When you’re looking for the best gifts for 3- to 6-year-olds, you most likely find a wide range of items from which to choose. That’s because there’s a wide range of development in a little one’s brain as they move from preschool to elementary years, and finding appropriate and fun gifts for them can be challenging.
But it doesn’t have to be! We’re mamas too, and we love giving the perfect gifts for 3- to 6-year-olds as much as you do. So we talked with developmental experts and scoured our mama forums for their favorite recommendations and we’ve put a list together to make shopping for the perfect gifts for 3- to 6-year-olds easy peasy, lemon squeezy!
What Is Going On In The Brain Of A Preschooler?
In few words? A WHOLE LOT! Neurologically, preschoolers are processing in their brains twice as much as a college student is, and that may be as much as three times as busy as the average adult’s brain. Preschoolers have over 100 billion neurons firing pretty rapidly, and over 75% of those are in the cerebral cortex. That’s the part of the brain that controls a preschooler’s memory, attention, language, math and problem-solving abilities. And, without getting all sciency, those neurons are working hard to create dendrites–the information highways of the brain, if you will. Basically, a preschooler’s brain is working overtime, and that can cause some epic scenarios! If you’ve ever wondered why your preschooler goes from Beauty to Beast in 2.3 seconds? It’s because their brains are working overtime to develop, and it’s hard for us to really understand that as we’re staring at a tantrum in the middle of Target.
What’s Going On In The Brain Of A Primary Schooler?
Children typically start kindergarten when they’re five-years-old, and first-grade when they’re six-years-old, and their brains are still working hard as they were when they were preschoolers, with just a few extra advances going on. At these ages, they tend to strengthen their attention spans (20-30 minutes at a time, as opposed to about 10 of a preschooler) and they’re really getting into reading skills. Their social skills develop more and they’re able to control their bodies a bit more too. That’s why they like playing games where rules and order come into play. They finally feel big-kid enough to enjoy them, and their ever-expanding brain architecture is helping them gain, process, understand and retain more and more knowledge.
According to the Center On The Developing Child at Harvard University, the early experiences in a preschooler’s brain architecture are full of opportunity. So, that means that when you’re looking for the perfect gift for a 5- to 6-year-old, you’ll want to look for one that they’ll both enjoy and that will work to help the development of that fragile and fantastic architecture.
What Do You Want To Avoid In Gifts For 3- To 6-Year-Olds?
You got it: toxins. We read the labels of foods we eat and things we put in and on our bodies; we need to also pay attention to the things that our gifts for 3- to 6-year-olds are made of and from. Yes, there are regulations for safety on kids’ items, but we all know that many manufacturers will still try to find the cheapest way to make a buck. And, they’re not too concerned about the earth in the process.
Believe it or not, there are still toy manufacturers that are marketing products made with lead, despite the CDC warning about the toxicity of lead in toys.
Not to mention the inclusion of BPA, PVC, flame retardants and Phthalates in many toys too. Heck, some toys have even been found to have toxic metals, arsenic, chlorine and cadmium in them, and there are even products for kids’ jewelry and makeup that have tested positive for asbestos!
So, when looking for the best gifts for 3- to 6-year-olds, you’ll want to make sure you check out the companies behind them, as well as the practices they use in producing them.
The Best Gifts For 3-Year-Olds
The best gifts for 3-year-olds are ones that let them have lots of play and hands-on opportunities when they’re using their imaginations. Imaginative play becomes more of a focus as they’re capable of incorporating more life experiences in that play, and they’re also becoming far more verbal. They’re developing their little personalities, and many call them Threenagers (I sure did with mine!) because there’s quite a bit of up and down on the emotions scale. That said, it’s because those little brains are working so diligently to grow and develop, and the best gifts for 3- to 6-year-olds are ones that take their brain development into account.
Experts suggest toys that give hands-on experiences, as well as an opportunity to develop their emotional IQs. Many 3-year-olds are entering preschool for the first time, and they’re learning how to interact with others their age. This is why natural wooden toys that offer open-ended opportunities are great. Some 3-year-olds are still sensory seekers and still may put things in their mouths, so clean wooden toys are great.
Gifts that encourage the development of their fine motor skills are also highly received, as this is the age where many start wanting to dress themselves (we LOVE 3-year-old style!) and they’re all about fashion too, it seems. While it may seem like it’s unusual fashion to us, it’s their way of showing the world they’re coming into themselves and gifts that encourage that independence are great too.
The Best Gifts For 4-Year-Olds
The best gifts for 4-year-olds are ones that appeal to their growing love of imaginative play, storytelling and pretend play. They love being entertained, and they also are learning about taking turns and playing with friends instead alongside of friends as they did in parallel play situations when they were younger.
It’s no secret that 4-year-olds tend to have opinions on just about everything (which is why we love them so) and they’re all about exploring the world and community around them. They love to feel independent and they’re still working on controlling their pretty intense emotions, so toys and games that encourage social skills are also popular.
The Best Gifts For 5-Year-Olds
Five-year-olds are typically starting kindergarten, and boy, oh boy! Do they feel like they’re hot stuff! They love to play games with their friends, and they have more opportunities to do so as they’re regularly in groups of peers. This is also the age that they start realizing the world isn’t entirely about them, and they’re looking at how situations and scenarios affect others as well.
Their attention spans are growing, and for many, even their reading skills are growing, so things that cater to that independence and development are good choices.
The Best Gifts For 6-Year-Olds
Oh, 6-year-olds are so much fun! This is the year they typically start losing their teeth, and they seem so big even though they’re still so little. They love to laugh and humor really starts being something they use with purpose, and they also find joy in collaborative work with their peers. Opportunities to play together and to be part of a team are coveted by 6-year-olds, and they have a strong sense of order and equity when it comes to rules and game playing.
Additionally, 6-year-olds seem to be not just curious, but logical in their curiosity. It’s wild to see their brains work as they analyze and figure things out, and STEAM-related gifts are always popular because they cater to their inner curiosity and desire to resolve.
Consider These Best Gifts For 3- To 6-Year Olds
This game is a great gift for 3- to 6-year-olds because it allows them to work on building social and emotional skills with the familiar character of Charlie from Charlie’s Colorforms City. They’ll get to race to make silly faces of characters on the show and the stickers are reusable so the game can be played to the child’s heart’s content. It’s easy and fun to play and it makes a great first game for preschoolers because they can manipulate pieces well (while it develops their fine motor skills) on their own and they can use their imagination too. Plus, they love feeling like they’re old enough to play games with the whole family now, and the silliness is just a bonus!
This adorable 2-in-1 gift is the perfect gift for your favorite 3- to 6-year-olds! It’s a fun new friend that turns into an adorable stuffed animal hoodie and it can be a travel pal and blanket for any adventure! Cubcoats come in all sorts of characters and sizes for up to 10-year-olds even, and we love that they offer kids the opportunity to have a lovey of an older kid kind. They’re a super-easy way to get your 3-year-old to actually wear her coat (“I’m not cold!” sound familiar?) and they’re made with premium non-allergenic materials that are ethically sourced. Each Cubcoat is fully lined for warmth and they’re super easy to take care of as they’re washer and dryer safe. Cubcoats are National Parenting Product Award winners and they’ll be highly favored as gifts for 3- to 6-year-olds too!
There are so many reasons we love HABA. Their corporate philosophy Is based on a simple but powerful principle: Children are the most important things in life. They develop their toys with a child’s development in mind, and they understand that safe toys that are made with sustainable practices are what parents like us are looking for. They’ve been proactive in environmental protection and sustainable production of toys for years, leading the way in the industry as they use organic materials from sustainable resources and wood from sustainable silviculture and textiles. They also use paperboard and plastic from renewable resources and their toys are non-toxic.
We love that they are also socially responsible as well. They claim they seek success, but not at any price, and they treat partners, suppliers and competitors fairly. It’s a family-owned and run business, and their toys are quality.
One of our favorites is the Hullerbu Parking Garage. It’s a set that kids will pass to their kids, and is full of open-ended play. It’s perfect for 3-year-olds who love manipulating toys, and kids love taking their Kullerbu vehicles through the parking garage with the integrated car wash. It also has shop to ‘fix’ broken vehicles and a gas stop too, and it’s great for role-playing as well.
This fun game is calming and excellent for any quiet time, and it includes beloved Micky and Minnie Mouse. It’s a game that can be played in 15 minutes, so perfect for a preschooler’s attention, and can even be played by the child alone. She’ll help Mickey get all of his farm animals to bed before they’re past bedtime (which differs so each game played is a new game) and several of our forum mamas love it as a fun part of the naptime/bedtime routine to help their littles settle down. The board can even be a pillow if kids want to have some extra snuggle with Mickey time.
This gorgeously crafted board game is a perfect preschooler present! It’s a quick game that can be played in just 15 minutes, so it keeps their attention well, and the instructions are easy enough for kids to understand and start playing immediately. We love it because it’s fun for the whole family to play, as each game is unique and kids can figure out different strategies for collecting the tail feathers of these gorgeous birds. It caters to kids whose fine-motor skills are developing with the adorable bird-shaped cardholders that are the perfect size for little hands, and it helps those brilliant brains learn colors and practice identifying differences and similarities. It’s easy to tell who wins at the end as the kids can quickly count the colors, and they’ll want to play over and over, we guarantee.
Kids this age love watching marble runs, and we love the quality of every HABA product. That’s why the Hubelino Mini Building Box is a great gift—it lets kids have the fun of building a marble run without needing to take up the entire kitchen floor for fun! It’s an intuitive system that has all the kids need to make engineering masterpieces: building blocks, the base plate and marbles, and it even comes with sample tracks and instructions for kids to get some instant satisfaction from. It comes in a solid cardboard carrying case that has different partitions for the materials, and it makes a great take-along toy for traveling to every play-date they’ll go on!
These adorable Coding Critters are the perfect first friends for 3- to 6-year-olds! They’re interactive pets that preschoolers will fall in love with, and they’ll help introduce kids to STEM skills like critical thinking and problem-solving using fun playsets and a storybook that has coding adventures and challenges. Kids can help brave Ranger enjoy playtime along the Storybook, and they’ll come to love Ranger and Zip as friends of their own. We love that these Coding Critters don’t just teach coding skills, but that they do so in a way that also teaches them social and emotional skills too.
Looking for a unique gift that’s non-toxic and organic, made for independent play, designed to encourage imagination and language skills through play and is made with fair labor and created by a mom herself? Look no further! Mouse Loves Pig’s Car Travel Toy is from their Toys Without Noise line, and sure to be a hit with all the little motor enthusiasts you know. Architect and mom of two Ruth Rau believes that imagination and creativity go hand-in-hand when connecting children and adults, and she founded Mouse Loves Pig after she discovered her first son’s favorite teething toy was recalled for lead paint. Disgusted with the lack of transparency in the toy industry, she researched and decided to create a line of toys that was good for brain development and good for their bodies too. In 2015, she started her mission to give options for screen- and battery-free toys that foster creativity and imagination. Her company is committed to fair-labor, fewer chemicals and JOY and we’re all in!
Codi The Storytelling Robot is a definite fit in the category of perfect gifts for 3- to 6-year-olds! No longer will preschoolers and primary school kiddos be reaching for their parents’ phones or devices because Codi gives children an engaging and interactive experience sans screen! That’s right–no screen and over 200 classic stories and songs, all in the shape of the cutest little robot friend. It’s customizable for kids depending on their ages and interest levels and so it can grow with children as their interests grow and develop.
And 3- to 6-year-olds still love their childhood friends (and even their lovies still) so Codi can be a new friend. He even has an outfit he comes with and there are options to purchase others. This helps him become more than just a fun storyteller; he becomes a friend they want to take wherever they go. And you’re cool with it because they hear great literature and music and there are no.screens.involved!