Your child is six years old! Which means he or she is most likely starting the first grade. This is an exciting age when it comes to blending learning with play. At this age, according to Marilyn Chapman, Professor Emerita, and former Director of the Institute for Early Childhood Education and Research at the University of British Columbia, both boys and girls benefit from a repertoire of different kinds of play that foster different aspects of their development. “They especially benefit from physical development and well-being, intellectual (cognitive) development, and social-emotional development,” she says. When it comes to selecting the best toys for your kiddo, Chapman recommends to “think ‘both and’ instead of ‘either or’” when considering those aspects. For example, maybe you choose an outdoor toy that not only gets your young one moving their body but which also includes a mental stimulation component too.
Adds Dr. Rachelle Smith, an associate professor at Husson University who specializes in psychology and childhood development: “The typical six-year-old is mastering perspective-taking (e.g., that others may have different opinions or beliefs) and starting to make gains in understanding logic.” Smith says prior to age six, most children struggle to understand the perspectives of others, which makes them struggle with losing a game, for example, since they are not thinking about how the other person feels, and have a hard time following logic since they are more driven by intuition. While Smith says there do not tend to be gender differences in these skills at this age “there are definitely individual differences. Since different kids find different things interesting, one would need to know the child to make a good toy selection.” However, says Smith, “with their increases in cognitive development and understanding (and memory abilities) six-year-olds tend to like information about the world and learning about topics that interest them. They can soak up information about the things they like very quickly and become little experts.”
If you’re curious about gender differences when selecting toys, Chapman recommends to parents they read the book “Pink Brain, Blue Brain” by Lise Eliot. “Her research shows that small differences in the brains of boys (as a group) and girls (as a group) turn into bigger differences because we treat them differently, including encouraging different kinds of play.” Which is why the toys selected below, along with input from Chapman and Smith, are best suited for both boys and girls.
With all these recommendations in mind, Scary Mommy has curated the best gifts and toys for the 6-year-old in your life.
“Gross motor skills development (which includes the large muscles, such as arms and legs) are essential for physical development and well-being,” says Chapman. “So toys and activities that encourage hopping, skipping, throwing and catching, climbing, running, jumping, and playing with balls, bats, hockey sticks, hoops, and ropes are all worthwhile for girls and boys.”
UM. Are you trying to be the cool Aunt?! This stunt plane set by Stomp Rocket is an absolutely unique and insanely entertaining toy that will make any kid (and their parents) give you a serious nod of thank-you respect. Kids stomp (or jump) onto the 100% kid-powered cannon-like tool to catapult cool rockets into the air. Guess what? This toy was invented by aeronautical engineers, so that’s another feather in your cap! The kit includes three different planes (Glider, Looper, and Wildcat) and they all perform different tricks when launched. Consider it a STEM toy gift.
It’s never to early to start shooting hoops! Aside from basketball providing great exercise whether played alone, with a partner, or on a team, it’s one of those sports that could be considered a lifelong skill. Chances are your favorite six-year-old squirt will need to dribble and dunk in gym class and possibly in social settings, too! Who knows, you might end up inspiring a real MVP. Imagine how the adult who gifted Steph Curry his first basketball set feels today? Okay, he probably just snatched his dad’s ball, but you get the drift.
Jump for a unique spin on your gifting with this WisToyz hover soccer ball set. Yeah, pushing boundaries is fun and all, but we do think it’s worth it to run this indoor (and outdoor) soccer game by the parents of who you’re gifting. But really, not much harm will be done with this hover ball! It’s light and layered in protective foam and it glows at night, so it was designed for the safest form of indoor play possible. Plus, if you know the kiddo has access to an epic playroom, then you don’t have to worry about that aspect of the toy at all! The good news? This kit includes an outdoor ball, too. When the toy is in action, it glides as if it’s a puck on an air hockey table. It’s a super fun way for kids to stay active and build up their pro-player skills.
“Exploration and inquiry-based play builds on children’s innate curiosity and sense of wonder,” says Chapman. “Through inquiry, children actively pose questions, investigate, solve problems, and draw conclusions about the world around them. Any materials or toys that encourage exploration, inquiry, and discovery are worthwhile investments.”
Adds Smith: “Six-year-olds can start to understand why and how an experiment works and start to devise their own experiments or start collecting and sorting specimens in ways that five-year-olds typically can not. These toys are highly supportive of brain development and lay the foundation for future critical thinking skills. These are a great way to introduce cause/effect, learn about testing predictions, and are usually engaging for children (and adults).”
Don’t you know Osmo? Let us introduce you: Perfect for gifting, the Osmo product line contains creative STEM activities for kids at different levels of development. This creative kit is ideal for six-year-olds and beyond so you know there will be years of use ahead which makes it really worth the splurge. With Osmo, a child can connect something tangible to something more animated, actionable, and even coded. A kid could draw an image of a monster, and then animate it via Osmo. Or, a kid could use an everyday object to guide on-screen activities. There’a a game included that features 60 levels of creative engineering. It’s an excellent STEM toy to gift, and the recipient (and their parents) should already be tablet-friendly.
Your favorite six-year-old Einstein will be really intrigued and feel just like a big kid when they receive this Playz Coding and Computer Science Kit. The kit contains hands-on activities, and the coolest part is a kiddo doesn’t even need a computer to conquer them! With this kit, a kid can create binary necklaces, ancient encryption devices, sorting races, mystery mazes, pixelated pictures, and so much more. With over 30 parts included, the computer science-themed creation and learning feels endless!
“Social, make-believe play contributes to the development of cooperation, empathy, impulse control, reduced aggression, and better overall emotional and social health,” Chapman says. “It also facilitates pro-social, cooperative behavior and fosters friendships.” She adds that an activity such as ‘playing house,’ which requires dressing up in play clothes and shoes with different types of fasteners, and using play cooking utensils and cutlery, is also a good activity to help develop fine motor skills.
Says Smith: “The ability to create and explore perspective is engaging at this age. Children can create alternate realities, write plays, take on roles, work through stressors and real life experiences through role playing and pretend play. Many children can spend hours working on scripts and rehearsals and just need an attentive audience at the end.”
If you know a kid who keeps getting caught redhanded (or red lipstick-faced) in Mom’s makeup collection, then this kit will go over so, so well. From nail polish to brushes, compacts, eye shadows, lipstick and more, it’s totally okay for a kid to play with this pretend cosmetic set. Plus, the perfect makeup bag makes it the perfect pretend set to take away on vacation, too! So clever.
This super unique and beautifully detailed diner kit by Melissa & Doug will keep your favorite six-year-old busy and entertained for hours on end, whether they’re playing solo or serving up diner classics to a full restaurant. Complete with a menu, apron, cash tips, shakes, cooking essentials, a coffee pot, and more, this 41-piece set will give a savvy six year old the full imaginative experience of running a diner from back of house to front of house… from cracking the egg to cashing out!
And if you really want to take the whole gifting thing up a notch, we recommend gifting that nifty diner kit along with this wooden diner set by Melissa & Doug. Complete with black-and-white tiles, roomy booth seating, and even a jukebox, this diner toy set actually looks like the real thing. Adults will be equally (if not, even more) impressed with a gift like this.