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As always, instead of focusing on the latest and greatest “it” toy, we’re highlighting the most engaging, entertaining (and even educational) toys for each age group. These are the gifts that have the highest bang for your buck and are going to keep on giving as kids return to them again and again for hours of continuous play.
We’re mixing it up today by starting with the kindergartners. Happy shopping (and don’t forget to bookmark this list for the next time you’re invited to a birthday party).
Don’t forget – you can check out all 15 of our Gift Guides here!
THE COOLEST TOYS FOR 5- TO 6-YEAR-OLDS
(Ages 4 – 12) Starting at $14.99
These adorable finger-sized animatronic monkeys are the “It Toy” of the year. In fact, it’s the end of September as I’m releasing my gift guides and they’re already completely selling out everywhere.
If you get the chance to buy one- do it!! (Even if you end up getting something else for your kids, you will be able to make bank on eBay come December.)
So what’s all the hype about?
These pets react to sound, to motion, and to touch. They love to hang onto your kids’ fingers, backpacks, other toys and pretty much everything else.
With over 40 animations, kids can rock them to sleep, blow them kisses (and have them blown back), make them sing, and much more.
Like a lot of the hot toys out this year, they’re also incredibly life-like. They blink their eyes, turn their heads, swing by their tails, fart, and more. Plus, if you can get them at retail price – they’re cheap!!
And if the Toy Gods are really smiling down on you and you can find them, I also suggest both the Fingerlings Playset…
And the Fingerlings Jungle Gym for even more extended play time fun (as well as a handy place to store the little guys so they don’t get lost).
Another way to go are these 40 Piece Money Stix sets that seem to have been quickly produced by an industrious 3rd party company.
I am really digging that with this playset version kids get to engineer their own setups for their fingerlings, plus it’s not another bulky toy to have to store somewhere.
(Ages 5 – 12) Starting at $15.99
If there is one thing that elementary aged kids just can’t get enough of, it’s collectibles. From Shopkins and Funko to Pokeman, small things that they can hoard like crazy are basically catnip to kids this age.
And since toy manufacturers aren’t dopes, there are a few brand new collectibles that are sure to fly off the shelves this year (seriously- buy one or two for each of the special kids in your life now while you can still get them and they’re not stupid expensive).
All the rage this year are the already uber-popular L.O.L. dolls. Let me just start by saying that every year when I start researching for the gift guides I tell myself I cannot start buying for my own kids until at least October… and every year I fail because I see something that I know they will love and I know will be hard to get later.
This year, this was the thing I couldn’t resist buying in September for my daughter.
Note: Because these things are so popular this year, there are a lot of imitations. When you buy, be sure the company is “L.O.L. Suprise” and that it is shipped and fulfilled by Amazon.
These little balls of joy have all the miniature cuteness that’s required in a collectible for girls this age, plus a couple of really cool features.
- The wrapping is part of the toy itself. It’s got 7 layers that need to be peeled off and each layer contains a new surprise. (I’m seriously considering stocking up on these just to keep around for future plane rides – talk about a glorious time killer!) The 7 layers of surprises include: (1) Secret Message Sticker, (2) Collectible Sticker Sheet, (3) Water Bottle Charm, (4) Shoes, (5) Outfit, (6) Accessory, (7) L.O.L. Surprise tots doll
- The ball itself acts as a playhouse and storage case for the doll (Yay! for having somewhere to store the tiny pieces!!)
- The doll itself is also a surprise in how it reacts to water. The many change color, drink, spit, tinkle, or cry.
$20.99 (5+ years)
$45.99 (8 – 15 years)
This clever kit is the all-time-best-seller on our gift guides and another multi-award-winner that takes advantage of kids’ natural interest in building toys (like LEGOs) to teach the principles of electricity.
The components aren’t intimidating, snap together simply, and can be used to create a bunch of cool projects. The standard set comes with 60+ pieces to create over 300 different electronic projects. The pieces include snap wires, slide switches, an alarm circuit, a music integrated circuit, and a speaker and are numbered and color-coded to make identifying them easy.
The latest and hottest iterations include:
- Snap Circuits Lights – This colorful lights edition puts on quite a show and is another favorite around our house.Just connect any MP3 player and be amazed as your music creates a mesmerizing light display.No two songs will ever produce the same light show. Includes pre-punched patterns for motor, strobe light, and color-changing LED, lighted and glow-in-the-dark fans, strobe integrated circuit, color organ controlled by MP3 player, voice, or finger. Builds over 175 experiments.
- Snap Circuits 3D Illumination – Allows kids to go beyond the flat surface to build circuits horizontally, vertically and even upside down. The 3D setup means you can actually build a house and there’s even a projector that projects things onto the wall.
- Snap Circuits Arcade – Lets kids actually build – and play! – mini arcade games. There’s also an incredibly cool fan that can be programmed to project any word or phrase onto it with lights.
The components in Snap Circuits combine to create working circuit boards just like the ones found inside televisions, radios, and other electronic devices. (Note: there is a conversion set that turns Snap Circuits Jr into this bigger set when your kids are ready to move up.)
The HUGE popularity of these sets means there are now lots of options to choose from, check out this video for the run down:
For bigger kids, you’ll definitely want to check out the reduced priced Snap Circuits Student Electronics Training Program down this year from $199.99 to $127.45 as well as the Alternative Green Energy Kit.
(ages 4 – 10) starting at $61.99
Kids LOVE making forts and, I gotta say, I‘m a big fan of anything that will buy me a solid hour or two of busy time.
What I’m not the biggest fan of? The beating my couch cushions take when my kids get into fort-building mode.
That’s reason enough alone to love the Fortboard kits but there are quite a few other reasons too.
First is all the super cool kinds of forts you can build. After Fortboard sent us two boxes to review, my kids started with the instructions for making a house on their website company’s website. Next up was the submarine.
After a little trial and error, they pretty quickly got the hang of it and, let me tell you, they were pleased as punch about their new fort– which they insisted stay up for a week. That was fine by me as it resulted in TONS of cooperative dramatic play.
Next up was the submarine and the castle, both of which were equally successful. By then, even my 3-year-old was able to build stuff with these on his own. His current favorite is to make cubes, which he calls “bombs” and use them to knock down stacks of even more cubes Angry Birds style.
Fast forward a few months and they’re now building their own master creations like that 6-wheeler semi-truck pictured up top. It’s become a thrilling game to challenge each other to see what they can build next.
The second thing to really love is the ingenious ways these boards can connect in different ways to create all sorts of angles, and even curves.
The secret is the connector arm that can be moved to join the boards in different ways (and teach your kids about angles in the process).
It’s so innovative, in fact, that it’s won multiple awards and even a Microsoft Small Business Contest.
The final thing I love about Fortboards is how compact they are when it’s time to put them away. Unlike with their competitors’ sets, there are no awkward polls to store (and no polls for kids to hit their siblings with). Everything tucks into a box and neatly stores under a bed or in a closet when playtime is done.
Like other fort sets, this one is spendy but if your kid is a builder it’s worth the investment, especially if you’re looking for something great for play dates or for siblings to play with together.
The standard set comes with 60+ pieces to create over 300 different electronic projects. The pieces include snap wires, slide switches, an alarm circuit, a music integrated circuit, and a speaker and are numbered and color-coded to make identifying them easy. These components combine to create working circuit boards just like the ones found inside televisions, radios, and other electronic devices. (Note: there is a conversion set that turns Snap Circuits Jr into this bigger set when your kids are ready to move up.)
$49.99 (3 – 9 years)
If you’ve got a singer in the house and you’re thinking of getting an MP3 player or a karaoke player for under the tree, this is a great one to consider. We got one for our daughter last Christmas and it has been the best thing ever.
Anytime she has a friend over, they always immediately disappear into her room and start singing away. And she also spends plenty of time using it all on her own.
It has all kinds of handy features including being able to connect to all of your devices via a jack or USB and playing CDs so you can play kids’ karaoke CDs.
There are also two microphones and music doesn’t have to be on for them to work. One reviewer said her boys love to use them to pretend to put on a podcast. Last but not least, the player has an AC adaptor so you won’t spend a ton on batteries.
$38.88 (2 – 12 years)
My 8-year-old son just got this for his birthday and I can tell you that the 2-year-old and 6-year-old (and, let’s be honest, the 35-year-old) in our house love it just as much as he does. The great thing about this particular Hot Wheels set is that it’s self-contained. Not meant to be connected to anything else, it’s enough fun all on it’s own.
As the name would suggest, the cars rocket around the four loops at crazy fun speed and smash into each other. Sometimes this happens almost immediately, sometimes they go for an exciting amount of time before their inevitable doom.
This is one of those rare toys that is fun to play all alone or during a play date with a group of friends. My son especially loves trying to predict which car will outlast the others and challenging himself to see how many cars he can get racing around the track before they crash.
I highly recommend this particular Hot Wheels set for the play value, price, and the fewer number of pieces making setup and take down easier and quicker than a lot of other sets.
$19.00 (6+ years)
My kids both got to play with this at science camp this summer, during their study of physics, and fell in love. They both, my son especially, get a little hyper in the afternoon and I knew we’d all love having this around for them to stomp to their hearts content in the backyard. Lucky for us, we got one for C’s 6th birthday and I was absolutely right.
The concept is simple, stomp (or jump) on the launch pad to send a foam tipped rocket up to 200 ft in the air. I like that both sets come with 4 rockets so the kids get to launch multiple times before running around to pick them all up and do it all over again.
Obviously the glow-in-the dark aspect of the Jr. Glow Kit is pretty cool. Siblings will love going together, and not having to take turns, and hosting friendly competitions with the Dueling Double Stomp Rocket Kit. In summary, these simple battery-free toys are multi-award winners and get great reviews. Plus they’re cheap – gotta love that!
(ages 2 – 14) $47.99
If you’re a parent, you are likely familiar with the mermaid fabric trend. Kids absolutely cannot get enough of playing with and “drawing” on this magic fabric. (To be honest, either can I – each night when I lay with my 3-year-old, I just can’t stop myself from petting this pillow. It’s so, so relaxing.)
As such, these pillows from Mermaid Pillow Co. have become my new #1 suggestion for gifts from grandparents.
Why? Because grandparents like to buy things that have a big “Wow!” effect, they often don’t mind spending a little extra on their grandchildren for something that’s high quality, and if left unchecked grandparents can often misguidedly gift monstrous plastic toys that you would never normally allow into your home!
Mermaid Pillow Co. sent one of these pillows for each of my kiddos to review (I chose the “Sharks Think” for my 8-year-old son, the “Fairies Fly” for my 7-year-old daughter, and the “Dinosuars Discover” for my 3-year-old son.)
There are a couple of things I love about these particular pillows. First, the affirming messages are really cool – just the kind of encouraging note we try to hit in our parenting – and it was nice that there were so many to chose from! I was able to find one that perfectly suited each of my kids’ personalities and interests.
(I also love the message of this one.)
Second, I was very pleasantly surprised with how soft the front of the pillows were. You can never really tell when ordering from a website, but these are extremely well made and super soft. They came beautifully packaged and seemed like something I would have bought from a boutique.
Last, but not least, is the mermaid fabric! Every bit as addictive as you might think, this stuff can be played with for hours. It’s fun to draw designs in, to write on with your finger, and also acts as a really nice tool for relaxing at bedtime or calming down from a tantrum. I highly recommend!
$11.29 (4 – 7 years)
When my son was in kindergarten, he really started getting into math and began asking for story problems at night before bed, so imagine my excitement when I saw this book, which contains just that! From the publisher, “Inside this book, families will find fun, mischief-making math problems to tackle—math that isn’t just kid-friendly, but actually kid-appealing.
With over 100 math riddles on topics from jalapeños and submarines to roller coasters and flamingos, this book bursts with math that looks nothing like school. And with three different levels of challenge (wee ones, little kids, and big kids), there’s something for everyone.”
This is a great way to change up story time at night and encourage math skills in kids that are excited about the subject as well as those who need some help getting excited.
(ages 3 – 14) $19.99
First, with clubs like “Seattle Rocks” or “Richmond Rocks” (insert your town’s name) popping up all over the country, rock painting is all the rage with the kindergarten and elementary school set these days. (And, of course, preschoolers will love it too with a little help from mom or dad.)
These fun clubs encourage families to decorate their own rocks at home, hide them somewhere in town and then join a facebook group to leave hints about where you left your rock and also to get hints on where to find other rocks around town.
This is a family activity that has so many beneficial elements for your kids. They get to flex their investigative skills in your community while being creative, social, giving and adventurous. Plus, they spend time with the family (and maybe even learn a little about using the internet safely with you).
Ok, so clearly I’m into the rock clubs- but even if you’re not, your kids will still love painting rocks for their own homes or just for sharing with friends. And if they’re gonna do it, THIS is the kit to get.
The biggest thing about this kit is that it comes with a tub to keep everything in!!! This is major! The one thing I do not dig about rock painting is the potential for half-painted rocks, paint and brushes scattered all over the house. This will keep it all contained!
It also comes with a lot of things other kits don’t, like 8 very cool shimmering metallic markers, a paint mixing tray, and finishing glaze. Of course, it also comes with acrylic paints in white, black, brown and the primary colors.
At first, I thought that didn’t seem like enough colors but then I watched the video above and realized the idea is to use the primary colors to mix your own secondary colors. Another learning element great for preschoolers and kindergartners!
(Ages 3 – 6) $94.00
He’s back! That’s right guys, the evil toy geniuses totally have our number and know that we will pony up the cash for anything that brings back nostalgic memories of our own childhood. And in the case of Teddy, I’m 100% here for it.And in the case of Teddy, I’m 100% here for it.
I mean how can you pass up a chance to share that with your kid?! And, of course, they made him way cooler than the first time around.
Most notable are his crazy-emotive LCD eyes with over 40 animations– SO MUCH better than the creepy blinking of the original version. The cassette player in his back is gone too because Teddy now reads books on the free app- but don’t worry, you don’t have to have the app to use him. He can also tell his stories and sing without it.
He truly is a nice toy for encouraging reading in pre-readers and emerging-readers. By being able to pause the reading just by tapping his paw, they can ensure that Teddy goes at their pace and he is sure to have them asking him to read to them again and again.
(Ages 5-9) $69.99
Naturally, they’re back this year with the originals being as popular as ever and, count them, three new iterations for your kids to covet. First, though, a refresher on what we’re dealing with here…
To get the egg to hatch, kids have to pay attention to the color of the eyes inside the egg as well as the sound the hatchimal is making and respond to it appropriately. My biggest question was how long the hatching would take and it turned out to be about an hour. Check out the whole process in the video above.
Turns out my daughter’s enthusiasm didn’t lessen any once the thing hatched and a year out it’s still one of her top toys… So what’s new this year?
First up are CollEGGtibles.
Seizing on that love of all things mini that I wrote about above, the Hatchimal people made a whole variety of mini eggs.
Open these guys by rubbing the hearts until they change color and they crack. Works a little differently but the excitement is the same and the lower price point sure is nice! These will make great stocking stuffers and kids will love this nursery playset once they collect several collEGGtibles.
Next Hatchimal Surprise.
Along with going smaller is also the option of going bigger… and that’s all I can tell you right now because what’s inside is a mystery until October 6th. This one is pretty much guaranteed to sell out way before Christmas.
Lastly is the Hatchimals Glitter Garden.
This guy works exactly the same as last year’s hatchimal but with a little more sparkle!
$119.99 (2 – 10 years)
I discovered Magna-tiles when my oldest son was 3-years-old via his preschool and they were the big present under the tree for the kids that Christmas. They’re definitely more of an investment but have been COMPLETELY WORTH IT.
Teachers absolutely rave about these blocks and the play possibilities are endless. Because they join together using magnets, kids can create elaborate structures (often taller than they are) without becoming frustrated by crashes.
They’re also great for use with other toys. They can be used along with blocks and LEGOs to make elaborate structures, with marbles and cars to make tunnels, bridges, and marble runs, or even with dolls to create dollhouses.
All of my kids, ages 2 to 8, still play with them multiple days a week. Currently, my 6-year-old loves making elaborate pet stores with ramps and rooms for each of her Disney Princess Palace Pets while my 2-year-old always asks for these first to take to build in his room during “Quiet Time”
We splurged for the 100 piece set and got hours of rainy day fun with these- the higher price was completely worth it.
Note: For an extra $10, these magnetic train bases take the play possibilities to a whole new level and make a great stocking stuffer.
$14.88 (2 – 12 years)
This super fun game has been a huge hit ever since it debuted. We got ours for my son’s 8th birthday and had the best time playing with it.
The premise couldn’t be more simple; spin a number, put your face in the holder, crank the number of times that you spun and see if you get a “pie face”.
Because kids love getting dirty and silly, this one is always a winner. Everyone from my 2-year-old son to the grandparents was rolling on the ground laughing.
$19.95 (5+ years)
One of the best-sellers ever amongst all 350 toys on our gift guides. My son got this strategic domino and scrabble-like game for his 5th birthday and, since then, has asked to play it during our one-on-one time over and over.
Although we altered the rules and points system a bit to adjust for his age, this Parents’ Choice Gold Award and Mensa National Competition winner is still fantastic for working on shape and color recognition as well as pattern perception and spatial and critical thinking skills.
Not long after we brought the game home, my 4-year-old daughter got in on the fun too. I can tell this is one that our family is sure to be playing for years to come.
$14.99 (5+ years)
When my kindergartner came home from school one day asking me to teach him to play chess, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was excited because, despite spending a lot of our time together on sports-related activities, I have great memories of playing chess with my dadgrowing up.
On the other hand, I was afraid he was a little young for it and might get frustrated and give up on the game altogether. Enter “No Stress Chess”.
This genius game uses cards to teach young kids how to play in stages. The cards tell you which piece to move, so even children (and adults) who have never played the game can jump right in. The moves for each piece are on the cards as well as on the game board and the first stage makes the game about chance, not skill – you simply draw a card and do what it says, perfect for learning how the pieces work.
Once that is mastered, you can draw 3 cards at a time and decide which one you want to go with to introduce some strategy to the game. Finally, when you’re ready to play chess for real, just get rid of the cards and flip the board over to a traditional chess board.
$30.99 (3 – 8 years)
The coding trend in toys is here to stay- and with good reason. Basic understanding of computer program is a big deal in today’s world. Code-a-pillar is one of the new Think & Learn toys from Fisher-Price that goes beyond ABCs and 123s to help children learn how to think independently.
Each toy fosters 21st century skills like curiosity, experimentation and problem-solving in ways kids haven’t seen before. They’re engaged in hands-on, open-ended discovery that helps them become lifelong learners. The perfect first coding toy, kids use the sections to program the caterpillar to move around obstacles they set up, from start to finish.
This is one I highly recommend for siblings of multiple ages as they can enjoy it in different ways and work together as a team to achieve their goals. Santa will be bringing it to my 2, 6 and 8-year-olds this year!
Hint: Reviewers have noted that the addition of the basic expansion pack that includes pieces for 90 degree turns really helps curb kids’ frustration, especially in tight spaces.
starting at $11.99 (4 – 10 years)
Speaking of dolls that send the right message to our girls, I’m loving the new line of DC Super Hero Girls. Not only do they have a very fun look, they also send a great message of empowerment.
I also really appreciate the articulating limbs so kids (both girls and boys!) can use them for acting out all sorts of superhero moves. You can buy the larger 12″ dolls individually or go in for the 6″ versions in a three pack or six pack.
$18.99 (3 – 12 years)
This 150 piece art set gets great marks for everything from its special looking case that keeps all the components snapped in place to the quality of the art supplies inside.
If your child is getting serious about art, this gift will show them you are proud of their burgeoning skills and it’s sure to thrill.
My son and daughter seem so much more motivated to create since they received their own art case- and I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the attractive case has them always picking up their art supplies and taking care of them with pride.
$19.79 (3 – 10 years)
Pokeman has taken the kid world by storm. If you have a Pokeman fan in your house, think about going above and beyond the Pokeman card set and go for 4D play instead.
I gave my son just the Pokeman ball and Pikachu in his Easter basket and he flipped out… I think his head might have actually exploded if I’d found this belt set! This one is a winner for sure.
starting at $9.34 (4 – 12 years)
I’m so impressed with this line of LEGO-like building sets for girls. First of all, it’s American Girl brand, so that’s guaranteed to attract a lot of girls, even those who don’t gravitate towards building. Second, each set has a lot to it for girls to not only build, but also use as props during imaginary play- something girls are known to love to engage in.
There are a large variety of sets to chose from. I’m loving the Horse Stables Construction Set as well as Saige’s Art Studio and at $2 – $4 a piece, the American Girl figurines make great add-ons to any of the sets or stocking stuffers!
$15.79 (5+ years)
Billed by many as “the runaway toy of the year” a few years back, this award-winning loom is the most exciting thing to happen to kid jewelry since the advent of the friendship bracelet.
Using a special loom and the multitude of colorful twistz bandz that come in this kit along with a myriad of video tutorials available on YouTube, kids will spend hours happily creating with this fun kit.
My daughter has been playing with her kit for years now. This is easily one of the biggest “bang for your buck” toys we’ve ever bought.
$21.49 (3 – 6 years)
This is such a popular toy and it’s no mystery why. Kids absolutely love playing school, especially when they have awesome props like this, and parents love how it fosters a love of learning. We bought it for my 4- and 6-year-olds last Christmas and they play with it ALL THE TIME.
From the manufacturer, “Part of the Pretend & Play line that fosters healthy early childhood development by helping kids interpret and imitate the world around them.
The 149-piece set includes tri-fold board, grade book, stickers, hall passes, dry erase board, hand pointer, crayons, double-sided calendar, double-sided map, and more.” From a reviewer, “I gave this to my 6-year-old last Christmas and it has been one of the most-played-with gifts ever. She is now 7 and she still pulls this out and plays with it all the time. She loves to play school with her younger brother. This set is perfect for 5-8 year olds. Highly recommend!”
$14.99 (3 – 10 years)
The key to a good indoor toy is it’s ability to wear a child out without requiring a lot of space to do so. This soft pogo jumper is an Amazon #1 Best Seller because it does just that.
It will keep the kids happy (and get them good and tired) and you won’t have to worry too much about them knocking over your stuff (or each other).
$54.99 (3 – 8 years)
Check out the stellar reviews on this one and you’ll be sold. It’s a cool space-age car that’s powered solely by wiggling the steering wheel. This multi-award winning toy is one that will be enjoyed by kids of all ages for many years. Enough said.
starting at $17.95 (5 – 12 years)
These award-winning kits allow your children to author, illustrate, and publish their very own book hard cover book. My daughter and I have been making books together at home for a while now so I’m excited to surprise her with this kit allowing her to make a professionally printed book.
I also love the comic book making kit for kids who need a little encouragement in the areas of reading and writing. From the manufacturer, “Lulu Jr. allows children to become published authors, encouraging creativity, strengthening literacy and building self-esteem. Your child writes and illustrates their own original story that will be printed as a full-color, hardcover, professionally printed book.
You choose whether to mail your completed book pages to them in the included prepaid envelope, or you and your child can create the book online. The final product showcases your child as the published author on the book’s back cover using our ‘About the Author’ feature. With Lulu Jr.’s award-winning book-making kits, IlluStory Junior, My Comic Book and My Awesome Book, children can realize their potential as an author and artist. With 800,000 kits sold and over 15 industry awards, Lulu Jr. is the ideal destination for young authors. “… For younger kids, also check out the low-tech Create Your Own 3 Bitty Books kit that allows them to make three of their own mini-board books for only $10.
starting at $11.24, (age varies by kit)
This is another series of kits, much like the LEGO City collection with the difference being that each kit can be used to create 3 totally different things. My son thinks this is especially awesome and I did a lot of research to find the perfect set for his 6th birthday.
We settled on the LEGO Creator 31011 Aviation Adventure and we were not disappointed! The photos don’t do justice to the sheer size of this thing! That and the number of pieces involved in the build truly make this the next level in LEGO builds. Plus it actually has moving parts (pull back the landing gear to make the propellers move, slide the cockpit windshield back and up to insert and remove the two pilots, etc.). My son has been playing with it non-stop for weeks and he still hasn’t even gotten to the boat and helicopter he can build with this set. This toy has already given us hours and hours of fun and promises to give lots more – a great investment in my eyes.
Hot Wheels DIY Track Creator Kit
(18 months with parents help – 12 years)
This is a very unique item on these gift guides in that I’m recommending you buy a couple of simple sets (listed below) and package them together to make one really awesome gift.
I totally get that some of the Hot Wheels sets out there are super fun for kids (our favorites are still featured below).
However, one of the things I really love about hot wheels is the idea of the kids going crazy with them, building all kinds of unique and interesting tracks down the stairs, under the table, and etc. So if you’re considering a big Hot Wheels gift for your kiddo, I really encourage you to think about putting together this suggested DIY gift instead of buying one expensive track setup.
I promise, it will buy you so many more hours of engagement than a bells-and-whistles set that really only does one thing. This kit was my son’s big present for his 7th birthday , minus the cars as we had plenty of those. Of course, you can add or subtract from it to make the perfect sized gift for your space/budget too.
Here’s what I’d put in mine if starting from scratch:
- Hot Wheels 20 Car Gift Pack $21.63
A decent set of small hot wheels are a must for us. They’re great for playing with the toy garage also listed here or for using with blocks, up-cycled paper towel rolls, and even painter’s tape tracks in all kinds of innovative open-ended play. Of course, when playing with these with young toddlers, be on the lookout for any loose parts that may be a choking hazard. We’ve never had a problem but it’s worth noting.
Allows to design, create and customize their very own track challenge using a variety of stunts, track layout options and key track essentials that all work together. This set includes 35+ customizable pieces, including 6 pieces of orange track, 16+ bricks, 2 curves, a launcher, multiple connectors, and a Hot Wheels vehicle
One reviewer wrote, “Bought for 6 year old grandson and he loves it. Well made, flexible pieces so it can stay together and remove easily. He added it to other pieces and things around to make ramps. Keeps him busy a long time.”
To really expand the possibilities, I would also highly recommend throwing in one or two of these straight track sets. 18 track connectors, including an assortment of 9-inch tracks, 12-inch tracks and track connectors to make up to 15 feet of straight track.
YOUR CHILD’S 1st TABLET
One of the things parents are looking for most from this list is information on the best first tablet for their child. When to actually get our kids tablets, and which one to get, is something we wrestled with and researched A LOT. So I’ve done my best to tell you what we went with and why.
As a side note, we decided to very slowly start to let our kids have access to limited tablet time at the ages of 5 and 6. Your decision around timing and ages may be very different. As always, you know your child best!
$129.99 (5+ Years)
Let me just start by saying that we have been super impressed and happy with our decision to go with the Fire tablets for our kids. However, I find the multitude of options that Amazon offers to be very confusing! So I’m going to start with what we love about the Fire and then I’m going to tell you exactly which one, and which accessories, I recommend and why.
3 Reasons to Chose the Amazon Fire Tablet:
1) State-of-the-Art Parental Controls
By far, my favorite feature of the Fire- and the ultimate reason that I feel it is superior to other tablets for kids – is the state-of-the art parental control features. The flexibility of these features is unparalleled in my mind and I so, so appreciate that I can set the different profiles for each of my kids and forget them so that the tablet can be the bad guy in terms of telling the kids that they can’t do something or that it’s time to shut it off. Along with setting which hours during the day the Fire will turn on for each child (e.g. 8:00 am to 5:00 pm each day), I can also set specific time limits for each kind of activity- i.e. 20 minutes on apps, 30 minutes reading books, and 0 minutes for TV/movies each day. I can also set up educational goals, such as reading for 40 minutes each day, that have to be achieved before other things like apps can be accessed.
2) Amazon FreeTime Unlimited
The second thing that really sold me on the Fire is Amazon FreeTime Unlimited … As a parent who is already a little apprehensive about tablet time for my young kids, I am extremely picky about what apps they’re engaging with while they’re using them. Amazon FreeTime Unlimited is an all-in-one subscription for kids that offers unlimited access to thousands of kid-friendly books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games and, for the most part, I’ve been really impressed with them. It’s a very easy way to get my kids new content that I feel I can trust. Plus, there’s a new kid-safe camera app that allows them to take pictures and edit them by adding stickers, drawings, and more. Parents can view photos and videos taken by their children in a separate photo gallery, and have the option to auto-save to Amazon Cloud Drive. Finally, while in the FreeTime app, kids are unable to access the internet, social media, or email and are also unable to make purchases on their own.
3) – Open Platform
The third and final thing that the Fire has going for it is that it’s a true tablet and, thus, an open-system. That means that unlike other kids’ tablet, I have full control over the apps that are loaded onto my kids tablets. If there’s a FreeTime Unlimited app that I don’t want them to have, I can easily delete it. Conversely, if there’s an app that I do want them to be able to use, like Minecraft or an awesome new educational app I saw on pinterest, I can download it to the device without a problem.
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