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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Lisa Tolin

The best gifts for 8-year-olds help them engage in elaborate fantasy play and bury their noses in good books.

It's an age when children are developing their physical skills and social identities, and some may start to identify as “athletic” or "artistic," said Dr. Amanda Gummer, founder of Fundamentally Children, a toy testing and parent consulting company in the United Kingdom.

At the same time, 8-year-old boys and girls are becoming more physically adept, independent and sophisticated in their problem-solving. Imaginative play may now stretch over days or weeks and involve friends.

That means they’re ready for more complicated games and middle grade novels, along with graphic novels and picture books. And as their writing and drawing skills improve, they'll want plenty of time with their own notebooks.

When we release our 2018 gift guides, we make sure all prices are current. But, prices change frequently (yay, deals!), so there’s a chance the prices are now different than they were the day of publication.

Our top gifts for 8-year-olds

  • 1. Klutz Make Your Own Mini Erasers, $20, Amazon

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Also available at Walmart for $27 and Target for $22.

This fun crafting activity has a useful end product — erasers to use in writing and art projects.

  • 2. 4M Crystal Growing Experiment, $18, Amazon

Science is beautiful with this crystal-growing kit. It's a favorite of Marie Conti, the head of the The Wetherill School in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, and a board member of the American Montessori Society.

  • 3. Hey Clay Aliens, $15, Amazon

As fine motor skills progress, "move away from prescriptive arts and crafts to more free-form activities such as clay modeling or simply a sketch book and some pencils," Dr. Gummer said.

  • 4. Alex Toys Artist Studio Metallic Pens, $6, Walmart

This sparkly metallic ink will make doodling even more fun.

  • 5. AirHogs Supernova, $30 (originally $40), Walmart

Also available at Amazon and Target for $30.

This drone responds to hand movements instead of a remote and helps develop hand-eye coordination.

  • 6. Klutz LEGO Make Your Own Movie Kit, $20 (originally $25), Amazon

This kit will appeal to storytellers and LEGO lovers alike.

Toys for 8-year-olds

  • 1. Harry Potter Training Wand, $25, Amazon

Also available at Target for $25.

Aspiring wizards can practice their spells and get real feedback from this wand. Or pair it with another wand for (harmless) wizard battle.

  • 2. Ideal Magic Suitcase, $25 (originally $51), Amazon

Eight-year-olds are developing the memory and fine motor skills needed to pull off magic tricks.

  • 3. Marbelocity Mini Coaster, $21 (originally $30), Amazon

Target has an archimedes screw version for $23.

Kids can build their own roller coasters with this system. It's similar to the free-form Marble Run that development experts love.

Eight-year-olds like playing in groups and are better at working together than when they were younger, so collaborative activities like baking may appeal, Dr. Gummer said.

  • 5. Spalding Over-the-Door Basketball Hoop, $22, Amazon

Sports equipment lets kids engage in competition, which is important at this age. "Learning to lose and win is an important skill to gain," Dr. Gummer said.

Collectibles like these can be important for kids who are developing a sense of group belonging, Dr. Gummer said.

  • 7. Gravitrax Starter Set, $58, Amazon

This marble run kit builds STEM skills for children 8 and up.

  • 8. American Girl Doll, $157, Amazon

Conti likes these dolls for their educational book tie-ins. Target has similar and less expensive Our Generation dolls.

  • 9. Rubik's Cube, $9 (originally $12), Amazon

The puzzle cube is making a comeback. Choose between the original or an easier two-sided cube, depending on the child's tolerance for frustration.

Tech for 8-year-olds

  • 1. Tech Will Save Us Electro Dough Kit, $17 (originally $30), Amazon

Bring homemade sculptures to life with dough that conducts electricity.

  • 2. FujiFilm Instax Mini, $56 (originally $69), Amazon

This instant camera will satisfy your photographer-in-training.

  • 3. littleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit, $70 (originally $100), Amazon

Star Wars fans can build their own droids and then program them using basic coding.

  • 4. Botley the Coding Robot, $45, Amazon

Dr. Gummer likes this hands-on, screen-free robot for beginning to learn about coding.

  • 5. Singing Machine Karaoke System, $70, Amazon

Combine your 8-year-old's developing music skills with a social activity like karaoke.

Craft supplies for 8-year-olds

  • 1. Reversible Magic Sequin Notebook, $15, Amazon

A similar version is also available at Kohl's for $10.

Your 8-year-old's writing and drawing tools get a stylish upgrade with reversible flip sequins.

  • 2. A5 Notebooks for Kids, $22, Amazon

Inspire a Lego lover to write with this journal.

  • 3. LEGO Gel Pen Set, $15, Amazon

Also available at Lego Shop for $25 and Target for $16.

These matching pens complete the creative Lego set for budding writers.

  • 4. Super Spirograph Jumbo Kit, $34 (originally $40), Amazon

Also available at Target for $38.

The classic design kit is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Gummer said it's especially helpful for kids on the autism spectrum and who struggle with anxiety — it has a de-stressing effect similar to coloring books.

Books for 8-year-olds

  • 1. "Unicorn Rescue Society: The Creature of the Pines" by Adam Gidwitz, $11 (originally $15), Amazon

Adam Gidwitz's new series for young readers sets children on fantastic adventures to save mythical creatures. "When kids find a series they like, that’s something they can practice with," said Nina Lindsay, president of the Association for Library Service to Children.

  • 2. "Harry Potter" boxed set, $60 (originally $100), Amazon

Also available at Barnes & Noble for $63 and Target for $100.

Ready to go full Potter? This boxed set features beautiful new covers by Brian Selznick, or try the illustrated collection.

  • 3. "Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution," by Jonathan W. Stokes, $10, Amazon

The new series by Jonathan W. Stokes gives history lessons a lively voice that even reluctant readers will appreciate.

  • 4. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown," $9 (originally $14), Amazon

Graphic novels are a great tool for developing readers as they use pictures to boost comprehension. "It engages literacy in a different way. All reading is good reading," Lindsay said.

  • 5. "Baby-Sitters Club" graphic novel, $29 (originally $44), Amazon

The beloved series by Ann M. Martin has been updated into graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier and Gale Galligan. An original Baby-Sitters Club retro collection is also available.

  • 6. "Louisiana's Way Home," by Kate DiCamillo, $12 (originally $17), Amazon

Kate DiCamillo returns to the character introduced in "Raymie Nightingale."

  • 7. "Princesses Save the World" by Savannah Guthrie and Allison Oppenheim, $18, NBC Store

Learning about the strength of women and girls is perfect for any budding 8-year-old!

Games for 8-year-olds

  • 1. Trouble and Battleship bundle, $19 (originally $25), Amazon

"Playing family board games with children is a great, pressure-free way of keeping those lines of communication open," Dr. Gummer said.

  • 2. Apples to Apples Junior, $13 (originally $15), Amazon

This game of comparisons will be fun for years to come.

Finding the perfect present can be a challenge, but Shop TODAY's up to the task. Try our interactive gift finder to sort gifts by price, person and interest. And no matter who you're looking for, we've got gift guides for everyone on your list, including:

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