By the age of five, most children are at school surrounded by peers and influences from outside the home. And they’re also starting to know their own minds better. Which can make gift-giving a minefield.
We wanted to include things that five-year-olds would love and not things adults think they would love. We wanted to see new toys and games, innovative objects or original ideas. A good gift should fill the recipient with excitement the moment the wrapping paper comes off.
Each gift we included also needed to have a long life span – meaning that it was played with long after Christmas day and could potentially be reused or handed down. We weren’t keen on anything that could only be used once or involved single-use plastic.
We also tried to be mindful of different budgets and really wanted to show that inexpensive gifts can be just as attractive as their dearer counterparts. Two options in this selection cost less than £5 and plenty more are sub-£20.
How we tested
We oversaw four five-year-old children play with every item on this list over the course of a month. We wanted to see which products children were initially attracted to, which held their attention for the longest, and which they came back to after a few days away.
We wanted to see how easily children could use the gifts on their own, we checked for quality and finish on the items and of course how easy any instructions included were to follow. And these were the best of the bunch.
The best gifts for five-year-olds in 2021 are:
- Best overall – Toucan box: £5.95, Toucanbox.com
- Best game – Janod acrobat game: £22.05, Amazon.co.uk
- Best for role play – Melissa and Doug school time classroom play set: £27, Next.co.uk
- Best for portable fun – Hape pocket swing: £18, Johnlewis.com
- Best for budding interior designers – My very own fairy jar: £17.99, Hamleys.com
- Best beautiful gift – Moulin Roty baking set: £50, Kidly.co.uk
- Best activity – Mould & Paint fridge magnets: £16.99, Toysandbears.com
- Best budget gift – Stickabout: £6.99 , Fiestacrafts.co.uk
- Best group game – The floor is lava: £14.99, Thetoyshop.com
- Best for future musicians – My Real Jam acoustic guitar: £36.99, Littletikes.co.uk
- Best educational gift – GeoSafari Jr KidScope microscope: £34.76, Amazon.co.uk
- Best funniest gift – Tomy Greedy granny game: £20, Thetoyshop.com
- Best for collectors – Family picnic van: £29.99, Sylvanianfamilies.co.uk
- Best investment gift – DockATot play tent of dreams: £450, Dockatot.com
Why have just one gift on Christmas day, when you can get a surprise in the post every month? The Toucan Box might just be the definition of the gift that keeps on giving.
Inside this slim box is a magazine bursting with creative ideas as well as two in-depth activities that are plenty of fun. Our box contained a kit for creating a solar system poster and another kit for making a dream catcher. Our tester started with the latter – and we think this is an activity that needs an adult on standby to help with instructions and things some children might find tricky like tying knots. But everything else – from painting the wooden frame to placing the beads on the leather cords was not only manageable but totally absorbing.
This activity ate up well over an hour and has created a properly awesome addition to a little girl’s bedroom as well as teaching her about the history of dream catchers. Toucan Boxes are seasonal and can be tailored to your preferences and there are different subscriptions available with a 12-month plan starting at £5.95.
Janod acrobat game
This was an instant hit with our tester who “got” the premise of the game instantly. It was also, we should add, very compelling for adults too – we loved the traditional, vintage aesthetic of the game.
It’s kind of like Jenga but not. Players take it in turns to roll three coloured dice. The three colours correspond to dots on a round board. Three “acrobats” must be placed on the three colours dictated by the dice. The next player balances a new board on top of the three acrobats and so on… It’s suspenseful and addictive – be prepared for competitive streaks to come bursting to the fore.
Melissa and Doug school time classroom play set
Best: For role play
Even children who drag their feet when it comes to school will be intrigued by this classroom playset. Our tester, who wants to be a teacher when he grows up, was immediately taken by all the components within the box – although made it clear he was on the teacher side of the desk, not the pupil side.
The classroom supplies include two double-sided write-on, wipe-off boards, two dry-erase markers, nine reusable activity cards, 150 reusable stickers, a bell and even a pointer – we were delighted to see how much could be used again and again. We anticipate hours of fun to be had with this.
Hape pocket swing
Best: For portable fun
Not many five-year-olds can resist the allure of a swing – and what we liked about this one, made from recycled polyester, is that it is foldable and easily transportable so you can take it anywhere.
Obviously, we had to make sure that we were setting it up safely – but there was clear instruction on how to do so. You just need two strong trees and then it takes no time to put up. Not that details like that mattered to our tester who spent hours with her feet off the ground: when she wasn’t swinging she used the swing like a small hammock – the perfect place for downtime with a book or audio player.
We think this is such a good addition to country walks and camping holidays.
My very own fairy jar
Best: For budding interior designers
This is exactly what the title suggests, a jar that children can fill up with a selection of fairy accoutrements including toadstools, eco fairy dust and colourful stones. There are also LED lights that have an automatic off switch to help conserve battery life.
Our tester relished the challenge of creating a little habitat fit for a fairy and spent an inordinately long time making it before placing the fairy neatly inside. She loves the miniature writing set so much she refuses to use it. This makes for a lovely, magical nightlight, too.
Moulin Roty baking set
Best: Beautiful gift
Master chefs in the making will be tickled pink to open this simply beautiful baking set – with a pretty retro aesthetic all housed in a lovely little suitcase. The contents include; an oven mitt, rolling pin, spatula and pastry cutter, metal whisk, loaf tin, flan case, muffin tin and biscuit cutters. And all can be used in a real kitchen for baking treats.
Our tester jumped right in and requested to make muffins – laying all the equipment and ingredients needs out carefully and even writing blueberry muffins in the recipe record book provided. We found the entire set to be of brilliant quality and were delighted to know that all the tins were dishwasher proof.
Mould & Paint fridge magnets
This magnet making kit is so inviting from the off – the bright colours of the packaging twinned with the promise of what can be created. This requires a little supervision when it comes to the set-up as there’s quite a lot of plaster powder to contend with (need we say more?). We suggest that adults help to mix the powder (100g of powder to approx. 60ml water) before pouring it into the moulds which are reusable and include ice cream, butterfly, rainbow and sunshine shapes.
Children will need to wait an hour while the magnet sets before they can paint on them, but we saw this as a good chance to work on patience. We loved how the magnet was stick-on, rather than necessitating glue. Our fridge has been transformed and we’ve still got two packets of plaster left, which is good news because our tester already wants round two.
Best: Budget gift
Stickers are a childhood staple but for the most part, they can be frustrating: they end up on walls and in hair and they can’t really be reused. This is why the selection from Stickabouts is such a game-changer. With different themes on offer, you get a folded “scene” board made from glossy, high-quality cardboard and two sets of stickers.
But these are no ordinary stickers. They are glue-free and reusable in that they peel off easily. Children can use them to decorate the board – or any flat surface around the home (with no danger of it getting stuck there). The fairy Stickabouts set kept our tester occupied on a two-hour car journey.
Vivid Imaginations the floor is lava
Best: Group game
While most five-year-olds love a spot of “the floor is lava” – many parents do not relish their furniture being leapt upon nor the risk of a bumped head as children try to avoid touching the floor. This is why this game is rather ingenious. It has all the fun of the furniture hopping version but all on one level.
Our testers couldn’t believe that such a game existed in a box and loved setting it up – placing the different coloured “stepping stone” pads, which are non-slip, around a flat expanse of lawn (yes, this can be used indoors and outdoors). Up to six players can get involved, with each taking turns in spinning a dial to determine which colour they need to leap to next. There are question marks on some of the “stones” which mean you have to pick up a card and perform a forfeit.
This was a hit – keeps children entertained for hours and parents, beware, you’ll find yourself joining in.
My Real Jam acoustic guitar
Best: For future musicians
We can’t think of a five-year-old who wouldn’t immediately want to start making noise if presented with a guitar. This has all the qualities of an acoustic guitar, except it’s not made from wood and benefits from having features such as Bluetooth so children can play along to their favourite music, as well as four modes of play including free play.
Our tester threw himself into his task of trying this out with an energetic gusto and his passion to be Ed Sheeran when he’s older has been renewed. Meanwhile, parents will be pleased to know that this guitar, which needs 3 x AA batteries, has adjustable volume and it was easy to set up.
GeoSafari Jr KidScope microscope
Best: Educational gift
Future scientists will be over the moon with this microscope. It comes with 60 different photographic images on 15 slides of animals, rocks, plants and chemicals that they can magnify to three times larger. There’s also plenty of written information about the different species – so that’s a lovely aspect of the gift that can be worked through with an adult.
Our tester found it really simple to get to grips with: it’s intuitive with its large eyepieces and focusing knob on the side. She loved the different slides but the best thing for her was that she could put her own specimens under the microscope and examine them. So far she’s looked at a blackberry, a dead caterpillar and a seashell. A really great gift that teaches children about exploring the natural world.
Tomy Greedy granny game
Best: Funniest gift
The name alone was met with a peal of uncontrollable laughter from our tester, which was a brilliant sign and the fun did not stop there. The aim of the game is to nab the biscuits from the lap of the sleeping granny without waking her up (which will result in her teeth flying out). This is brilliant, suspenseful, chaotic and vivid fun for children and adults alike.
Family picnic van
Best: For collectors
For any Sylvanian Families collectors, this bright pink picnic van complete with roof rack, basket and an assortment of cheeses and croissants is going to be an instant hit. Our tester immediately integrated the van into her existing collection – and installed the cat family inside (the van doesn’t come with a family). As ever with Sylvanians, it’s all the little details that make them so enduringly popular – and this is no different. A brilliant new addition.
DockATot play tent of dreams
Best: Investment gift
We are totally aware that this is far from an economy buy but we have to talk about how utterly beautiful this play tent is, how much it drips in quality craftsmanship, how soft but strong the cotton canvas fabric is, how detailed and intricate the pattern design and most importantly how much our tester loves whiling away hours inside of it.
Inside there’s a big, fat futon cushion to snuggle up on (sold separately) and a curtained window to peep out of. The four poles are made from a solid natural rattan and bound together by leather strands. It’s a whimsical piece for the purest of playtimes – and the perfect space for storing toys after the fun is over. Best of all, it can live harmoniously in your house without being an eyesore – let’s be honest, for most parents toys are not a dream interior design aesthetic. Until now.
The verdict: Gifts for five-year-olds
The Toucan Box and the Acrobats game both came out on top for us – the former is just so clever, so thoughtful and is the definition of long-lasting. The joy just keeps coming month after month and the standard of activities are always high. Acrobats is a brilliant game – beautiful, addictive and will last for years. We also especially rate the Hape swing for outdoor types.
For discounts on kids clothing, try the links below:
For more children’s gift ideas, read our guide to the best wooden and plastic-free toys
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.