5 developmentally perfect gift ideas for kids ages 5-12


When a present meets your child’s present—that is, where he or she is right now developmentally—the happy factor goes way up. For kids ages 5 to 12, these ideas will send you in the right direction:

1. Give the spark of a potential lifelong passion.

This is a prime age for a gift that builds on kids’ widening interests—or ignites a new fascination.

WHY IT’S GREAT: School-agers are curious and open to new ideas. And when something whets their interest, they like to go deep. They’re also developing a sense of who they are and how they see themselves.

What might spark now:

  • A musical instrument. Guitars, keyboards, and drums (if you can bear it) top kids’ wish lists.
  • Coding kick-offs. Two to try: Dash and Dot and Puzzlets.
  • A weather station. My First Weather Station is a popular simple beginner model for budding meteorologists.
  • A chess set. This is a great age to learn, and a special set might excite interest—like, say, this Star Wars version.

2. Give a sense of accomplishment.

All school-agers are natural “makers.” Consider gifts centered on making, building, tinkering, crafting, and creating.

WHY IT’S GREAT: Fantasy play doesn’t end in the preschool years. It progresses into highly creative activities where imaginations soar. On top of that, making things gives kids a deep sense of accomplishment and confidence as they acquire new skills.

horse play

Gifts like these fill that need perfectly:

  • Forts and playhouses—that you build together. If you’re handy—or are up for learning as you go—giving the materials and plans for a project like this adds up to great together time while you build, followed by hours of kid fun and personal pride.
  • Big-kid blocks. A 5-year-old or a 12-year-old can both glom onto maple Keva planks or colorful Magna-Tiles—and keep adding more, just as with the more familiar Legos. (Keva, for example, makes open-ended sets for “Contraptions,” “Structures,” a “Catapult,” and more.)
  • Stories made real. Go beyond a simple pad of paper. Crayola’s Story By Me Hardcover book-making kit and Easy Animation Studio bring kid-authored tales to life.

3. Give something to read.

How about we all take a vow to include a book or two at every gift-giving opportunity?

WHY: Kids love to be read to long after they learn how—in fact, when they listen, they’re able to learn the words and concepts of books above their reading level. And the more kids read for pleasure on their own, the higher their reading scores and, surprisingly, math scores.

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4. Give something that burns off energy.

karate kids

Kids can’t ever have enough sporting equipment. They grow, old stuff breaks, and there are endless new activities to try. Hoverboards are having a moment, but they’re pricey and aimed at older kids. Maybe better: a kick scooter or a mountain bike. Or think outside the sporting goods store and give a class in a new-to-your-kid activity, like dance, racquetball, yoga, or martial arts (along with his or her first karate uniform and belt).

WHY IT’S GREAT: The more incentives we can give our kids to run around, the better for their hearts, growing muscles, brains, and ability to sleep well at night.

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5. Give an amazing future experience.

Seed a special fund now that’s earmarked for something truly special a few years down the road, when your child hits a milestone year, like 16 or 18. Maybe it’s a trip to a special destination your child has only read about, like the jungle, space camp, the Galápagos Islands, Harry Potter’s United Kingdom, or Anne of Green Gables’ Prince Edward Island. Or a place of your child’s choosing. Add to it every year along with a small gift that relates. And then make it a bit more real each year. Post a map in your child’s bedroom, and use pins to show the potential destinations.

WHY IT’S GREAT: Two words: compound interest (both financial and excitement-wise). Feel free to assure grandparents it’s the no-shopping, no-packing, environmentally friendly gift that will add up to the best single present a child could ever get.

Photos from top: “bandcamp3/FlickrKEVAthe karate kids/Flickr

By | 2017-09-03T15:28:30+00:00 December 7th, 2015|Grade-schooler, Tween|

About the Author:

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Content chief Paula Spencer Scott is a mom of 4 and step-mom of 2—and the author or co-author of more than a dozen books about parenting, health, and eldercare, including Bright From the StartThe Happiest Toddler on the BlockLike Mother, Like Daughter; and Surviving Alzheimer’s.

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