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Gift Ideas for School-aged Kids

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > School-aged Kids > Gift Ideas for School-aged Kids


Gift Suggestions, by Age See Also

Gifts for 5 - 7 Year Olds


Birthday Present for 5 year old

Aug 2012

Seeking inspiration for my little girl's 5th year birthday present. Something that will delight and captivate her. She's into everything! I would love to hear your ideas. excited mom


Butterfly Garden? Some boutique toy stores (and online) sell the net and kits to house caterpillars until they form their cocoon and turn into painted lady butterflies. It was a very fun and unique gift that my child got for her birthday. Aud
When I turned five, my parents gave me a little butterfly net and a simple field guide to butterflies. Endless fun charging around trying to catch butterflies and look them up. (Pretty easy to catch and release without harming the butterflies). Suddenly I was noticing these creatures all around that I'd never noticed before. I can still really imagine the feeling. Jonathan
My niece loved a butterfly kit I got her on Amazon - it comes with a net cage and cocoons, which hatch into butterflies.
Playmobil R.K.
Preschoolers are so interesting. They really do have special interests, and even ''hobbies'' at this young age. Some of the interests can be fleeting, and others are very much a part of their personalities or are talents that are begging to be nurtured. So obviously, what would ''captivate'' my child will not necessarily have the same effect on yours, and vice versa. I have at least once or twice bought toys I thought would be favorites, and which completely missed the mark (Thomas the Train for example). Some popular themes in my child's 5-year-old preschool class (these are kids who are entering kindergarten in 2 more weeks), among both girls and boys have included studying bugs (a bug house/magnifying glass kit is great for this), constructing elaborate creations out of legos, tinkertoys, k'nex, etc, and having pretend pets, especially very tiny ones such as iwako erasers, calico critters, or littlest pet shop.

This past 12 months or so at our house we've been crazy about Playmobil toys (hoping the interest will last at least another couple of years because they're expensive!). What I like about the Playmobil play sets: They are well made, there is a great variety of themes (try to choose a base theme to start with) and the details they put into the tiny accessories. My child plays very well alone with these toys, but because I think it's such a cool toy, I enjoy the time I spend sitting on the floor playing with my child when this toy is out, and I'm more engaged than with other play themes. So it works nicely for both of us. Locally, good sources to buy Playmobil are Sweet Dreams on College, Mr. Mopps, or secondhand at Toy- Go-Round on Solano. You can also see the current catalog and buy online at playmobil.com. An advantage of buying from Toy-Go-Round is that they are pre-assembled. You do need to possess patience for assembling the sets and a great tolerance for lots of tiny parts that can easily be eaten by the vacuum cleaner. Because of the small parts, it's not great if there are baby/toddler siblings around.

Oh, and another great idea - a one-year membership to someplace like Children's Fairyland, Lawrence Hall of Science, Exploratorium, Oakland Zoo, etc, followed up with many outings there. Not only is it fun, but many of these places are nonprofits that are struggling in the current economy, and I suspect the memberships really help them. Toy-loving mama


I spent over a decade babysitting and nannying for LOTS of families before having my own, and I always had much success with ''The New Way Things Work'' by David Macaulay as a present for the 8 and under set (it's a beloved book FAR beyond that age, though). You can look it up on amazon : http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Way-Things-Work/dp/0395938473/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1345065216&sr=8-1&keywords=how+things+work As the title suggests, it explains how EVERYTHING in our modern world works (a fridge, a helicopter, a computer, a watch, etc). It has wonderful illustrations, and I always found that it provides a more interactive experience of learning for the kids, compared to just sitting on their parents' laps while they google it and sift through hits. Many children I gave this to very quickly figured out how to use the index and look things up on their own, which is awesome! It's just a fun, informative book that will boost a kid's knowledge and probably her imagination, too Sarah

Clothing and Educational Toys for 6 Year Olds

Nov 2004

I am participating in the Adopt-A-Family Holiday Program and need to purchase gifts for two 6-year-old boys. The family requested clothing and ''educational toys''. Where can I maximize my dollar on quality clothing for this age? Also, where/what to buy in the way of toys? I don't know any 6-year-olds! Thanks in advance for your recommendations. Suzanne


For clothes I suggest Target (get a top, not pants. Buying pants by size only may not work so well at that age anymore). At the age of 6, learning about the environment takes focus. I would try to find a science kit - something about magnetism, or how to make your own volcano or grow a plant. A book on these subjects or on sharks (always popular) is also educational. Heike
Your generosity great! A pair of good sturdy plain jeans that hold up is a great gift-- Target is good value for $ for boys clothes. I have heard Sears is the best for boys pants. Some 6 year old boys still prefer jeans with an elastic in the back (mine does). Socks that hold-up is something kids are short of too- I get Peds at Target- they have some stretch and are easier to get on because of that.

''Educational toys'' is hard to quantify. A subscription to a magazine maybe the thing that hooks them into reading, and a gift that keeps on giving: childrens Sport's Illustrated, Ranger Rick, Wildlife Fed's Your Backyard are all popular with boys. If you want a ''wow under the tree gift'', try a leap pad or one of their small mini thingies that looks like a mini gameboy. The 6 year olds I know love Bionicles, lego knights, bikes, how-to- draw books and tracing. Sometimes a simple gift like a reading light to screw in above their bed or a reading flashlight is a magic gift. a mom with a 6 yr old


Lakeshore Learning. They have a store in Walnut Creek, an outlet store in San Leandro and a website. anon.
Lakeshore learning in San Leandro has a discount warehouse in the back part with loads of learning toys at up to 70% off. Lakeshore Learning Store (510) 483-9750 1144 Montague Ave San Leandro, CA 94577

That said, I have not found a lot of good learning toys for my 6-year-old--ones that would have lasting interest. They are getting into the books and games age. There are lots of really good learning software for kids this age (Zoombinis, Dinosaur Adventure 3D Reader Rabbit Math Ages 6-9). But toys are tricky.

Yahtzee is good for practicing math skills. Cadoo and Taboo Jr are terrific games that get kids thinking. Chapter books like The Magic Treehouse are good. They give historical information in a fun format. Ranger Rick subscription is a good idea, as is a Boomerang subscription. Boomerang is an audio magazine. A new subscription costs about $54. It is narrated by kids and some have said it is like Prairie Home Companion meets All Things Considered for kids. There are poems, jokes, historical plays, science and news segments. The Beethoven's Wig CDs are a fun way to introduce kids to classical music. The songs are very funny and usually supply some background on the composer. Tangrams are good educational fun. Perhaps legos or other construction toys would be a good idea. susan


A great source of educational toys and books is the Discovery Corner Store at the Lawrence Hall of Science. The staff members will have excellent suggestions too. They are open 7 days a week, and I believe you can go into the store by itself without actually paying to see the hall exhibits. Their number is 510-642-1929. Suzanne

Great gift for 6 year old girl?

Nov 2004

I'm seeking recommendations for great gifts for our 6-year-old daughter for Chanukah, which is not that far away at this point. In particular, I would be interested in hearing of terrific books, movies (VHS/DVD), CDs, board games, and arts & crafts type things (she loves to draw, for example). Thanks! lori


We've had good luck funding Chanukah books at Afikomen on College (and, less reliably, at Cody's on Fourth Street). Our current favorites are ''Zigazack'' and ''Herschel and the Chanukah Goblins.'' ''The Borrowed Latkes'' is also pretty good. Outside of Chanukah books, six little girls all pretty much seem to love the My Little Pony Toys, Strawberry Shortcake and Calico Critters. Ann

Gift for 7 year old about to become a brother

Aug 2012

I am 4 months pregnant and we are planning on telling our 7 years old son next week that he is going to be a big brother. I had this idea we could give him something to celebrate but i can't come up with anything. I don't want it to be legos or a toy. I also don't want a book. I would like something we cou!ld buy 2 of and tell him there is one for him and one for his baby brother...aside from a stuffed animal what else would work? thank you


How about matching T shirts, one says 'The ___ family, I'm the Baby' or something, the other, 'The ___ Family, I'm the Big Brother'. Good for family photos early on. You could get shirts, too,('The ___ Family, Mom', or 'Mom of Two', 'Dad of Two') if that's not too cheesy for you. Everyone's role is changing, life will never be the same. Change can feel like loss, but it's also growth. And it's not about stuff, it's about more love. Hopefully the older son has stuff going outside the house, friends and activities, so he won't be feeling your total involvment with someone else as such a loss. Time for him and dad to bond. Good luck.

Good presents for nerdy 7-year old

Jan 2012

Our 7-year old asked for, and got, a calculator and an electronics set for Christmas. He is very happy and excited and plays with them both all the time. I was hoping someone else in the family would get him some actual toys that he can play with with friends, but no one did. Luckily, his birthday is fast-approaching! What are good presents for nerdy kid that can accomodate play with others? Anon


I think your son would love Snap Circuits: http://tinyurl.com/7c8borv (or is that what you mean by ''an electronics set''?). He could also try Lego Mindstorms (programmable Legos) if an adult is willing to help him. (You can find used sets for half the price of new ones.) Parent of a slightly older nerdy kid
7 is a good age to introduce your son to European board games. Carcassonne is an excellent beginning. Settlers of Catan is also great fun. Each game introduces different strategies and is a good way to get to know other children socially and intellectually. orchardann
What a great question! Things my 6-8yo nerdlings enjoy doing with others include chess, Legos, projects from books of science experiments/engineering (Howtoons, Dangerous Book for Boys, the Mad Scientist's Notebook, etc.) and strategy games like My Dwarves Can Fly (they'd probably be into Dungeons & Dragons kind of games but we haven't tried that yet). Of course, they also like just running around, building forts and inventing their own games, but those things are hard to wrap up as birthday presents. I'm curious to see what others come up with. Geek Mom
How about building sets? The ever-popular Legos, perhaps, or K'Nex? anon
As a kid, I and my nerdy family always loved to play Set together. It's a card game in which you use logic skills to make ''sets'' of different shapes, colors, and numbers. I know that doesn't make it sound exciting but it's a great game and is really a lot of fun for adults too. Fellow nerd
Legos! mom of Lego boys
We have a nerdy 10 year old. He and his other friends have always loved to play with his legos and his playmobiles. In the past the wooden train set was always a good group activity. On occasion if it is only 2 kids they will build something from his electronic set together or one of his other science kits. Board games such as Clue, Battleship, Life, and twister have been popular. We haven't been able to afford it, but he and all his friends love Kapla blocks. We'll take a few at a time to LHS where they have a room dedicated to it. We have to drag them all out of there when it is time to go home.

It is harder to get them outside, but our tree house has worked, pepsi and mentos, stomp rockets, rc cars, and temporary giant cardboard box clubhouses usually do the trick.

Not strictly a toy really either, but art supplies. At 7 especially, anything to do with mixing colors was extremely popular. Our son was not so interested in making pictures, but loved to mix paint. So we had a number of playdates involving painting where each kid got a palatte (if we didn't have enough we'd use paper plates.) We used tempera paint, which is cheap enough I never worried about the wasted paint. Besides pictures, we painted ''murals'' outside on butchers paper, the giant cardboard playhouses of course, bakers clay sculptures (extremely popular) and also those little wooden things that you can get at craft stores. I think at 7 we would still mix a huge batch of playdough and give everyone a chunk and some scuplting tools, they loved it... Enjoy your boy!


I have a nerdy 7 year old too. (He got a giant calculator when he was 4.) But he also likes more typical board games too. He loves connect four, sorry/sliders, othello, battleship, mastermind, blockus, and now scrabble. He's also spent long hours building various kinds of marble runs (he started with the basic plastic and wood kinds, but his latest was a motorized one that was for teenagers.) Kapla blocks (like at Lawrence Hall of Science) have been good too as have race tracks (like slot cars) that he can reconfigure. He enjoyed a magic set a friend gave him (talk about nerdy!) and he just got a chemistry set from the same friend that is too advanced for him (ie requires too much of my time...) Hope that helps! Rachel
My geeky son & his friends love

*Lego star wars - any kit (delightfully nerdy or normal depending on your definition, and very creative as the kids rebuild and mix the sets according to their imagination)

*Snap Circuits - a little harder for 2 kids to play with these than 1 kid, however

*Tinker toys and blocks - sometimes helpful to bring them out with the lego star wars to juice things up

*Send them outside with some wood, tape, glue, string, tools, etc.

*Craft kits work too - fusion beads, other beads, paper airplane book from klutz, pipe cleaner art from klutz nerdy mom


legos....they have all kinds of cool circuit board building kits, build and rebuild robots etc but legos are successful for the nerdlets in my house... loves my nerds
For my nerdy soon-to-be 8yo:

snap circuits are easy enough to build like legos but satisfies his interest in how things work. there is even a ''green'' energy set: http://www.amazon.com/Elenco-SC-300-Snap-Circuits/dp/B0000683A4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1325783069&sr=8-1

a catapult kit

the angry birds board game by mattel

rubiks cube (tho not for group play)

the board game ''PIECE OF CAKE.'' Fun to play for all levels but great strategy game nerdy mom


One more gift that is great for the brain and getting kids to be active is Hyperdash. http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Planet-46001-Hyper-Dash/dp/B000TTPEXU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1325783312&sr=8-1 It's great because they can play it solo or in a group. You can play sitting down by setting the targets close on a table or in front of you OR you can take it outside and place the targets faraway. Kids and adults love this game. nerdy mom

Gifts for 8 & 9 Year Olds


8-year-old daughter wants a knife and a Gameboy for Christmas

Nov 2004

My 8 year old daughter has been asking for 2 items for Christmas - a pocket knife and a Gameboy. I have been resistant to both, but now wonder if she is old enough for a pocket knife - with clear rules, as she is fairly mature and sees both her dad and I handle them on a regular basis. Has anyone out there given a child this age (she'll be 9 in March) a pocket knife, and to what results? Her dad suggested a small multi-tool with only one knife blade to reduce the chance of her using the blade incorrectly (she would have the correct tool, like a saw, to use instead).

I am pretty determined about the Gameboy (NOT to get one), but would like perspectives from other parents. Currently, my daughter has very little ''screen'' time - computer or tv, and I would rather keep things that way. However, I am interested in opinions either way. Anyone out there have any strong pro or con arguments about introducing a gameboy into the house? Thanks! Kristen


Re: proposed GameBoy gift. This is one of those popular, harmless- seeming gifts that you should really think hard about. Please note I am not a rabid anti-media parent; my two boys have watched their share of TV, play computer games, etc. But they (now 13 and 8) have never had a GameBoy and I am very glad we resisted. Kids' lives are full of moments when they're not doing anything particular, and the urge to fill those ''empty'' times with electronic entertainment will often be irresistable. Thus, rather than develop the ability to think private thoughts, stare out the window, doodle, or strike up a conversation with the person next to them, kids can now disappear into the electronic game world. The more they do this, the less able they are to do otherwise, as they do not have the inner resources to endure ordinary non-stimulating existence. I see kids in restaurants who can't wait for their food without handheld devices to get them through, and I was dismayed by a picture of a boy at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in Manhattan, oblivious to what was surely a sufficiently exciting event by most standards, face pointed down at his GameBoy. And as a busy parent the temptation, once it's available, for YOU to turn it on will be great. Better not to have the option, and deal with a little boredom and squirminess. Sarah
I would highly recommend not giving your child a pocket knife. She will be very tempted to take it to school and show friends and if found, she can be suspended or even expelled due to the zero tolerance policy most school have around knives. A friend of my son's found a small penknife in a vacant lot on his street and took it to school without his parents even knowing he had found it. He thought it was some great archeological find and was proudly showing it off. He was nearly expelled from 3rd grade and it took much work on his parent's and the principal's part (this kind of infraction automatically goes above the principal to the district) to have him remain in school and at that school. (they finally had agreed to only ''expell'' him from that school and transfer him, he eventually was allowed to stay where he was).

The game boy is your own call. I haven't bought any game systems for our kids, but my daughter saved up and bought her own when she ws 10. She rarely uses it, mostly because games are so expensive and again, we won't buy any, and then she usually only uses it when she is at places with alot of waiting (airport, doctor, waiting in the car when we do sibling pick ups, etc.) If her use had become a concern it would have easily been restricted. Good luck. anon


I'm totally with you on the Gameboy but I have compromised on that and have some experience to share with you about the pocket knife as well. I have an 8 yr. old son who, like all children, wanted a gameboy. Well, my 21 yr. old daughter never had one (and she's graduating from college this spring!) so I thought he could do without one. However, we had a lot of 6 hr. trips to make last year and so I bought him an OLD (B&W) gameboy on ebay with the understanding that it was only for long car rides. Well, he began to love to go anywhere in the car (I think the mom with the 5 yr. old who doesn't want to drop off his sibling at daycare may think about this) and even if it was old, it was new to him. He's over it now, he takes his bionicles in the car or listens to books on tape (Lemony Snicket, Harry Potter, etc)

We also closely monitor computer, tv use. Absolutely NO video games. He's a great reader and plays creatively. We've all read the info on electronic games so it's kind of a no-brainer anyway. I did find when we had a playdate with another child who had no restrictions on Gameboy use it was pretty disturbing to me to see her attached to her toy-oblivious to the sunny day, pets, toys, not to mention, playmate... so, I say stand your ground on that. As far as the pocket knife goes..... I'm sure you know that you must supervise your child with knives at all times... so you're going to take on a lot of responsibility with the knife. My son was whittling wood this summer ... and gashed his thumb!! We had to call the paramedics, he was thisclose to getting stitches, not to mention I really panicked. And this was while I was working nearby and after many warning to cut away from yourself, etc.... Kids and knives don't go that well together, unless you're there, really there, at all times. So for what it's worth, it sounds like a great oppy to provide your child with something that will involve you a lot (get it? :+ ) Gizella


I just don't think a 9 year old should be given a knife. My now 13 year old son has asked for a pocket knife for years. It just doesn't sound like a good idea to me. Why does your daughter want a knife? Does it make her feel cool? Does that mean she's taking it out of her pocket to show her friends? What about at school?

Is she going to use it for something creative or artistic? Then she can leave it with those supplies. Would it be just for camping? Then you are there to supervise. Maybe I'm being overly protective or concerned but it just doesnt' seem like a good idea to me.

As far as game boy goes....I wish I'd NEVER gotten my kids game boys. That said....if they didn't have them they would feel like it's not fair that most of their friends have one and they don't...peer competition. There are times that I allow them to play for my convenience to quiet them down or distract them and keep them busy for short times. My younger son would use it 24/7 if we allowed it. My older son can limit himself. Even so, when they are playing game boy they are in another world and are not responsive to anything happening around them, especially Mom talking to them.

Seems to me girls don't get quite as hooked in as boys, but that may just be my perspective. Is any of this helpful? These are hard decisions. Whatever happened to kids wanting fire trucks, marbles and Patty Play Pals? anon


I gave my 9 year old nephew a pocket knife for Xmas 2 years ago, at my brother's request. the people at REI thought I was insane, but I think parents are the best judge of how responsible their kids are. If you think she can do it, do it.

As for the gameboy, ask yourself -- are you prepared to enforce limits around its use forever and ever, dealing with the whining and the pleading,etc.? More to the point, why get your daughter a gift you don't want her to play with? My usual criteria for presents is that I'll only get it if I think my kids are going to play with it A LOT -- otherwise it's just more useless junk clogging up the house. A gift that I want him to play with as little as possible seems like a waste. no gameboy in my house


Hi! I got a Brownie knife when I was probably 8 or 9. I loved it, and carved a small wooden boat with it that I still have. Also, we gave my daughter a gameboy when she was around 8 or 9. It was great for car trips. I think it was fine, and I'm no huge fan of computer games. For her, it was something she played with occasionally. anon

editor note: More advice about Gameboys here


Great gift ideas for 9-year-old girl?

Nov 2007

Anybody have any great (Chanukah) gift ideas for a 9-year-old girl? Usually our daughter has an extensive wish list, but she has nothing on her wish list this year! I guess that means she has everything already. ;-) She loves to read, play board games, likes musicals (e.g., movie musicals like Oklahoma! and the like) and other movies. She likes doing art (she seems to like drawing/painting best). Any ideas would be most appreciated - especially with Chanukah being so early this year (Dec. 4th!)! Thanks!!!


Since she likes musicals, and she has enough stuff, how about an IOU for tickets to a musical in SF this year, or tickets for one that is in town now? There is nothing like seeing a musical live. We can't do it often cuz it is pricey, but I remember well the few times we have gone. What a treat! Anon Musical Lover
You could give a donation in her name to heifer.org, the organization that donates small and large livestock to people to help them feed themselves and start businesses. Or you could give a donation in her name to a microcredit organization and she could track how the business is going and visit it someday. I know that a 9 year old may not appreciate these gifts as much as a tangible toy in the hand, but if it's connected with an ongoing relationship, with the grantee or the business owner, maybe it will click for your daughter. Rebecca
If going to a show is beyond our budget, how about a CD or DVD of a musical? R.K.

Gifts for 6 & 9 yo Girls

Oct 2004

What do 6 and 9 year old girls like and want these days? My nieces live on the East Coast, so I don't see them often enough to know what's hip in their age groups. They are not particularly forthcoming about their desires and likes. I am fast becoming the faraway aunt who gives the too-big, wrong- color sweaters. I'd prefer to avoid the super commercial stuff, but I'm not above it. Thanks! -- Cindy


I have a ten year old niece and nephew and buying gifts can be daunting...especially because they have EVERYTHING. I tried to go the non commercial route, but ultimately, my expensive non commercial toys would get pushed aside for mega plastic walmart toys that cost a fraction. However, I have a few things that have really shone lately with my niece and I'm quite proud of myself:

Funky watches (I found acool inexpensive watch from SFMOMA and she just flipped out. Not one of her friends would have one but it was hip enough to not be too weird). Those squishy pillows from Brookstone: I started a craze (according to my niece and sister-in-law) when I got her this wonderful squishy pillow. Now, all her little friends are buying them (they also sell them at Bed Bath and Beyond). It's wild how they love them. My sis in law also got a couple of them for two kids in their circle who are autistic. They love the texture.

BRATZ dolls. Hate to say it, but it's quite popular. My niece, however, now has every Bratz product known so this pipeline has shut down.

I also recommend doing a search on google. I will put in gifts for six-year-old girl and sometimes interesting stuff pops up. Also, on amazon.com you can search for gifts that are age appropriate. Good luck. mizlandry


Six Year Old Girl: Polly Pockets, Glass Figurines, Small Backpack, New Lunch Box, Groovy Girls, Calico Critters; Nine Year Old Girl: American Girl Books, Anything from Klutz Kids (kit books, such as nailpolish, hair braiding, knitting, and so on), Stationary (personalized. Can order online from a number of places), Jewelry. Mary
How about gift certificates to national book stores so they can choose their own favorite books and CD? How about copies of some ''classic'' books that you loved and that you can give them to help build their own library? Girls this age often love lots of little things, like purses, hair accessories, diaries, beads, etc. I just bought my 8 yr old (and put away for Christmas!) the new Ello set ''Shopopolis.'' I like the Ello line (available at Target, among other places), as they are very cute, and also provide for lots of creative play (and they are small and don't take too much storage space!). Have fun! Claire
We love books as gifts!!! Around the age of nine or ten my daughter really enjoyed the books by Gail Carson Levine (The Wish, The Princess Tales, The Two Princesses of Bamarre, Ella Enchanted, and others). There are quite a number to choose from. A little bit later on she started reading A Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket. There are at least 13 books in the series, and she was always thrilled to get the next book from one of our relatives. Your six-year-old niece might enjoy the Junie B Jones books by Barbara Park, our daughter loved them. I hope this helps. tatiana

Gifts for 10 - 12 Year Olds


Fun Educational gift idea for a 9-12 year olds

Dec 2008

Hi parents- I'm looking for a christmas gift idea for a 9-12 year old boy. I want something educational and fun. If you have any ideas please let me know. thank you Lynne


If he's mechanically minded, how about one of those kits from Green Science where you can make a tin can robot, a potato clock, etc. They have them at Sweet Dreams Toys on College. Or, a few doors down on College is the robot store, with all kinds of things you can build. If you're looking for something bigger ticket or less cluttering, how about a gift certificate for a class, like Sarah's Science (www.sarahscience.com), or Kids' Carpentry (www.kidscarpentry.net). Or if he's musical, a gift certificate for BandWorks or Bird School of Music (or whatever music school is local to him). Mom of Boys
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