Hitting the age of six seems to mark the end of the littlest years: kids are less interested in childish things, are getting proper school homework, joining clubs and consolidating their own friendship groups and personalities.
Yet they’re not yet too mature and cool for simple play; seize the chance to enjoy that now, for it won’t last too much longer.
Below is a selection of kid-approved gifts that represent good quality and value at different price points so that you have options for classmates’ birthdays and smaller presents as well as big hitters.
Six-year-olds are a diverse bunch, but we hope that the choices below offer something for most if not all.
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.
‘Mr Gum’ collection by Andy Stanton, published by Egmont UK Ltd: £12.99, The Book People
Andy Stanton’s anarchic humour is of the sort that induces mild chuckles from the grown-up doing the reading but belly laughs from the young person listening. This is precisely how it should be; children’s literature written truly for them, rather than for the benefit of adults. This collection of all eight Mr Gum books, which recount the adventures of the unpleasant Mr Gum, a girl called Polly, Jake the dog and an angry fairy who lives in the bathtub, is an absolute bargain. Hours of shared reading pleasure and books that, judging from our experience, are likely to be re-read independently as soon as the recipient is proficient enough.
Melissa and Doug Scratch Art bookmark party pack: £4, Hobby Craft
Our testers and their friends love these simple but effective bookmarks, which are made from black card that can be scratched with a wooden stylus to create a design in metallic rainbow colours. This pack, which contains 12 each of the bookmarks, styluses and ribbons with which to decorate, is excellent value at just £4. It would be a good option for party bags, stockings, pocket money presents, classmates’ birthdays or when you’ve got a group of friends coming round for a play date.
Osmo creative kit for iPad: £69.99, Amazon
This brand new kit is an updated version of a popular older Osmo product, which allows children to have screen time combined with more tactile play. It also helps parents to feel like their kids are doing something vaguely educational that they actually enjoy. The kit contains three games, including the crowd-pleasing “monster”, where drawings made by the user cleverly come to life on screen with the help of the included iPad base and “creative board”. Before you buy, make sure your model of iPad is compatible.
Playmobil space station: £44.99, Amazon
Most of Playmobil’s products are aimed at younger children, but this new space station kit has enough bells and whistles to be a seriously big hit with six-year-olds. It also has enough small parts to drive a parent crackers during assembly – make sure you set aside a good couple of hours – and if you’ve got toddlers in the house, do keep it out of their reach. Unusually for Playmobil there are flashing lights and noises, which require AAA batteries, but there is also huge scope for imaginative play thanks to the astronaut and robot figurines and adorable miniature gadgets and space food.
Little Live Pets Surprise dragon baby: £12, The Toy Shop
We can’t pretend that we totally get the appeal of this small, plastic baby dragon that hatches repeatedly from its small plastic egg, but from our unscientific survey of six-year-olds, this is absolutely their idea of a good gift right now. There are four to collect – all come with batteries included, which enables them to make what our testers consider to be highly cute noises and wing-twitching motions. One of those toys that is definitely designed with children, rather than parental approval, in mind, but perhaps that is as it should be. It’s likely to go down well as a classmate’s birthday present, too.
Polarn O Pyret Disney pyjamas: £28, Polarn O Pyret
Cartoon-branded clothing is everywhere, but much of it is poor quality and eminently forgettable. By contrast, this brand new limited edition range from Swedish clothing company Polarn O Pyret is of such good quality, and of such multi-generational appeal, that is it likely to be passed down between multiple siblings and extended family members.
The range features many of the classic Disney characters – Robin Hood, Baloo, Lady and the Tramp to name a few – that will make parents coo with nostalgia as well as appealing to young wearers. Among our favourites are these gift-worthy pyjamas, which are made from organic cotton and certified to come from a socially and environmentally-friendly production line.
Perhaps more importantly from a six-year-old’s point of view, they are super cute, soft and comfy, with wide elasticated cuffs at the ankle and wrist to stop them riding up in bed – an absolute must for our tester. They come in several designs featuring different characters and would be a great gift from grandparents, aunts and uncles when a kid has quite enough toys.
Tonies toniebox starterset, kids audio book and music player: £69.95, Amazon
This toniebox has featured on a number of hot gift lists this year, so expect to be nagged about it for Christmas. It is essentially a wifi enabled speaker onto which you can download content via a range of kid-pleasing figurines called “tonies”. The speaker itself is a robust, padded cube that can be taken pretty much anywhere including the car (the wifi is no longer needed once content is downloaded), you simply tap or tilt to change track.
Tonies can be bought with pre-loaded content, which could quickly get expensive, but the “creative tonie” that comes in this starter kit can be loaded with 90 mins of your own material. Children can even, via a tablet or computer, record their own songs or story narrations to load onto their tonie for impressing their friends with.
‘National Trust: Step Inside Homes Through History’ by Goldie Hawk, published by Nosy Crow: £11.99, The Book People
This is a delightful book that would make a good classmate’s birthday present. It takes seven different historical periods, from the late Middle Ages to the present day, and allows children to peek through laser cut windows and doors into a typical home from that era. In addition to these 2D dolls’ houses, which feature loads of domestic details of the kind that small children love, there is information about the fashion, furniture and family lives of the times. This would be a great way to bring life into a six-year-olds history topics at school, but more importantly is just fun to look at.
Flik Flak amazoonia watch: £30, Swatch
Our tester loves their Flik Flak watch, which perfectly straddles the little kid-big kid middle ground with a quality Swatch mechanism combined with jaunty, playful design. It definitely encourages more practice at telling the time, and has a washable strap with sizing holes to fit even dinky wrists. We like this gender neutral “amazoonia” version, but there are many more available. All come with a two year warranty.
‘The Week Junior’ subscription: From £16, The Week Junior
Marketing for The Week Junior puts the lower end of its target age range at eight, but we’ve seen six-year-olds enjoy this colourful digest of news, packaged in a way that appeals to them. At six, children are all too aware of some of what is going on in the world, and The Week Junior treads a thoughtful line between serious subjects such as climate change and more positive stories around topics such as science, technology and sport.
We particularly like the debate page – a great way to prompt discussions around the breakfast table – and the short, article-based format means that this is a bite-sized way to engage in independent reading. Recipients are also likely to enjoy getting their very own magazine through the post each week.
M&S unicorn slippers: From £11, M&S
One might have thought that the whole unicorn moment might be long over by now, but still it seems that young children cannot get enough of the mythical beasts. As such, this fleecy footwear might persuade reluctant slipper-wearers to avoid pneumonia over the autumn and winter but putting them on. They’re cleverly scrunched around the back so that they stay on better than many kids’ slippers, and can go in the washing machine if that magical horn loses its lustre.