Kindergarten, first, and second graders span a wide range of skills and knowledge. While kindergartners are still getting used to routines of school and many are moving towards reading fluency at their own pace, experienced second graders have the school thing down and are all about building on their knowledge while first graders are always somewhere in the middle. This guide includes a range of products where manufacturers recommendations range from 5+ to 8+ but I firmly believe that you know your child best and need to let your knowledge of their interests and skills drive your purchases this holiday season.
Great gifts for this age balance fun and learning through engaging products like toys and puzzles. Books should be purchased according to a child’s reading level and interests so they’re reading something that’s just right for them without the frustration of the text being too hard. Since kids at this age have better developed fine motor skills, video games are huge hits for this age. If you’re not sure what titles are really appropriate for those on your list, I always urge gift givers to consult Common Sense Media first to get an-at-a-glance look at what’s best suited for the kids you’re buying presents for this year.
Space Laser Pegs by National Geographic ($49.99)— With 24 models in 1 and the ability to integrate into one’s Legos, Laser Pegs are a fantastic addition for brick engineers who love open ended building or creating any of the incredible 24 ideas like Mars Voyager, Hover Vehicle, Alien Stunt Fighter, Star Cruiser, and more. Clear directions are easy to follow for kindergarteners and older as they work to assemble models that will be illuminated with LED lights as you build. My 8 year old son got his first Laser Pegs set as a birthday gift this summer and has loved building with it alongside his Legos. Ages 5+
A-Ha! Brainteaser Kit by ThinkFun ($24.99)— On a cold winter’s day, puzzles can be a great way to spend the day. The A-Ha Brainteaser kit contains contains 8 brainteasers that require solving and critical thinking skills. While some are more challenging than others, hints provide some helpful assistance to kids to help them solve the puzzle rather. Hints make kids feel far more independent and successful rather than having parents and older siblings step in to do it for them. Brainteasers are a fun way for kids to practice logic while building self-confidence. Ages 8+
Last Letter by ThinkFun ($12.99)— Sometimes the best ways to learn can be when you don’t feel like you’re learning at all! That’s how it feels when to play Last Letter. Kids don’t think that this simple last letter game that inspires creativity, laughter and quick thinking is learning but it is! Kids are challenged to come up with and blurt out a word from one of the picture cards in their hand that must begin with the last letter of the word previously called. (Yes, go ahead- reread that but it’s far easier to understand during game play!) Of course, the first to get rid of their cards first wins! Ages 8+
Goldie Blox and the Builder’s Survival Kit ($59.99)— As a mom of a girl who loves all things STEM, I’ve been a little hesitant about GoldieBlox in our home until this year. I thought the pastel colored play sets were just a bit too girly for our house since I’ve always preferred more gender neutral toys or activities that could allow Emily to develop her interests alongside her brother, but honestly, I understand. Goldie is a female role model in a traditional male dominated industry who inspires a new generation of girls to build, create, and problem solve as they’re exposed to STEM topics that they might not be interested in otherwise. With 190+ pieces, GoldieBlox and the Builder’s Survival Kit provides plenty of materials for open-ended fun. Girls can determine how difficult of an activity to take on as they take on an integrated approach to learning. Using basic engineering principles, spatial skills, and reading, girls will confidently solve problems to help Goldie. Ages 7+
Goldie Blox and the Movie Machine ($29.99)— If you’re looking for a more affordable way to get started with Goldie Blox, Goldie Blox and the Movie Machine is my pick. I recently reviewed the free Goldie Blox and the Movie Machine app (iOS) that is a wonderful digital component to this physical play set. The app incorporates art to teach kids how to animate anything to create 1 second movies on iOS devices. Movies can be played through the app or printed and cut out to fit in the GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine play set. Ages 6+
Shape by Shape by ThinkFun ($14.99)— Can you tell ThinkFun tops my list of fun, affordable, and educational games this year? Shape By Shape is a Tangram-style game that becomes more difficult as you fill in the frame around each shape you make. With over 60 challenges, Shape By Shape is a great exercise in conceptual thinking and spatial relationships and will be enjoyed by kids in grades K-2 and beyond. Ages 8+
My Virtual Fashion Show by Crayola ($19.99)— Budding fashion designers can exercise their creativity with paper and pencil and then make their creations come to live with the My Virtual Fashion Show app. Sketch dresses, tops, skirts, pants, and shoes on the pre-printed model template and then use the Virtual Fashion Show app on a smartphone or tablet to snap a photo and place it on a virtual model who will model your design as she struts down a virtual runway. Ages 6+
NanoBlocks (starting at $11.99)— Teeny tiny NanoBlocks building blocks are a novel idea when it comes to building. Each pack contains enough blocks to create the idea on the package. Individual NanoBlocks animals are a great place for younger ages to start and more complex sets are perfect for older ages since they involve more pieces and detailed instructions to build architectural masterpieces like the Empire State Building ($44.99) or White House ($69.99). If you’re looking for something Lego compatible, I’d suggest the Laser Pegs over NanoBlocks since NanoBlocks can be used together but not with other brick systems. Ages 8+
PlayStation TV ($139)— It’s not always easy to find just-right kid-friendly content on gaming consoles but the new PlayStation TV aims to provide a wealth of kid-friendly content in a budget-friendly way. The PlayStation TV bundle comes with The Lego Movie Videogame, an 8GB Memory Card, and a DualShock 3 controller for the price of $139, making it perfect for gift giving and playing straight from the box. Expand on content as your child grows with an abundant selection of entertainment apps and nearly 700 games, including other kid-friendly games like Minecraft, Lego The Hobbit, and Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom that are coming soon.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney ($13.95)— Our kids always eagerly anticipate the next release in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series because there’s just something so odd and loveable about main character Greg Heffley. Perhaps it’s Greg’s struggles as a middle child, constant desire to be cool, or his trials and tribulations at home and at school are similar to what each reader experiences that makes them identify with him. Regardless, the 9th Wimpy Kid book is just as wonderfully charming and frought with middle school angst as the rest as Greg and his family embark on a road trip in their minivan. If you have Wimpy Kid fans in your home, The Long Haul is a must for your at-home library.
- Animal Stories: Heartwarming True Tales from the Animal Kingdom ($24.99)— Beautifully written and illustrated, this book features incredible animal stories that are perfect for reading under a blanket on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa by your side on a cold winter’s day.
- National Parks Guide U.S.A. ($14.95) and Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas by National Geographic ($5.99)— Perhaps your hitting the road to visit friends or relatives over the holidays or are looking forward to a summer road trip. Both of these National Geographic titles can help build background knowledge about the places you’ll be passing through when on your way to your destination and give kids plenty to do while in the car.
- National Geographic Kids Cookbook ($19.99)— Kids who cook are not only more likely to try new foods but they’re also practicing great reading and math skills as they work to read the directions and figure out how much of each ingredient to add. The National Geographic Kids Cookbook features delicious recipes in an easy-to-follow format that will make kids want to try new things.
- Bedtime Math & Bedtime Math: This Time it’s Personal ($14.99 each) by Laura Overdeck and Jim Paillot— With a fun story format that gets kids thinking as they wind down for the day, Bedtime Math makes it easy for parents to integrate some learning into every part of their day. I love the Bedtime Math series for differentiated problems that are well suited for my 3rd grader as well as my 5th grader who is doing advanced math.
- Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze for WiiU ($49.99)— I admit to having a soft spot in my heart for Donkey Kong because it’s one of the first video games I ever owned. My brother and I had 2 DS sized devices with single games- one had Mario and the other had Donkey Kong. Donkey Kong was my favorite so when I sat down with Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze for WiiU, it was like everything I loved about Donkey Kong as a kid but with far better graphics and – gasp – color! In this game Dixie Kong, Cranky Kong, and Diddy Kong are all part of the adventure as they traverse five islands, various stages, and enviroments as they work to reclaim Donkey Kong Island. It can be played individually or as a multiplayer game.
- Mario Kart 7 for Nintendo 3DS ($29.99)— I’m always a fan of a good driving game and Mario Kart 7 is no exception. It’s fun to customize your kart and choose between Mushroom Kingdom characters to drive (or your Mii can drive too) but to keep interest high among each version of Mario Kart that comes out, this game has some new features. Karts have new tricks like wings that deploys to help it glide over a shortcut or a pop-out propellers for cruising across the sea floor. Players can compete with friends via local wireless matches or online using a wifi connection. Parents- check your child’s DS settings to ensure they’re playing in a safe way and according to your house rules!
- New Yoshi’s Island for Nintendo 3DS ($39.99)— This week Captain Computer has been home sick so his job has been to test games. Yesterday he grabbed New Yoshi’s Island and parked it on the couch under a blanket. Even though I tried to get him to tell me about the game, he was fully engrossed in play and could barely share what he loved about it. I heard something about Mario, Yoshi, and finding coins. Good enough. Sounds like a hit for any Mario-loving fans this holiday season!
Need more ideas? Visit my past Elementary Gift Guides and other 2014 Gift Guides that will help you find the best gifts for all ages!
- 2013 Gift Guide: Best Gifts for Early Elementary Ages (5-8)
- 2012 Gifts for Elementary Ages (grades K-2)
- Gifts for Kindergartners and First Graders
- 2010 Holiday Gift Guide: Elementary Ages
- 2009 Holiday Gift Guide: Elementary Ages
- 2008 Holiday Gift Guide: Elementary Edition
Samples were received for review purposes. Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. All images courtesy of the companies.