Toys are such a great way for children to learn, but with so many toys on the market, it is sometimes hard to know which toy is best for your child. This guide will help you find the best age appropriate toys for your young child.

Things to Consider

Just because your child has started school, doesn’t mean toys need to be stuffy and boring. Children learn when they are having fun, so don’t get caught thinking that school-aged toys should be just about letters and numbers.

Toys for young children should encourage creative thinking, allow them to explore options and discover there is more than one way to solve a problem. By now your child will have developed good fine motor skills, and their coordination of large muscles movements will also be developing in leaps and bounds (excuse the pun!).

When buying toys for this age group, remember to take stock of their physical and mental abilities, but be careful not to underestimate them. You will be surprised by how quickly children at this age grasp new concepts, and toys are a great way to extend their learning.

Best Toys for Children 5 – 8 Years

5 – 8 year olds will still enjoy many of the toys featured in our Preschool Toys article, as well as these Top 10 Toys for Young Children.

Board Games

As your child starts school they will begin to understand (if not appreciate) the idea of taking turns and playing with others. Until now, their play will have been largely solitary, playing alongside other children rather than with them. Board games bridge the gap between playing alone and playing with others, and are great toys for learning social behaviours such as taking turns and being a good loser.

In addition to the social elements of board games, this type of toy helps introduce concepts such as counting, reading, following instructions, and basic strategy. Look for games which have easy to follow instructions and only a few rules – after all the game is still suppose to be fun!

Fashion Dolls and Accessories

In the pre-school years your child will enjoy playing with dolls they can nurture, and use as a ‘prop’ in their role playing of you. However, as your child develops, they will begin to use dolls to role play themselves, and they simply become the puppeteer.

Accessories like dolls houses, furniture, pets, vehicles, and clothes allow your child to create a life for the doll, and your child becomes the director. This type of role playing allows them to express their feelings in a safe way, as well as explore ideas they may have seen or heard in the world around them.

There are lots of popular dolls in this category, and thanks to television advertising, your child is likely to have a favourite without ever having owned one. Keep in mind that some of these dolls are very fiddly to dress, so look out for versions with larger body parts and clothes with velcro or dome snaps.

You may have your own thoughts about body image and positive role modeling for your child, so you will also need to consider this when choosing a brand and style.

Problem Solving Games and Puzzles

There are more and more problem solving games coming onto the market, and the quality and design just keeps getting better and better. The best types of problem solving games for this age group:

  • Can be played alone or with a friend
  • Are 3 dimensional and tactile
  • Have several challenges to complete
  • Offer different versions for different ages and stages of development

Problem solving games and puzzles help to develop strategy, creative thinking, logic, and the concept of ‘process’. By default, these games often introduce basic maths and science concepts as well. Whether it’s balancing, code cracking, pattern making, or puzzle placing – strategy games truly encourage your child to think, and you will be surprised by how quickly they develop their own problem solving process.

Construction Sets

Building blocks and toys provide your child with many benefits – intellectually, emotionally and physically. At this age your child will still use blocks and building toys for role playing, but they will also become more interested in building and designing specific projects. Whether you choose a basic construction set for your child to create their own projects, or purchase kits for a specific design is up to you, but both have their own benefits.

A basic block or construction set will allow your child to be truly creative, and build with imagination and flair, where as a kit with a specific design will teach them about following instructions and paying attention to detail. In my opinion, it is a nice idea to offer your child a little of both.

When looking for construction sets, remember there is more to building than just blocks. Look for sets that can be added to, and that integrate with other systems. If you are choosing a kit which makes specific projects, make sure you choose ones that are age appropriate. There is nothing more deflating than ‘failure’, and nothing less fun than watching Mum or Dad build your project for you.

Science and Nature Toys

Science and nature toys really offer children a chance to explore the world around them, and 5-8 year olds are nothing if not curious. There are heaps of science and nature toys for this age group, but the ones with the most appeal are toys that are interactive, and encourage your child to actually do something.

Ant farms, magnets, globes and collection kits are all popular for this age, and you can read more about them in our Science and Nature Toys article.

Blackboard or Whiteboard

Blackboards and whiteboards have to be one of the most versatile toys for this age group. Not only are they great for their creative potential (think drawing and writing), they are used in role playing games over and over. Whether your child is playing ‘school’, or ‘restaurants’, or ‘offices’, the whiteboard will be the centre of their game – trust me!

Look for a board on an easel, and at the right height for your child. They will get years of use out of this, so buy the best you can afford.

Craft Materials and Equipment

As your child grows up, art and craft will be something they either enjoy or they don’t, but for the meantime being creative is something that makes kids – kids. Indulge their creativity with a good range of craft materials and equipment, and start thinking outside the square in terms of paints, papers, and projects.

At this age it is important to let them create from their own mind, so avoid introducing too many templates or step-by-step designs. Creative activities should be fun and without a right and wrong way to create. For some specific equipment ideas, check out our Creative Equipment article, and make the most of your child being a child.

Bats, Balls and Hoops

School aged kids have pretty good gross motor skills, and are developing hand/foot eye co-ordination. They have a good (but still developing) sense of space and distance, and can start to put all these skills together with the introduction of sports equipment like bats, balls, goals, and hoops.

Like anything in life, the more your child is exposed to a backyard game of cricket, or a game of shoot the hoop, the better they will get and in turn, the more they will enjoy the game.

Look for sports equipment that is the right size and weight, and avoid cheap plastic versions which will break after the first innings. Some educational toy stores offer a good range of sports equipment, or check out large sports or department stores.

Musical Instruments

If your child has shown even the slightest interest in music or their pre-school styled instruments, then now is the time to pounce and introduce them to the real thing. While strictly speaking real instruments are not toys, they can still be approached with an element of play. You don’t necessarily have to give your child lessons at this age, simply exposing them to real instruments will give them the opportunity to explore and develop a love for music. Electronic keyboards, child sized guitars and the recorder, are all good instruments to explore.


A two wheeled bicycle really is the ultimate ‘grown up’ toy for any 5 year old. Make sure it fits your child well, and is properly assembled. For more information about choosing the right bike for your child, see our article on bicycles – coming soon.

When it comes to choosing toys for 5-8 year olds, you really can’t get it wrong. Let your child be the guide, or ask staff at a NZ educational toy store for their favourite picks. Remember, toys are suppose to be fun, so if it makes them laugh you know you have it right.

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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I believe that creative play along with a big doll work really well for small girls, allowing kids to be kids and not pressured by celebrities nowadays is extremely important!

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