37 best toys and gifts for 8-year-olds 2020

From irresistible journals to science experiments and magic.
8 year old children playing with star wars droid kit
The 8-year-olds in your life will go crazy for these popular gifts.Star Wars
/ Source: TODAY

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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.

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Don’t forget to check out Shop TODAY’s 2020 Gift Guide to find the perfect present for everyone on your list!

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Best toy and game gifts for 8-year-olds

1. 4M Crystal Growing Experiment

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

2. Apples to Apples Junior

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

3. FujiFilm Instax Mini Instant Camera

Satisfy your photographer-in-training with this instant camera.

4. Botley 2.0 The Coding Robot

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

5. Rubik's Cube

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

6. American Girl Courtney Doll

Conti likes American Girl dolls for their mix of play and history. The newest doll goes way back to the oh-so-ancient 1980s.

7. Outdoor Spikeball Game

This outdoor game makes old-fashioned catch a little more contained and less predictable. Throw the ball at the net and catch it wherever it goes.

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

8. Easy Bake Ultimate Oven

According to Dr. Gummer, 8-year-olds like playing in groups and are better at working together than when they were younger, so collaborative activities like baking may appeal.

9. Spalding Over-the-Door Basketball Hoop

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.

10. Reversible Magic Sequin Notebook

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

11. Modern Graphite Pencils

Pair a special notebook with metalic writing instruments from Ooly.

12. Ooly Chroma Blends Watercolor Brush Markers

Add water to these markers for a traditional watercolor effect, or use them like a regular brush marker without water.

13. Trouble and Battleship Bundle

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

14. Singing Machine Bluetooth Karaoke System

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

15. Creatable World Deluxe Customizable Doll Character Kit

Looking for a Barbie without the baggage? These dolls can be styled in any number of ways and are more anatomically realistic.

16. AirHogs Supernova

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

17. Ideal Magic Suitcase

Eight-year-olds are developing the memory and fine motor skills needed to pull off magic tricks, making this gift perfect for your Houdini wannabe.

Best kit gifts for 8-year-olds

1. Hey Clay Aliens

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

2. Gravitrax Starter Set

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

3. LittleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit

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

4. Tech Will Save Us Electro Dough Kit

Bring homemade sculptures to life with dough that conducts electricity.

5. GoldieBlox Rainbow Paper Craft Kit

Jazz up your 8-year-old's room and learn about circuits using this color-changing cloud kit that's art and science in one.

6. Klutz Lego Make Your Own Movie Kit

Make your own movie with this kit that will appeal to storytellers and Lego lovers alike.

7. Klutz Make Your Own Mini Erasers

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

Best books for 8-year-olds

1. "Class Act," by Jerry Craft

The follow-up to last year's Newbery Award-winning graphic novel, "New Kid," follows Jordan's friend Drew as he struggles to fit in with his privileged classmates.

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," said Nina Lindsay, president of the Association for Library Service to Children.

2. "The Next President," by Kate Messner and Adam Rex

Eight-year-olds should read a mix of fiction and nonfiction. This picture book is a fascinating look at presidential history from a new perspective, showing where future presidents were during a snapshot in time.

3. "Doodleville," by Chad Sell

In this graphic novel, a girl's lively fantasy life comes off the page where she's doodled.

4. "Unicorn Rescue Society: The Madre de Aguas of Cuba," by Adam Gidwitz

Adam Gidwitz's 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.

5. "Kid in the Kitchen," by Melissa Clark

It's a great age to get kids involved in the kitchen, and these recipes and tips from the New York Times columnist are a great inspiration.

6. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Deep End," by Jeff Kinney

The latest in the "Wimpy Kid" franchise finds the Heffleys stranded in an RV park. Be sure to check out "Rowley Jefferson's Awesome Friendly Adventure" from the companion series, too.

7. "The Only Black Girls in Town," by Brandy Colbert

Twelve-year-old Alberta is thrilled when another Black girl moves to her small, California town. The two of them work together to unravel a mystery that involves colorism from the past.

8. "Bill Nye's Great Big World of Science" By Bill Nye

This great big book is encyclopedic in scope but accessible in tone for young STEM fans.

9. "Twins," by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright

These twins have always been built-in bffs, until middle school starts to set them on different paths.

10. "Guts," by Raina Telgemeier

In this bestselling graphic novel, Telgemeier recounts her childhood anxiety in a way that will resonate with any 8-year-old.

11. "The Joke Machine," by Theresa Julian

This book is not just full of jokes — it teaches kids rules for creating their own, making it a true gift for any young comedian.

12. "Sal & Gabi Fix the Universe," by Carlos Hernandez

This Cuban-inflected sci-fi finds Sal opening wormholes and trying to stop Gabi's rogue doppelganger from another universe.

13. "Sleuth and Solve: History" by Ana Gallo

This follow-up to "Sleuth and Solve: 20+ Mind-Bending Mysteries" puts your 8-year-old's sleuthing skills to the test with fun logic puzzles that travel through historic eras.

Still looking for the perfect gift? Be sure to check out Shop TODAY’s 2020 Gift Guide to shop for everyone on your list, including:

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This gift guide was originally published on Oct. 26, 2018.