Our Favorite Gifts for 3- to 6-Year-Olds

Updated December 2018

Our Favorite Gifts for 3- to 6-Year-Olds

Kids between 3 and 6 often have clear and very vocal opinions about what they’re into (and not into)—which is how one might end up with a house full of Paw Patrol or My Little Pony paraphernalia. But if you don’t have that firsthand intel, or are simply looking for a delightfully unexpected gift they’re unlikely to own already, we’ve collected some ideas for gifts that our favorite kids have loved and enjoyed more than most. We’d like to hear your ideas too, so please share them in the comments.

If you’re looking for a gift for a younger kid, check out Our Favorite Gifts for 1- to 3-Year-Olds. For older kids, see Our Favorite Gifts for 6- to 10-Year-Olds.


$15 and under


Creepy-crawlies, close up

This contraption’s sliding mechanism lets you trap an insect, arachnid, or small lizard from a distance and has a built-in magnifier so you can get a closer look at your catch. My daughter gave this bug catcher to one of her friends for her fifth birthday. The friend and her 2-year-old sister love it. They were already pretty into bugs and like catching and investigating critters in their yard.


A box full of colorful possibilities

Last update on 2018-12-07 PST - Details

Regular crayons can be so dissatisfying: many just leave faint, streaky marks or break when your kid tries to color with any measure of enthusiasm. Crayola Slick Stix deliver maximum color payload and glide easily over paper. They’re more like oil pastels, with the added benefit of being tidily encased in a plastic barrel that you twist to let out more crayon. My 4-year-old and 7-year-old nieces were delighted by the vibrant drawings they made with these. My almost-3-year-old loves using them too, but younger kids definitely require supervision, as these crayons can leave stains on fabric or walls.


A guidebook of their own

This slim nature guide has become my go-to birthday party gift, though it makes a nice stocking stuffer or really any-occasion gift for your own kids as well. For birthdays, I’ve often paired it with our kids headlamp pick. It may not be the most exciting package on the day of the party, but for about $20 total the pair makes a non-disposable gift that surely won’t be duplicated in that pile of presents and that’ll encourage outdoor exploration for years to come.


Beautiful fakes

Kids of all ages like fake tattoos, and I prefer giving Tattly’s over the dime-store variety because of their vibrant colors, exquisitely detailed designs, ease of application, and long-lastingness. There are plenty of options that kids will like, and the company also commissions well-known artists to create some of the designs.

As a fan of children’s book author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers, I’m partial to the Wildlife Set. This collection of animals is drawn from his recently published book, Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, which would make an excellent companion gift.


Between $15 and $50


A superior dough for playing

Last update on 2018-12-07 PST - Details

Someone gave us a pack of Mad Mattr kinetic sand, which has several advantages over Play-Doh both for kids and caretakers, and we’ve since gifted several packs to others. It’s moldable like a dough and compresses into hard shapes, but stretches out into a kind of a soft sand. It’s not sticky, it doesn’t stain or get everywhere, and it doesn’t dry out, though it’s also less ductile than Play-Doh. Buying some extruder molds to make it into bricks will probably increase play time, though we’ve never bothered.


Turrets and arches galore

Last update on 2018-12-07 PST - Details

My son got these cool castle-motif building blocks as a gift a few years ago. They came with instructions for building one fairly elaborate castle, but about a week after he got them, they were dumped into our generic block basket. From then on, he just incorporated them into his other block creations.


An LCD drawing board

Last update on 2018-12-07 PST - Details

Magnetic doodle boards are great for mess-free sketching on the go. But the experience of drawing on one is so crude compared with any other medium. I’m so thankful one of my friends bought our daughter a Boogie Board for her second birthday. This drawing board uses an LCD writing surface that allows for far more accuracy, is easier to erase (just a single button instead of a sliding wand that gets gummed up), and is colorful—all while still being self-contained and mess-free. Now if I could just help my daughter understand that clicking the erase button doesn’t automatically send the photo to my iPad, I’d have a chance to photograph her art before it disappears.


Rainbows in their room

Last update on 2018-12-07 PST - Details

The Kikkerland Rainbowmaker is a happy little contraption comprised of a solar battery that powers a colorful geared motor that rotates a hanging Swarovski crystal and sends rainbows swooping across your room. You just attach it to a window (it affixes via suction cup, so no need to worry about sticky residue) that gets some direct sunlight and wait for the optics to work their magic. It’s particularly fun when you forget it’s there until the sun reaches just the right angle and sets it into motion. My niece calls this “rainbow time” and enjoys chasing the colors across the room and seeing them slide over different objects.


$50 and up


The most Mo Willems

Last update on 2018-12-07 PST - Details

Mo Willems’s Elephant and Piggie are two of the most charming characters in modern children’s literature. I was a school librarian for almost a decade, and I don’t think I’ve met a single kid who didn’t fall in love with these hilarious books when we read them together. They’ve been favorites of my 6-year-old daughter’s since she could sit still to listen, and they’re perfect for young kids just learning to read on their own. Willems ended the series at 25 books, and this set (which comes with metal Elephant and Piggie bookends) has all of them. Throw in the stuffed versions of Elephant and Piggie for the full story time experience.


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