9 best gifts for five-year-olds, from walkie talkies to books and magic games

Fran Yeoman
We have sought to offer ideas that will appeal to a range of tastes, but that always constitute value for money: The Independent/iStock

Five is a lovely age, full of change and rapid development.

Suddenly your little one is out of the house five days a week at school, making their own friends and developing their own interests. All of this can be delightful to see, but it can also make for tricky gift buying.

Here we have gathered a selection of presents at a range of price points, in a bid to provide options for big Christmas and birthday presents but also for the endless parade of classmate’s birthday parties that can dominate the life of a five-year-old’s parents.

We have sought to offer ideas that will appeal to a range of tastes, but that always constitute value for money.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

‘Pierre the Maze Detective: The Mystery of the Empire Maze Tower’ by Hiro Kamigaki, published by Laurence King Publishing: £10.49, WHSmith

Pierre the Maze Detective, the creation of a Hiroshima-based collective of illustrators founded by author Hiro Kamigaki, is essentially a cooler cousin of the bobble-hat wearing star of Where’s Wally? The oversized, hardback original volume was the standout gift at one of our tester’s fifth birthday parties, and this sequel, in which the young detective again must do sleuthing battle against the mysterious Mr X, this time against the elaborate and elegant backdrop of a 1920s “new maze city”, is a triumphant follow up. A very classy party gift.

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Orchard Toys magic spelling: £10, Amazon

Orchard Toys are the masters of educational games for young children and this recently released literacy version of its excellent magic maths game is a great way to get reception age children engaged with spelling. As with the maths version, sturdy magical playing cards reveal the correct answers when rubbed, as players race to collect comedy ingredients (such as unicorn poo and goblin socks) for their spells. Wholesome fun and a good choice for a classmate’s birthday – particularly if you’re looking to get brownie points with the parents.

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Jo Jo Maman Bebe fox fisherman’s jacket: £39, Jo Jo Maman Bebe

Many of us know five-year-olds who have more toys than they could ever play with, and parents who are meanwhile frazzled by the expensive desire to keep their ever-growing children well attired. In such cases, deeper-pocketed grandparents could do far worse than to weigh in with a gift of high quality clothing that will get plenty of use. This charming waterproof jacket ticks this box perfectly and, with its fox ear and tail decorations, is fun enough to be well received by its young recipient too. It’s machine washable and cotton lined, and the size 5-6 would be pretty roomy on most five-year-olds, leaving space for a thick jumper underneath. Perfect for autumn/ winter park trips – though probably not thick enough for the coldest days.

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Hot Wheels ultimate garage: £69.99, Amazon

Not recommended for anyone who is short on space, this is a hefty new Hot Wheels set that is likely to induce whoops of joy from any fan of toy cars. There really is no rhyme or reason behind the chomping shark jaws at the centre of this multi-storey edifice, which includes parking (and thus storage) for 90 vehicles and a double lane loop for racing (or being chomped), but your average five-year-old does not need logic when they have small, air-jumping cars.

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Joules rocket backpack: £20.95, Joules

It’s pricey no doubt, but this rocket shaped backpack, complete with roaring flames at its base, is also about the most fun a five-year-old could possibly have with a backpack. This is one of those fun gifts that any kid would love – think charging along the pavement while pretending to be blasting through space – but is also useful, which parents will appreciate. Fifth birthdays, lest we forget, happen during reception and this distinctive and hard wearing bag is the perfect size for sports kits or school trips.

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‘DC Brave and Bold!: Female DC Super Heroes Take on the Universe’ by Sam Maggs, published by Dorling Kindersley Ltd: £12.99, Waterstones

This new hardback is a sort of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls’ equivalent for superhero fans, with double page spreads each telling the story of a different female character from the DC universe. It’s fair to say that some are a little more obscure than others, but with Wonder Woman and Supergirl in the mix you’re unlikely to go far wrong. The illustrations are great and, while girl power books have become a bit overdone in recent years, this one is considerably more inspiring than others. Definitely not just for girls.

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Lego Mars space shuttle: £16, Amazon

This space shuttle is part of Lego’s ever-expanding city range and is the right kind of complexity for the average five-year-old. It also offers more play potential, with its accompanying Mars rover and mini-astronauts, than many sets in this kind of price range. Lego really kicks in when kids hit five as a fantastic tool for engineering practice and imaginative construction, and this 273-piece set, recently updated and branded as “inspired by NASA’s Mars exploration programme”, would be a good way in for newbies or a welcome addition to most collections.

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Planet Junko zoomer kit: £39.99, Planet Junko

Planet Junko has created an award-winning range of kits designed to revive the old-fashioned and eco-friendly notion that household bits and bobs can be transformed into satisfying toys. This zoomer kit provides the base for any four-wheeled vehicle you can conjure up from old cereal packets, juice cartons and yoghurt pots, and includes “J-fix” clips, some of which contain magnets that can be used to stick components together without the aid of glue and tape. Made from recycled plastic, and can be used over and over again. Parental involvement is vital, but that’s part of the fun, right? A great antidote to the prevailing culture of disposable plastic toys.

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Hasbro cluedo junior: £15, Argos

All the five-year-olds we know love this junior version of the classic detective game, with the usual race to find out whodunnit getting just the right amount of tetchy towards the end. Clobbering victims with candlesticks is perhaps a bit much at that age, however, and so Hasbro has chosen fiendish cake-snaffling as the crime to be solved. Great value, making is a solid option as a party gift, but also perhaps one that you’ll want to keep for yourself.

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The verdict: Gifts for five-year-olds

Our testers can’t get enough of Pierre the Maze Detective, and so that gets best buy status. If you’re looking for educational as well as fun, you won’t go far wrong with Orchard Toy’s magic spelling.

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