Check out the best toys for 5 year olds to 9 year olds. This open-ended list of toys is filled with hands-on, playful ways for big kids to play without having to rely on battery or screen operated fun. These toys are neutral, and categorized by interests not genders.
The best toys for 5 year olds to 9 year olds
We cannot afford to undervalue toys – especially as our kids age.
There’s a shocking belief that as kids age, toys should be more technology focused. This is simply not true. As kids age, toys do not need to focus on latest tech trends or pop culture fads.
Instead, toys for older kids need to foster interests and passions, introduce them to new skills, and broaden their experiences.
Our big kids need play: hands-on play that is still imaginary-based. Big kids need to still be in the driver’s seat of their play. Don’t let flashy, one and done, “of the moment” toys take over in these still developing years of childhood.
Big kids still need open-ended toys and here’s why.
RELATED: Read more about my thoughts on toys in this article.
What toys do 5 – 9+ year olds need?
In my humblest opinion, there are two toy categories: “One and Done Toys” and open-ended toys. We want to fill our homes with open ended toys.
“One and Done Toys” have short life spans for kids: they grab attention quick but can’t sustain it. The child is likely to be over the toy in a few days or months.
We don’t want that.
We want children to be able to continuously play. This makes for deeper play learning (and it’s more cost effective: you aren’t having to buy new toys to sustain play).
Why focus on open-ended toys?
By giving our kids open-ended toys, we are giving them the chance to learn by doing. And that’s the most powerful learning we can give them.
At this age, our five to nine year olds can do some pretty amazing things with open-ended toys and you can see the learning immediately. It’s not hidden.
- The games they play are ripe with strategy.
- The LEGO buildings are created with great imagination.
- The art they make is full of emotional expression.
How to build a foundation of open-ended toys
In my previous two gift guides (best toys for toddlers and best toys for preschoolers), I laid out a solid foundation of toys for a child’s home environment.
While these lists say “toddler” or “preschool” – that’s really a fallacy. Those lists are designed as the earliest age a child might be interested in the toy.
My toy lists are like board game boxes. A box of Monopoly says “for ages 8+.” This doesn’t mean only eight-year-olds like Monopoly.
Toy lists are the same.
Toys have a broad age range. For example: Toddlers are the first age group to enjoy wooden blocks. Nine year olds still play with them. We can’t limit wooden blocks only to toddlers – that’s simply the first age a child might start to enjoy them.
Please go back and review previous lists before settling on this one.
Here is a brief list of toys my kids (6, 7, 9) play with every single day:
- Wooden blocks
- LEGO bricks
- Magnetic tiles
- Dress-up outfits
- Small animal toys
All of those toys are found on the toddler toy list AND preschool toy lists, because that’s when my kids first fell in love with them.
Big kid toys to promote skill building
As our kids age, they develop interests and skills through their play. This list is different from my other lists: it’s organized by “subject area.”
Some of these aren’t even toys – but they promote growth, learning, skills, and fun in our children.
We need to remember that even with big kids, we are still gatekeepers to the toys in our homes and we decide which toys get to stay (and which get the boot).
We do not need to shift to all electronics or fluffy fad toys as our kids age. As with everything, balance is key.
Toys don’t have a gender
This list is gender neutral (as all toys are). Everything on this list is fantastic for both boys and girls, and equally loved and used by all.Don’t miss a chance for amazing learning just because of your preconceived notions.
Our girls deserve the chance to engineer just as much as our boys need the chance to create. Please do not gender toys.
Here are the best toys for 5 year olds – 9 year olds:
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Travel Watercolor Set
A very thoughtful gift for a budding artist, this travel watercolor set has been a 10/10 for my 7 year old (suggested by an 11 year old friend). This is a wonderful gift for a child and opens up the possibility of easily taking art with them on the road.
Gift ideas to pair with this watercolor set:
- Small notebook of watercolor paper
- A Child’s Introduction to Art (non-fiction book)
Friendship Bracelet Making
It’s a step up from taping strings to your jeans or a school desk like back in my day, but the friendship bracelet maker is really cool. This helps kids be a lot more successful and self-sufficient with their bracelet making.
I know you made these as a kid and what fun they were. Guess what? They still are (and the only thing I use my iron for). This set comes color sorted but doesn’t have any pegboards so we got this Perler bead pegboard set.
Did you have a Spirograph? This is math and art and creating at its finest – I’m so glad they never stopped making these. My 6 year old loves this at Grandma’s so she’s buying him his own set for our house.
Paper Airplane Book/Kit
We have been deep into paper airplanes at our house for four years now, all thanks to this book. The step-by-step guide is easy for kids to follow (and for adults who are less than paper airplane proficient).
Light-Up Tracing Pad
A thin, lightweight board that helps kids trace their art. My older kids (7 and 9) really enjoy drawing with this. It’s been a big hit.
I gifted this to my daughter last Christmas and it’s been such a hit, we bought a second one for the neighbor boy. This is a great set of “just your own” art supplies for big kids.
- Gel pens (omg seriously)
- Multi-colored click pens (remember these?!)
RELATED: Don’t miss my Best Art Supplies for Kids to gift list – so many good ideas for big kids.
Sewing is such a lost art but it doesn’t have to be. ALL kids can benefit from learning this very real life skill. This is a great kit to start with.
Magnetic tiles are amazing for older children to build with – we have this Picasso brand (considerably cheaper and we haven’t noticed a difference).
Wooden Marble Run
This is the marble run we have – we love it. Marble runs are complicated to set up, but 5+ year olds rock at it. After struggling with plastic sets for years, we upgraded to this wooden one and never looked back.
This is like next level marble-run and it is very much for the 8+ crowd. Amazing. Challenging. Very very cool toy for the big kids who love to tinker.
BRIO Building Set
This is NOT a train product. This is truly a building set. While it says 3+ on the box, that is NOT accurate. This is a minimum 5+ toy and it is AWESOME. This is significant building for kids – and expansion packs have motors to make their creations move or talk.
By age 5 years old, all kids should have a box of LEGO bricks for building and creating. Nothing invites invention and engineering quite like a LEGO.
Lego Project Books
Have a big kid into LEGO bricks? Take it to the next level with this kit. All the pieces to make all the contraptions come with – it takes LEGO and systems and STEM to a huge level.
The Ultimate Fort Builder Kit
Have a kiddo who loves building forts? This is the kit and way better than any other kits like it. Trust me, I’ve tried others and this one is “The Ultimate” for a reason.
This is a game for kids who love to build. Using their knowledge of weight and balance, suspend is great both as a game and as something fun to build (think sculpture art).
We got this for my now 8-year-old last Christmas. What an amazing product! It is definitely an 8+ gift.
Gifts that pair well with a microscope:
Not ready for a full blown microscope (or don’t have the space)? I get it. We LOVE this pocket version (and so do all my kids ages 6-9 years old). It comes to the park with us a lot. We get so much use out of it.
RELATED: Looking for other great “non-toy gift ideas?” This is a great list of really unique ideas.
We have this, we love this, it’s shockingly good. I was skeptical when we got this (other kits have been lack luster). This has been great. The supplies are good, the directions are great, and my kids have learned a lot.
Gifts to pair with a chemistry kit:
- First Big Book of Science (National Geographic)
- The Kid’s Book of the Elements
Let your child build circuits and systems with this amazing hands-on learning toy. Easy to follow directions let your child learn so much about electricity. This is a standard 6-8 year old birthday gift from me (regardless of gender).
- The Arcade Set
- The Beginner Set (this is the smaller version I gift to kids outside my family)
Yes, these are real tools specially sized for kids. You can decide if your child is ready for this, but there’s no substitute for learning to working with real tools. Tools are for all genders – all kids can build. All kids can create.
This pairs well with some wood and nails from the hardware store.
This became my go-to 8 year old gift in 2020. I couldn’t find many colors of this online – but I see them at all the local toy stores (which is where I buy them). This 14.5 inch size is perfect for growing big kids.
A good pair of binoculars is everything for bird watching to jungle hunts to spy missions. They come in 6 different colors so you’ll find the right style for your child.
Gifts that pair well with binoculars
- Bird identification book (this is not a kids book)
- Bird watching journal
Wooden Pattern Blocks
If your child has been to a classroom, they’ve played with pattern blocks before. Having them at home is the best – anyone else remember making giant flowers with these as a kid? My youngest has spent about a year making elaborate designs with these shapes day in and day out.
- Colorful plastic links (a top 5 most played with toy here: used for leashes, traps, handcuffs, barriers)
- Geoboards (o you remember the designs you’d make with rubber bands? I had to buy a set for my house!)
The most played with new game from last year’s holidays. This labyrinth was/is fun for all of us. From age 5 to 65 (Grandparents too), everyone keeps trying their luck. It comes with 3 mazes of varying complexity.
- This game is fun.
- The little beaded pieces are imaginary play heaven – this was the most played with game by my kindergarten and first graders.
Not sure which category this belongs in, so we’ll toss it in games. It’s awesome. If you have a budding magician at home, this has been a fantastic toy for our family and the tricks are fully doable for ages 5+. Absolutely have loved this!
IQ Twist Brain Teasers
This is SUCH a great gift to give – especially for an older child who likes to or often needs to play solo. It’s a great puzzles/brain teaser.
- Smart Farmer (farm animal-themed logic game)
- Dinosaur Mystic Island (dinosaur-themed logic game)
- Rush Hour Jr (automobile-themed logic game)
A 10/10. My 6-year-old asked for an entire year to buy this toy and finally got his wish at his birthday. I should have bought it sooner. It’s simple, engaging, challenging, and perfect for big kids. Brio made a good one here.
A true “big kid to adult” game. This card game changes its rules every round… they’re in constant… flux. My son and husband love this game. They play almost nightly.
- Monopoly Deal
- Slam (a card game version of Scrabble)
- Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza (aka best game ever)
RELATED: Don’t miss my list of the Best Board Games for Kids! There’s tons of big kid games on that list.
The skills needed to play Bop It! and the thrill of it all makes this such an addicting game – trust me, I’m as hooked as the kids are. This can be solo or with a partner.
Super Stadium Baseball Game
Oh em gee… this is so much fun. This took our family by storm this year: one person is the batter, the other is the pitcher. One launches little marbles and the other actually swings the bat. I wish I could better explain this game. I didn’t believe in it until we got it… now I’ll shout it from the mountains how fun this toy is.
Especially if you have a child in little leagues, this is a great gift.
Think marble run meets logic puzzle. This single player game has kids building small marble runs to complete each logic puzzle. It’s a very cool concept – my kids love it.
I Saw It First! (Egypt)
Awesome, awesome, awesome. There’s two versions of this game (Egypt or an ocean-themed one). Six triangles unfold into a large hexagon. Draw tokens from a box and be the first to “find it.” It’s hard!!! This game is double sided, the pieces rotate, so you’ll never remember where anything is…
This is a standout product. Really love it.
Think “air hockey with magnets.” Klask is really fun for a broad age range (even younger siblings will be able to play). I really like the simplicity here (and we need more simple these days).
I loved Simon as a kid but Mini Simon is even more fun. It’s a great extra gift or stocking stuffer. It says 8+, but it was a gift for my 4 year old last winter who loved it as much as the bigger kids.
Do not let the word trike fool you. This thing spins 360 and is epic. Being able to ride it has become a right of big kid passage in our neighborhood. This beloved “trike” has been in play almost every day for 7 years. It’s wild, big kid excitement and so cool.
There’s no more beloved toy in my backyard than this stomp rocket – from ages 2 to age 11 – shooting a rocket into the air is fun for everyone.
Ribbon Ninja took our neighborhood by storm this year with every kid from 4 to 14 getting in on this fun. It seems simple but it’s fantastic: it’s like tag meets flag football. Absolute 10/10. I never could have imagined how much fun this would be.
Kids Pod Swing (indoor or outdoor)
These are sweetest, coolest – just a great little space for growing big kids. They can relax, grab a book, unwind, etc… all in the comfort of their own pod. Lots of different colors available.
Fox Tail Ball
This is a GREAT way to help kids learn to catch and throw in a fun and successful way. I highly suggest fox tails. Here’s a link to another set that’s a 6-pack if you need more than 1: Lakeshore’s Soft and Safe Comet Balls.
These become REALLY fun for kids around age 5 years old – and also around age 37. The distance on these is at least a mile (and so cool that it’s a 3 pack). These are obviously indoor or outdoor, but I see them outside with my kids most often.
Bow and Arrow
This is from a small business. It will need 1-2 weeks of lead time.
We love this bow and arrow. The design is far superior to others we’ve owned (the arrow goes through the bow helping kids be more successful). I’ve linked to the 18 inch size bow; the smaller size is 12 inches (this has been great for my 6 year old).
Gifts to pair with a bow and arrow:
- Quiver to hold arrows
- More arrows
- A target to aim at (we are getting this for Christmas)
A GREAT way to introduce paddle sports to kids – they can be really, really successful with this set up.
- Velcro ball and catch (did you have one as a kid?!)
- Scoop and catch (the kids – and the parents – played with this all summer)
This is a funny gift to give any age, and I give it out a lot. There’s a lot of imagination that takes over with caution tape – you’d be surprised the possibilities kids see with this “non” toy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Remember that kids learn through play so literally all toys are education and learning toys. Ironically, toys that call out their “learning” features often support far less learning than (for example) a set of wooden blocks. Terms like “educational” and “learning” are more of a marketing ploy than a legitimate category.
That’s personal to each family and the variables within the home (size, location, number of children, etc). If you are concerned your child has too many toys, audit your child’s play. A good indicator of too many toys is when it takes a long time for a child to “find their play.” Similar to having a hard time finding tools in a crowded kitchen, too many toys can be overwhelming and actually limiting to a child.
That’s personal to the family. Rather than follow any preset guideline, work within a budget and within what the child will find enjoyable to open and not overwhelming. I find preset guidelines for holidays limiting and prefer to use my gut rather than someone else’s poem.
Susie Allison, M. Ed
Susie Allison is the creator of Busy Toddler and has more than 2 million followers on Instagram. A former teacher and early childhood education advocate, Susie’s parenting book “Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting” is available on Amazon.
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