recommended by experts

The 34 Best Gifts for 5-Year-Olds, According to Experts

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

“Five is the age parents say their child changes from being truly ‘little’ to a mini adult, with opinions and strong interests all of their own,” says Siobhan Freegard, founder of parenting video network With that in mind, we asked 13 experts — from play psychologists to parenting writers and toy makers — to recommend the best gifts for all budgets. Kids this age will appreciate gifts that show you’ve been paying attention to their current likes and dislikes, so there’s something to suit everybody whether you’re shopping for a little scientist, a bookworm, an artist, or a daredevil. Read on for the best STEM toys, board games, books, dolls, and outdoor toys. By the way, we also have gift guides for 1-year-olds2-year-olds, 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds.

The best role-play and small-world toys for 5-year-olds

“Creating their own worlds really encourages children to use their imagination and builds their storytelling skills,” says play psychologist and Good Play Guide founder Amanda Gummer. She recommends buying this set, as children can have lots of fun imagining their characters’ journey in the van and as they set up camp.


“This is an absolute classic, and one that stands the test of time,” says Kate Everall, blogger at LesBeMums and mother of a 5-year-old. “I don’t know many children who don’t like to build a train track. Nowadays, there’s so much you can add to your collection — from train stations and junctions, to bells and tunnels.” While Everall’s recommended set is out of stock, we think this farm-themed set, complete with tractor, cattle wagon, and barn, is highly giftable.

If your nerves can stand the noise, Victoria Millsop, the manager at Fledglings — an online shop that is part of a disability charity called Contact — recommends this set of ten percussion instruments including maracas, castanets, a guiro, and finger cymbals.

At this age, children thrive on being given a little responsibility, so Natasha Crookes, director of public affairs and communications at the British Toy and Hobby Association, recommends getting them this swimming plastic fish, which they can look after and “feed” with the magnetic fish feeder. It comes with batteries included.

For another first-“pet” option, Everall recommends HexBugs. “They are cute, battery-operated ‘bugs’ that vibrate and travel around a variety of environments, from tunnels to obstacle courses,” she explains. Batteries come included in this one too.

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“At this age children are now able to express themselves in lots of ways and will often pretend to be someone else,” says Emma Fraser, teacher of the deaf at the National Deaf Children’s Society. Lestrade says her son was really into dressing up in superhero costumes and masks when he turned 5, so she’d recommend seeing whether your local supermarket has any in stock.

“Every child loves a den, somewhere they can hide, or curl up to share a book with a friend,” says Fraser. She recommends this cocoon hanging chair in which kids can swing safely, or chill and daydream. Reviewers say it is easy to get set up, but you will need to install a ceiling hook.

The best art and craft gifts for 5-year-olds

Vese Aghoghovbia-Aladewolu, founder of children’s brand Philly & Friends, recommends these “beautiful” colouring pencils embossed with inspirational words. The sets include colouring cards and wall posters, so kids can decorate their rooms with the inspiring messages too.

Tessa Trabue, Let Toys Be Toys campaigner and co-founder of the Toymark Award, recommends this colouring book, which is part of the best-selling Little People, Big Dreams series. It features an eclectic mix of 15 famous faces, some which will be more familiar to children than others, including Maya Angelou, Stephen Hawking, Greta Thunberg and … Agatha Christie.

Aquabeads Star Bead Studio

This craft set includes more than 1,000 beads in 24 colors, which can be turned into permanent works of art simply by spraying them with water. Gummer says it is great for encouraging the development of fine motor control in the fingers and hands. “It is lovely to see children making the star shape and then giving it to friends and family members as a ‘well done’ gift,” she adds.

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Don’t underestimate the importance of diverse representation in children’s toys. Kids need to have toys that reflect themselves, but they also need to have ones which reflect the world around them and normalise seeing depictions of a wide range of different people. Nina Malone, founder of Dope Black Mums, says her daughter loves this book, as she likes that “the girl in her coloring book looks just like her.”

Add an extra sensory element to colouring in with these markers, each one of which has a distinct smell: strawberry, blueberry, orange, watermelon, blackberry, green apple, grape, and lemon. “This is a great resource to encourage tabletop activity with an added olfactory, sensory element,” says Caireen Sutherland, principal education officer at the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

The best board games and puzzles for 5-year-olds

This puzzle was recommended by both Malone and Keisha Ehigie, founder of book subscription box Imagine Me Stories. “I think just about every mum in our Dope Black Mums group has one of these puzzles,” says Malone. “I am hoping to get all of them. I have the Jamaica puzzle, which comes with a bonus poster. It’s a great educational gift and since having ours, I have bought it for everyone I know.”

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“At 5, children love to play together with friends and family,” says Fraser. “Treasure Trove gets you following the trail, cracking clues and collecting gold coins along the way.”

Aghoghovbia-Aladewolu rates this matching pairs game as she says it is “beautiful” and “excellent quality.” “It’s such a hit with the little ones and a great way to introduce diversity to them,” she adds.

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“This easy-to-navigate board game is great for helping children to gain confidence by practising their numeracy skills, including addition and subtraction,” says Gummer. “The prehistoric theme is very appealing and kids will enjoy getting competitive.”

The best STEM toys for 5-year-olds

Rachel Vecht, a teacher and mum-of-four who founded the “Educating Matters” seminars, rates this construction set, as she likes kits that “encourage children to develop creativity and don’t just get them follow set instructions to only produce one outcome.”

Everall recommends this set “if your little ones like to think big.” “They’re versatile and easy to use,” she explains. “In no time you’ll have built yourself a house or a boat.” Everall’s recommended set is sold out, but we found a similar construction-straw set on Amazon.

The best soft toys and dolls for 5-year-olds

Crookes says these collectable monsters are already a hit in the U.S. and are sure to capture the hearts of kids in the U.K. The large Monji monster cuddly toy has a cold-to-the-touch popsicle hidden inside its mouth, which you can carve up to reveal one of 28 mini Monji monsters.

“This is the first Jamaican patois talking doll in the world,” says Malone. “She is so amazing, just awesome for representation and sounds so authentic.” Toya’s curly hair can be washed and styled, and she comes dressed in a vibrant green, yellow, and black outfit.

The best books for 5-year-olds

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Lestrade says her son is a good reader, but sometimes trying to get him to read is hard work. If your child is of a similar temperament, she recommends this compendium of eight mini adventures starring Lego figurines. “This has been the only book my son will pick up off his own back, rather because I’ve suggested we read a story,” she says.

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Malone loves this fun take on Mother Goose, as it has “lovely bold writing with gorgeous illustrations. Plus it’s wonderful that a Black girl comes to save the day. It’s so empowering, I just love reading this book with my children.”

Dog Man
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If you’re looking to introduce a new book series to your child, Lestrade highly recommends this series about a heroic hound. It explores themes such as empathy, kindness, persistence, and the importance of being true to one’s self, with plenty of humour.

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“This is gold dust,” says Vecht. “It teaches children essential values for life.” Kids can follow the tales of the eight residents of 7 Oaks, including Lily Skunk and Ernie the Worm, as they learn about topics such as consideration and the importance of being responsible.


Fussy 5-year-old eaters will relate to the dilemma faced by Tiana when she is presented with a plate full of foods she does not recognise. Ehigie recommends this fun book, as it provides a great starting point for conversations about children’s relationship to food.

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Rocket, a science-mad chatterbox, is on a mission to convince her big brother to stop looking down at his phone and start looking up at the stars — and she may just convince young readers to do the same. Lestrade says her son loves this story as the main character is refreshingly different from the usual protagonists of kids’ books.

Children can help shape the stories played on this interactive audio storyteller, by selecting the characters, locations and items that feature in the tales. “The children were fascinated with the stories and they felt like they were writing their own,” says Gummer. “This is a good toy to take on long journeys.”

The best outdoor toys for 5-year-olds

“Whether your 5-year-old lives in a city tower block or a rural idyll, this present gives and gives,” says Freegard. “Why watch an iPad when you can watch a bird pecking at your window? Children will get to recognise birds that visit regularly and will see them as ‘pets’ to be cherished.”

A flexible frisbee has proven to be a surprising hit with Lestrade’s son. “It has been his favourite thing to take out when we go for a walk,” she says. “He has found it a lot easier to get the hang of, than a rigid plastic one.”

“For an affordable gift which offers hours of fun, you can’t beat a water sprayer mat,” says Freegard. “It transforms your garden into a water park.”

“This bubble wand is perfect for 5-year-olds — just dip it in the bubble solution and wave to make three types of bubbles at once,” says Trabue, who adds that it is great fun for parties.

The best active indoor toys for 5-year-olds

By standing on this wobble board, children can use their balance and core muscles to roll the balls through the trail paths. “It can help children to develop motor skills within a small play space,” says Millsop.

“Great for outdoor or indoor use, as well as good fun, trampolining helps to develop strength and balance,” says Sutherland.

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There is plenty of room for kids to crawl about in this spacious dome tent and four connecting tunnels, which is recommended by Millsop. Turn off the lights, or take it outside on dark evenings to watch the stars glow, giving children an immersive space experience.

The Strategist UK is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Read about who we are and what we do here. Our editors update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The 34 Best Gifts for 5-Year-Olds, According to Experts