This Disney-Themed Game Comes With a Six-Foot-Long Board (and Is Only $17)
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When they reach the age of 5, kids are right at the beginning of their school journeys. (Goodbye, preschool! Hello, kindergarten!) And along with all their reading, writing and arithmetic, they're learning other skills, too, like how to behave in a classroom, how to listen to directions and how to collaborate with other kids their age. And it's amazing how quickly they incorporate all these new experiences into their play, which is something to keep in mind when shopping for gifts for kids this age.
"Around age 5, kids are solving more complex problems and developing more critical thinking skills, so more elaborate construction toys are perfect," says Jacque Bogdanov, PsyD, child psychologist and founder of ChildBehaviorClinic.com. "These might include toys like marble runs, building tracks and smaller Legos. More involved art projects, like cutting and gluing, art kits or easy how-to-draw books allow them to express their own interests and creativity while also practicing following multistep directions."
Whether you're looking for board games that help them hone their critical thinking skills, patience and turn-taking; educational toys like STEM sets and DIY kits or art toys that let them flex their creative muscles, the Good Housekeeping Institute can help figure out which ones are the best for kids this age. The Lab experts stay on top of toy releases all year, then call in their favorites to test them to make sure they're safe, easy to use and able to withstand the love of kindergarteners. Then they pass them along to actual 5-year-olds, who give the most important feedback of all. When it's all settled, these emerged as the best toys and gifts for 5-year-olds in 2023, including some current and former Good Housekeeping Toy Award winners.
The kids loved exploring beginner science sets, building bigger and better structures, playing with fidget toys, creating masterpiece artworks and using play sets that let them use their imaginations. And who could blame them?
GeoSafari Jr. Kidscope
By the time kids are 5 years old, they're more curious about science and the world around them. This talking microscope helps empower them to learn more with 15 slides featuring close-up images of animals, plants and beyond. Parents and kids alike enjoyed that it's simple, easy to use and offers a lot to learn. And if they want to gaze out far into space, this year saw the launch of the GeoSafari Jr. Telescope. Ages 5+
A little owl becomes an unlikely protector of a kingdom — and, when he's confronted by a dragon, he has to get creative. Good Housekeeping Institute testers loved this book for the way it plays on readers' expectations. “I liked the clever play on words and how it teaches that you can be small and still be brave,” one tester said. Ages 2 – 5
RELATED: The Good Housekeeping Kids' Book Awards
Nee Doh Groovy Fruit
Nee Doh is the fidget toy that kids love to squish, stretch and bounce. And while the classic, spherical Nee Doh works fine as a stress ball, the whole thing gets a cooler, fruitier vibe when they come shaped like strawberries, bananas and oranges. Ages 3+
Original Stomp Racers
The best things about these cars are that they're totally kid-powered: no batteries or charging required. Instead, kinds stomp on the launcher as hard as they can to send the cars flying! Good Housekeeping Institute kid testers loved going head-to-head to see which car would go the furthest, along with using the ramp to make them get some air. Ages 5+
Classic Lots of Bricks Set
This set is the perfect mix of small, guided builds and open-ended play. There are instructions that'll help them build a toy car, globe, flower, guitar, smiley emoji, cactus or other fun little figures. Then they can take them apart and use the 1,000 pieces — in lots of colors — to make their own creations. Ages 5+
Mrs. Plumpert’s pot pie was purloined, and it's up to the players to figure out which fox stole it. Kids will have to use their logic and critical thinking skills as they amass clues, eliminate suspects, and catch the thief before it escapes! All the players are working together to solve the case, so it also helps with cooperation skills. Ages 5+
Let those architects and engineers design their own blanket forts with this set, which comes with 69 pieces (mostly rods and ball connectors). There are plans they can follow to make structures like a rocket, a castle or an igloo, or they can build whatever they like. All you have to do is add your own sheets and blankets on top. Ages 5+
Good Housekeeping 123 Cook!: My First Cookbook
Your aspiring restaurateur can say this is where it all began. This easy-to-follow cookbook gives them 50 easy recipes they can use to get started on their culinary journey. In addition to instructions for how to make things like Ooey-Gooey Glazed Cinnamon Rolls or Totally Twisted Pasta with Cherry Tomato Sauce, it also offers tips from Good Housekeeping experts on kitchen tools and techniques. Once they've mastered these, they can move on to Good Housekeeping Kids Cook! Ages 4+
Kids (and their families) love these boards because they're quiet, but so soothing. A clear gel is filled with beads, and kids can use the included stylus or their fingers to push the beads around in the gel to augment the pictures. It comes with one double-sided background, but you can print more. Ages 5+
Orboot Earth Globe
This globe lets kids travel the world through the magic of augmented reality. By using an app, they can learn more about the history, geography and environment of each region by zooming in with a tablet. There are more than 1,000 world facts included!
Nature Walk Lantern
Five-year-olds have a propensity for collecting treasures on outside walks — leaves, flowers, sticks and rocks. They can put the leaves and flowers to use, at least, with this project. They can design two different lantern screens using their found materials, then construct a frame with a light. When they're done, they'll have a working lantern they decorated themselves! Ages 5+
Botley 2.0 Activity Set
This fun robot is a great way to introduce kids to coding without using screens. During toy testing of the previous version, kids immediately loved it right out of the box. Now the Botley "2.0" has expanded coding styles (including lights, movement and music), different interactive modes (program it to be a police car, a ghost or a train) and an accessory kit with more than 75 pieces. Ages 5+
RELATED: The Best STEM Toys for Kids
Hand Sign Alphabet Tiles
On one side of these tiles, you'll find a complete set of letters in both uppercase and lowercase. Flip them over, and you'll find a diagram of how to sign each letter in American Sign Language. Kids can practice making the signs, or trying to string the letters together to make and sign new words. Ages 3+
World of Disney Eye Found It Board Game
You'll need to clear off a lot of space for this game — the board is six feet long! But when it's unfolded, set the timer and head off to seek out as many of a certain item as you can find in the extra-large scene (bells, flags, cats, apples, etc.), challenging players on their memory and matching skills. It's the perfect family board game, because the rounds are quick by design, it's easy to learn, and the game is cooperative, so if one player wins, everyone wins! There's also a Marvel Eye Found It board game with a smaller board. Ages 3+
Aaron Slater's Big Project Book for Astonishing Artists
If kids are fans of The Questioneers series of books, they'll love the big project books that go along with each one. Aaron Slater's Big Project Book for Astonishing Artists, for example, has everything an aspiring illustrator needs to be inspired, including prompts, coloring pages, art history and calls to look carefully at what's in the world around you and interpret it through art. Ages 4+
Scribble Scrubbie Pets Arctic Snow Explorer
Kids can customize their furry, snow-themed friends, rinse and repeat as many times as they'd like. (Just be prepared to soak them a bit to erase the past scribbles.) There's even a cool, color-changing element: The pets turn blue in cold water, which was a hit with our testers. The set includes three cold-weather pets and six markers, plus two snowboards, two soaking tubs, a scrub brush and a vehicle that can be used as storage. Ages 3+
Parents who grew up in the '90s will remember these well — the "virtual" pet is back and better than ever. Kids can feed their pets, play games with them, train them to do tricks and keep them healthy (all without the hassle of a real pet). You can get a puppy, a frog, a pixie, a dinosaur, a unicorn and the "original" Compukitty with Starcat. Ages 5+
KidiZoom Creator Cam
With the KidiZoom Creator Cam, they can create their own high-definition videos, just like their favorite YouTube stars. This kit includes a green screen, a library of animated backgrounds, a tripod that's easy for little hands to hold and even a built-in microphone. Easy on-screen editing is available too, and parents can upload the videos to a computer via the included USB cable. Otherwise, it doesn't connect to the internet, so you don't have to worry about kid privacy. Ages 5+
Quadrilla Race to the Finish Marble Run
The sturdy, well-constructed wooden pieces can be continuously reconfigured to send marbles racing. The system is great for teaching kids STEM principles and problem-solving skills with a mixture of spins, drops and speed based on how they set up the layout. Each color block has a different function, making it a creative approach to marble runs. Ages 4+
The Fun Shop Look & See Puzzle
By the time they turn 5, they're ready for more complex jigsaw puzzles with more pieces. This puzzle, featuring a fun toy-shop scene, is 72 pieces, so it presents a big enough challenge. But the fun doesn't end when the puzzle is done; there's a seek-and-find component, and the border of the image has toys that kids have to look for in the rest of the scene. Ages 5+
My Figures: Pirates' Island
This set comes with six pirate-themed figures, along with swappable heads, arms, legs, torsos and accessories to make more than 1,000 combinations with them. They'll use their creativity to create their own characters, then set them loose in imaginative play — only to swap the pieces, make new figures and play again. In addition to the pirate-themed set, you can find My Figures sets with Horse Ranch, Magical Dance or Rescue Mission motifs. Ages 5+
Paint by Sticker Kids
Kids can make cool, mosaic-like pictures without glue, markers or paint — instead, they fill in the pictures with pre-cut stickers in different shades. Positioning the sticker in the right spot is good for their fine-motor coordination, and they'll feel accomplished when they see the cool art they've made. Each book comes with 10 scenes to fill in.
Rush Hour Junior Logic Game
This board game is a kid-friendly version of the popular Rush Hour puzzle game for older kids and adults. As they work on the 40 different challenges, trying to get the car out of its traffic jam, they'll develop their critical thinking skills. The challenges get increasingly more difficult as they go along. Ages 5+
World Colors Modeling Clay
Parents were amazed at how this clay didn't dry out, so kids were able to use it over and over again. This set comes with 15 different colors including six blendable skin tones, along with three different modeling tools. In addition to helping them get in touch with their creative sides, squeezing and rolling clay also helps kids with their fine-motor coordination. Ages 3+
Magic Bean Garden
A little bit of art, a little bit of science, this kit gives kids all the materials they need to decorate a pot and grow a bean plant. The "magic" element comes when the bean grows, and kids discover that positive words and messages are engraved on the pods. The pods sprout pretty quickly, and you get enough seeds for more than one cycle. Ages 5+
Naturalistas Grace Fashion Doll
Kids can act out all their influencer dreams with this 11.5" Grace fashion doll. She comes with a ring light, laptop and phone, plus two outfits she can wear during her "livestreams." Grace is part of the Naturalistas fashion doll line, which is known for dolls with textured hair. Ages 3+
Antarctic Expedition Play Set
Kids can use their imaginations and go on a journey to the bottom of the world with this Antarctic-themed set. It comes with a ranger, two huskies, a baby penguin and other accessories, all with the incredible details Schleich is known for. Too cold? There's also the Outback Adventure set with kangaroos! Ages 3+
KidiStar DJ Mixer Black
Kids can experiment with beats, sound effects, faders and vocal tags with this device, which puts them in the role of DJ. In addition to more than 2,000 sound combinations that come preloaded into the kit, you can also connect it to your music player with Bluetooth or an AUX cable so they can remix their favorites. Ages 5+
Magical Misting Crystal Ball
Our kid testers really felt like they had magical powers when they summoned the "Mixie" character out of a fog-filled crystal ball. (Though be warned: The "magical mist" does have that fog-machine smell to it.) After the big reveal, kids can interact with the Mixie in lots of different ways — it has more than 80 sounds and reactions. Ages 5+
Maxi Deluxe LED
Good Housekeeping Institute experts say this is the best scooter to step up to after the little-kid scooters because it still has three wheels for stability and the height adjusts as they grow. And kids love that this one has light-up wheels! Ages 5+
RELATED: The Best Scooters for Kids
How we choose the best toys
Before including our favorite picks in an article, the Good Housekeeping Institute does rigorous toy testing to ensure we're recommending only the best. Many of our choices come from our yearly Toy Awards, where we test each item based on the following criteria:
✔️ Safety: Our engineers and analysts make sure that each toy reaches all safety standards. They also assess things like pinch points and make sure toys won’t shatter into small pieces to pose a potential choking hazard.
✔️ Ease of Use: We look at each toy to evaluate how simple it is to assemble, how well it’s constructed and how durable it is during play.
✔️ Kid Approval: Aside from testing each toy for skill-building attributes, like how well it develops social-emotional skills, all our final decisions come from more than 100 children, ages 1 to 15, who assess the fun factor!
Why trust Good Housekeeping?
For decades, the Good Housekeeping Institute has provided expert reviews and advice on everything parents and children love, including STEM toys, educational toys, sensory toys and more.
Much of the toy testing for this article was overseen by Rachel Rothman, the Good Housekeeping Institute's chief technologist and director of engineering, with the help of Marisa LaScala, Good Housekeeping's senior parenting and relationships editor. For more than 15 years, Rachel has put her training in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics to work by researching, testing and writing about parenting products. Plus, as a mom to three kids under 5, she has plenty of first-hand experience.
Marisa has covered all aspects of the world of parenting, from the postpartum years through the empty nests, since 2015, and she's pitched in with Good Housekeeping's toy coverage since 2018. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter, who are both avid toy collectors. Everyone who stops by her home picks up her Doodlejamz Jellypics and plays with it, no matter what age they are.
Shop more toys and gifts for kids
Looking for more great gifts for kids? Let the experts do all the hard work for you!
Top-tested items: See what toys, gifts and books ranked the very highest in our Lab tests with our Good Housekeeping Best Toy Awards, our Good Housekeeping Best Kids’ Book Awards and our Good Housekeeping Parenting Awards.
Tech for kids: Our lab experts are often asked for recommendations for digital devices for kids, and we've tested kids' phones, kids' smartwatches, kids' tablets and game consoles and to see which ones held up the best for families.
Great learning toys: While all toys can be helpful vehicles for supporting developmental growth, we love to spotlight notably exceptional educational Toys and STEM toys as well as ones that can support social-emotional growth, like those included in our lists of the best sensory toys, pop fidget toys and autism toys.
Gifts for babies: Please the newest members on your gift list (and their parents) with these useful baby registry items, as well as gifts for babies, gifts for baby girls and gifts for baby boys. Of course, you might want to get something for new parents to help them through the hectic newborn stage.
Gifts for toddlers: The coolest new toys in this space pull double-duty, whether it's social-emotional learning combined with motor skills, or creative play combined with language, as you can see in our gift guides for 1-year-olds and all toddlers, as well as our stocking stuffers for toddlers.
Gifts for preschoolers: As they begin to explore the world around them on a deeper level, help them explore with STEM sets, art kits, creative toys and toys that inspire their imaginations. Find our favorites in our gifts for 3-year-olds (including gifts for 3-year-old boys and gifts for 3-year-old girls), gifts for 4-year-olds (including gifts for 4-year-old boys and gifts for 4-year-old girls), gifts for 5-year-old boys and gifts for 5-year-old girls.
Gifts for big kids: By these ages, they've developed their own interests. Help them dive deeper into the subjects that most interest them, from coding to art to cartooning to history and geography, with these gifts for 6-year-old boys, gifts for 6-year-old girls, gifts for 7-year-old boys, gifts for 7-year-old girls, gifts for 8-year-old boys, gifts for 8-year-old girls, gifts for 9-year-old boys, and gifts for 9-year-old girls. It's also fun to shop for some of our best-reviewed and top-selling stocking stuffers for kids.
Gifts for tweens: Sure, once they get old enough for an iPad or gaming console you might be at a loss of what to get them. We have you covered with engaging picks for gifts for 10-year-old boys, gifts for 10-year-old girls, gifts for 11-year-old boys, 11-year-old girls and gifts for 12-year-olds, or see what's trending with boys or tween girls as a whole.
Gifts for teens: We decode what's on the lists for this picky age group, from the hottest accessories to the most-wanted tech gifts, with gifts for 13-year-old boys, gifts for 13-year-old girls, gifts for 14-year-olds, gifts for 16-year-olds, gifts for teen girls, gifts for teen boys and even fun stocking stuffers for teens.
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