Best Learning Toys for 5-Year-Olds
By Dr. Jody Sherman LeVos
Five-year-olds are typically calmer, more mature versions of their 4-year-old selves. A notable improvement in language and communication skills, combined with a longer attention span and more sophisticated coordination, means that 5-year-olds often exhibit new interests and abilities at surprising rates. Five-year-olds can sit for fairly substantial amounts of time, meaning you’ll be able to successfully introduce toys, games and activities that require more time and focus.
When choosing toys for this age group, I suggest looking for toys the support developing cognitive skills, challenge their fine motor skills and foster self-expression. My favorite toys for this age group include simple modeling kits (for example, model cars and airplanes), board games, craft supplies and books or educational video games about their passion topics.
Toy Shopping Guide
- Building Kits & Games: Five-year-olds can organize their movements and have fairly sophisticated fine motor skills. Look for toys that require small, intentional movements, such as stacking games and modeling kits. They can also recall longer lists of instructions and plan more elaborate events than their younger selves; find toys that require some set-up or construction, and games that involve multiple steps.
- Passion Topics: Many 5-year-olds have developed a passion for dinosaurs, the solar system or other topics, and they exhibit quite an appetite to learn more. Choose toys that allow them to express their interests as well as teach them new things. Books, maps, puzzles and figurines can support children’s burgeoning interests, foster great questions and deepen their appreciation for their favorite topics.
- Creativity Toys: Five-year-olds are developing a sense of who they are and what they like (or don’t like!), and have an interest in expressing their points of view. Find toys that they can customize to fit their own sense of style and aesthetic. Craft supplies and activities, such as drawing on t-shirts or sculpting vases, are often a hit at this age.
- Educational Games: Five-year-olds enjoy rehearsing new and important skills, such as reading, writing, counting and recognizing patterns. Choose toys that allow children as much or little exposure to critical early learning skills as necessary. Tech-infused toys, particularly ones that level up or down according to your child’s abilities, can be especially helpful. There are so many skills your five-year-old will enjoy practicing and learning about!
Although many five-year-olds are capable of playing independently for extended periods, chances are that they will still want to enjoy their toys with you, at least some of the time. Try to find toys that multiple players can appreciate or contribute to, and let the good times roll!
More on choosing toys & gifts for 5-year-olds:
As the math and science development expert on LeapFrog’s Learning Team, Jody works on products across all platforms to teach math and science concepts in developmentally appropriate ways using research-based techniques. Before joining LeapFrog, she was a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, a researcher and instructor, and a math textbook author. She is also the proud mother of two LeapFrog-aged boys. She earned her doctorate in developmental science (specializing in mathematical and cognitive development) at the University of Alberta, in Canada.
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