remember jumping rope on the playground back in kindergarten? The game requires a bit of coordination (and a lot of energy), but it’s something that a 5-year-old can definitely start to pick up on. The key is to make sure you’re getting one that is made for small kids so that it’s not too long. You can find fun options at pretty much any kids’ toy retailer, but space enthusiasts will particularly love this one with rocket ship handles. It’s 95 inches long (a little over seven feet) and is made for kids ages 5 and up.

9

An Outdoor Playhouse

At 5 years old, pretend play is still a big deal, as is having a space of their own to play in. So it’s no wonder playhouses rank among the most popular gifts for preschoolers and kindergarteners. The best option for your kid depends a lot on where you live, what kind of space you have, and what your child likes. There are plenty of cool indoor tent playhouses that can be quickly set up and torn down and stowed away if you’re short on floor space or, if you have some outdoor space, consider one of the many amazing outside playhouses like this one by KidKraft that features cute windows, flower boxes, a kitchen, and more.

10

An Intro To Reading

For kids who are learning how to read, the “I Can Read” books are great for practice. They’re available in several levels, each with increasing difficulty, but if your 5-year-old is pretty new to reading then level 1 is going to be your best bet. The stories are filled with sight words and are written in short, simple sentences. Your child will probably need some reading these books at first, but you’ll be blown away by how quickly they’re reading them independently. This specific book is part of the Pete the Cat series, but there are plenty of other books and series to choose from with this same Level 1 format.

11

A Popping Good Time

As a parent who isn’t a fan of playing CandyLand and Chutes and Ladders, Trouble is the absolute best. It’s similar to a lot of the more simple games in that all of the moves are based on what the dice says, but there is a little more variation in it to make it a little more exciting (like double spaces, where you get a second turn). The best part, though, is that the dice is in a little bubble in the middle of the game board. You press the bubble down and it tosses the dice to reveal how many spaces you can go forward. It’s a lot of fun, plus, you don’t risk losing the dice.

12

A Musical Instrument

For 5 year olds who are showing an interest (or a real talent) in music, then an instrument would make for a great gift. There are a lot of different ways you can go with this, like getting them a real instrument in a kid size (assuming that’s an option), a high quality toy version of an instrument, like this wooden drum set, or a toy instrument that looks like the real thing but doesn’t actually function like it. What you decide to get will depend a lot on the kid, how invested they are in music, and the instrument they want to play. Personally, I can’t imagine having drums in my house, but thankfully my daughter loves to sing, so we have no less than 4 play microphones for her to “practice” with.

13

LEGOs

Kids who loved building with DUPLO blocks during their toddler and preschool years are finally old enough to start building with some of the smaller LEGO bricks. There are all kinds of different sets and kits out there, including everything from characters, cars, police and firefighters, spaceships, the “friends” line, and more. This specific kit is made for kids 5 years old and up and includes 190 pieces and instructions for building a camper RV as well as some camping accessories and a family of LEGO people. The only caveat to this toy is that since the pieces are so small, it’s not ideal if there are younger siblings in the house.

14

Mario Games

We aren’t big gamers in my house by any means, but we do have a Nintendo Switch and my 5 year old loves all of the Mario games. She’s not particularly great at them, but some of the games have a handicap option, such as Mario Kart, which makes things a little easier for her. The latest release is Mario Party Superstars, which is a lot of fun (for her, and for her dad and me) and allows for team play, so younger kids can get the hang of the game without feeling like they’re always losing. Plus, if you have long distance friends or family with a Nintendo Switch, you can all get online and play against each other, which my daughter loves to do with her cousins.

15

A Pinball Toy

What’s so cool about this specific pinball toy is that it’s not just a game. Kids can make the game more or less challenging by moving the pegs, rubber bands, and windmills around to create different obstacle paths on the board. Basically, it’s great for kids who love a good game, and even better for kids who also love to tinker with objects and build things. When the ball is in play, the board works like any other pinball game by pressing buttons on the sides to hit the ball up to avoid it falling down and out of play.

16

A Dollhouse

For kids who love to play with dolls and Barbies, you can’t go wrong with a dollhouse for Christmas or their birthday. To say that there are a variety of options out there is a huge understatement because whether you want something basic or a dollhouse that’s taller than your 5 year old, that product exists somewhere. For something in the middle of these extremes, try this fun beach house dollhouse by KidKraft. It comes with 19 pieces of furniture and accessories, features a working ferris wheel that can hold three dolls at once, and a little rooftop sundeck because even dolls need to relax in the sun now and then.

17

For The Future Engineer

By the age of 5, kids are starting to get more and more into STEAM play, and if your kiddo has already been loving things like LEGOS and Magna-Tiles then they’ll probably really enjoy this kit from ternPaks. It comes with a magnetic pad and stylus that pulls beads across the pad to create different designs as well as a pattern guide for over 30 designs, and a set of 27 colorful magnetic cubes that can be built up and out into all kinds of fun creations. If you’re not interested in the bundle with both of these toys, then they’re also sold separately (but, the bundle is pretty cool, if you ask me).

18

Sight Word Fun

One of the first lessons for reading is identifying sight words, and the more exposure kids get to these words the quicker they’ll pick up on them. So, if your 5-year-old is working on reading and happens to love playing games, then Zingo is a great gift idea. It’s basically Bingo combined with a matching game. It comes with double-sided playing cards filled with different sight words (one side is more competitive than the other) and little chips with words written on them that you have to match with your game card, and whoever fills theirs up first is the winner. We play this game with our 5-year-old, and it’s a really fun way for her to practice and learn.

19

Some New Wheels

When I was a kid, there was nothing I wanted more than my own Power Wheels Jeep. I never got one, but now I have a 5-year-old of my own who desperately wants one herself, so I totally feel her pain. With so many options to choose from, it’s very likely that you can find a motorized car in a color and style that your kid will like. This one is a Mercedes SUV, but there are also Jeeps, carriages, four-wheelers, convertibles, and more. When you’re shopping, just be sure to pay attention to the battery size and life (if it dies within 20 minutes, it’s no good) and the weight limit (especially if it's a two-seater).

20

All Things Barbie

While their favorite characters change out weekly, if there’s one character a 5-year-old will love continuously for the foreseeable future, it’s Barbie. You’re probably already aware that Barbie dolls now come in all shapes, races, sizes, genders, and ages, and there are countless accessories to go along with them. Depending on where you shop, you can find single dolls for under $10, deluxe sets with multiple outfits and accessories, or bundles like this one that comes with two dolls, a car, instruments, and accessories. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of these options if your 5 year old is a fan of Barbie.

Figuring out the best toys for 5-year-old takes some work, especially as you try to walk that fine line between little-kid and big-kid toys, but once you find the sweet spot you’ll discover that there are a lot of great options out there.

This article was originally published on