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49 interactive games, toys and books for the imaginative 5-year-old

As they move to big kid territory, the 5-year-olds in your life will cherish these presents.
TODAY Illustration; Kara Birnbaum / TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

Five-year-olds start to become truly social as they approach kindergarten, and love group play and games. That means the best gifts for 5-year-olds include classic board games.

“They’re starting to grow out of their egocentrism, so they’re able to understand another’s perspective. They’re more understanding of taking turns and not winning all the time,” said Marie Conti, head of The Wetherill School in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, and a board member of the American Montessori Society.

Once they've left age 4 and enter age 5, they start school with new challenges but also more focus, which helps them conquer fine motor tasks, complicated physical activities and essential reading strategies.

“They are testing out skills that have gotten stronger as they grow,” said Tovah Klein, director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of “How Toddlers Thrive.”

As they learn to read, don't be too quick to push chapter books. “Continuing with storybooks is important, because enjoying the story is a really big part of learning to read,” said Nina Lindsay, president of the Association for Library Service to Children.

Whether you're gifting a 5-year-old who has everything already or one who has one or two specific wants, we found some of the best educational toys, games, books and more compelling gifts for kids for this integral year of their childhood.

To quickly jump to the category you're looking for, click on the links below or keep scrolling to see all our picks.

Best gifts for 5-year-olds

Klutz Make Your Own Puffy Stickers

Sticker lovers can make their own with this kit that lets them color and press their own creations.

LeapFrog Magic Adventures Globe

This educational game is super interactive and can educate your child about continents, countries, capitals, flags, cultures, languages, currencies, landmarks, geology and animals. The globe features more than 600 educational videos by BBC to put your 5-year-old's knowledge to the test.

Magic Mixies Crystal Ball

Magic Mixies were a big hit when they debuted, but the crystal ball kicks it up a notch, adding a wand and mysterious mist to reveal a toy that pops up from the base. The big reveal can repeat on command, and the crystal ball can even be used as a night light that switches off after a half-hour.

VTech KidiZoom PrintCam

Embrace your child's imagination with this kid-friendly camera that allows printing tiny greeting cards, pictures and more photos instantly. Your 5-year-old can create a comic strip, record videos and capture other memories with over 100 photo effects and activities.

Monster Jam Megaladon

Remote-control cars are big fun for 5-year-olds–and with this model, we mean BIG. This truck takes its “monster” size seriously, with giant wheels that can travel tough terrain and even water, reducing frustration for little drivers. It comes in an even bigger “mega” size for those with serious monster drive.

Active gifts for 5-year-olds

Stomp Racers STEM Air-Powered Toy Car Blaster

Popular Stomp Rocket toys get a new twist with this jump-to-launch car that flies off the included ramp.

Follies the Canvas Set

Take the joy of building a cardboard castle, and make it easy to decorate, redecorate and disassemble. This Follies play set lets kids build in many combinations and decorate anew each time.

Raddish Kids Cooking Club

This subscription box for kids arrives with recipes and tools to help kids get active in the kitchen.

Crate & Kids Collapsible Canvas Play Tent

This cozy place gives your 5-year-old a prime spot to read or play, and it can collapse when not in use or become sweet room decor.

Best toys for 5-year-olds

Squishmallows Mystery Box

Let kids enjoy the mystery unboxing, then snuggle with three surprise pals — perhaps a rainbow unicorn or a stack of pancakes? — that are all perfectly squishable.

Pop Purse Fidget Toy Bag

Take the fun of a popping fidget toy, but make it useful! This adorable rainbow purse will not only hold all of the items your 5-year-old collects throughout the day, but they can also spend time popping the bag's surface.

Toniebox Playtime Starter Set

This audio storytelling device uses collectible figures called "Tonies" to unlock stories, songs and more. Place a Tonie on top to start the fun; removing it turns it off. Figures include Disney and Sesame Street characters, and even LeVar Burton, and kids can keep adding to their collection. It's especially great for bedtime stories and screen-free imagination building.

Hot Wheels Track Set

Car lovers will flip for this spiral racetrack that fits Hot Wheels cars. The booster makes cars continue racing until there’s a crash.

Playmobil Dino-Rise T-Rex: Battle of the Giants

Action figures are perfect for helping 5-year-olds engage in imaginative play, and dinosaurs help them let out ferocious energy.

Best arts and crafts and creative gifts for 5-year-olds

Creativity for Kids Enchanted Fairy Garden Craft Set

Create a habitat for fairies with this indoor gardening kit that includes “enchanted” touches like a mushroom sculpture they can paint themselves.

Craft-tastic Make a Fox Friend Craft Kit

This easy sewing project is a craft kit and a stuffed animal all in one.

"Doodling 101," by Mo Willems

Learn to doodle some favorite characters from "Elephant and Piggie," "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus" and more, with fun creative prompts.

Ooly Chunkies Paint Sticks

These neat little sticks give the look of paint without the mess and are perfect for 5-year-old hands.

Kid Made Modern Arts & Crafts Library Set

Unlock your child's creativity with all the arts and crafts tools they could ever need! Five-year-olds are ready for more advanced art projects (and scissors).

Little Passports Subscription Box

Complete with their own little suitcase, activity booklet, puzzles, games and so much more, this subscription box from Little Passports will supply months of fun for your little one.

My Cinema Lightbox

Promote literacy with favorite quotes or phrases that kids can arrange themselves.

Munchkin Bath Crayons

Bring some fun to bath time with these crayons. Your little one can draw pictures and practice their letters on the side of the bathtub. And you can easily wash them off when they're done.

3Doodler 3D Build & Play

Let creativity come in three dimensions with this beginner's 3D pen that does not get hot to the touch.

Lite Brite Ultimate Classic

This classic toy never goes out of style. They can create their own unique artwork or follow one of the fun designs.

Magnetic Poetry Kids Story Maker

Emerging readers can create their own stories with these ready-made building blocks.

Star Projector Night Light

This night light will project the moon and stars on your little one's bedroom walls. You can set the timer so it will turn off by the time they fall asleep.

Best games and puzzles for 5-year-olds

Story Time Chess

Introduce 5-year-olds to what might become a lifetime hobby in an age-appropriate way. Storytime Chess uses stories and characters to help kids understand the game, while learning moves and strategies to help them succeed.

eeBoo Glow in the Dark Puzzle

A 5-year-old can start tackling bigger puzzles. Glow-in-the dark designs from eeBoo add extra fun.

Hasbro Connect 4 Game

This classic game requires a bit of strategizing during playtime.

Monopoly Junior Board Game

This Monopoly game is downsized from the old-fashioned favorite.

Ikea Bygglek Lego Collection

Put those Legos away stylishly with containers from Ikea that allow kids to build on top of the box, too.

Haba Animal Upon Animal Stacking Game

More complicated puzzles and building with smaller toys are appealing now, according to Klein.

Best STEM toys for 5-year-olds

Plus-Plus Learn to Build Creatures

Plus-Plus hashtag-shaped bricks let children build in all directions. This kit includes instructions for creating three cool creatures, but plenty of bricks to fuel their own creations. The small bricks encourage fine motor skills as they dream big.

KiwiCo Wind Chimes Kit

Kids can create their own colorful chimes to hang in the wind, or simply use on a stand with a mallet for play.

National Geographic Rock, Mineral and Fossil Kit

Rocks are fascinating to 5-year-olds, and this ultimate rock collecting kit includes beautiful rocks and gemstones, along with geode specimens and real fossils including prehistoric shark teeth. The book inside teaches about rocks and minerals and a magnifying glass and identification sheet helps them study their new collection.

Clixo Rainbow Pack

This flexible building set uses bendy pieces to allow your 5-year-old create helicopters, crowns or whatever they like.

KiwiCo Kitchen Scrap Planter Project

Gardening is fun for any 5-year-old — there’s magic in watching a plant grow. This kit lets them take scraps and leftovers and turn them into new plants, while learning about food waste and how to fight it. The innovative planter also lets them watch roots grow as the plant stretches upward.

Connetix Tiles Geometry Pack

Colorful, triangular and hexagonal tiles let kids build in all different directions, or just create pretty shapes to admire. It’s a hands-on, fun way to incorporate STEAM ideas at home.

Fat Brain Toys Trestle Tracks

Marble runs are fantastic STEAM toys for 5-year-olds, letting them build in all directions and watch gravity take over for hours of fun.

Best dolls, stuffed animals and minifigures for 5-year-olds

Maileg Tooth Fairy Little Mouse

At age 5, many children lose their first teeth. This sweet little tooth fairy mouse comes with a bag to stash teeth, so the (ahem) real tooth fairy doesn’t lose any.

BFF by Cry Babies

These fashion dolls get in on the mystery unboxing trend with a spinning cylinder box and a surprise closet of accessories.

Just Play Doorables "Encanto" Collection

For the 5-year-old who can’t stop talking about Bruno, this Disney “Encanto” minifigure collection might be just the thing.

Best books for 5-year-olds

“Like,” by Annie Barrows and Leo Espinosa

A child examines differences from other things in the world, like a tin can and a hyena, with comparisons that will make a reader giggle. In the process, they’ll discover who they’re most like — other humans, who aren’t so different from us.

“Mina,” by Matthew Forsythe

Mina’s father is always bringing home surprises, like a squirrel that looks suspiciously like a cat, which is a problem for a family of mice. She’ll need the help of a doctor and some stick bugs in this delightfully weird picture book.

“Lizzy and the Cloud,” by The Fan Brothers

Lizzy buys a cloud and must take it for walks, care for it — and eventually set it free — in this bittersweet book about an unusual connection.

“The Mouse Who Carried a House on His Back,” by Jonathan Stutzman and Isabelle Arsenault

With the feeling of a timeless fable, this new picture book tells the story of a little mouse who carries a house that is much larger than it appears. He makes room at his table for all sorts of animals, even the scary ones.

"Over and Under the Waves," by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal

Five-year-olds should also read about the world around them, and this latest in the "Over and Under" series explores life above and beneath the ocean, with fascinating facts about the unseen world below the waves.

"Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle," by Nina LaCour and Kaylani Juanita

Mommy leaves on a work trip and throws a child’s life off balance. This thoughtful exploration of her evolving feelings — including not wanting a hug when Mommy returns — normalizes separation anxiety of all kinds.

"My Parents Won't Stop Talking," by Emma Hunsinger and Tillie Walden

A child bound for the park is thwarted by her moms' conversation with the neighbors in this hilarious picture book that takes a child's eye view of the incredibly boring adult chit-chat that gets in the way of everything fun.

Don’t forget to check out Shop TODAY’s other gift guides to find the perfect present for every kid on your list including babies, 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 9-year-olds and 10-year-olds.