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The 27 Best Gifts for 8-Year-Olds

By Ellen Lee and Wirecutter Staff
Updated November 23, 2022
The 27 Best Gifts for 8-Year-Olds
Photo: Michael Hession
UpdatedNov 2022

At age 8, many kids are ready to level up to more-advanced toys and activities. A lot of 8-year-olds are playing team sports, getting involved in other clubs or hobbies, and tackling increasingly challenging projects on their own.

Kids who end up pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers may start developing those interests by age 8, said Tamara Moore, a professor of engineering education at Purdue University and the executive director of Inspire, a research institute in the university’s School of Engineering Education. (The research group reviews numerous engineering toys, kits, and games for its annual gift guide.) Opportunity plays a role here: Age 8 could mark the time of the “first spark,” when kids see and understand that it’s possible for them to become scientists or engineers, Moore said. “So you want to capture their imagination.”

Many engineering toys are recommended for kids age 8 and older specifically because they have the dexterity to manipulate small pieces, the logic and reasoning skills to follow instructions, and the ability to focus on tasks for longer periods of time. Art supplies, craft kits, and creative games can also be a key part of the mix at this age (many educational researchers have noted the importance of expanding STEM to STEAM, to include an emphasis on art, design, and humanities).

We relied on input from experts and members of our staff to find all kinds of gifts that are likely to engage and delight the 8-year-old in your life. If you’re looking for more kids gift ideas, check out our guides to the best gifts for 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds, 9-year-olds, and 10-year-olds, as well as wonderful stocking stuffers for kids. We also have guides to gifts for tweens and teens. (Just keep in mind that kids develop at different rates, so all age recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt.) And please share your own best ideas in the comments below.

Code like a pirate

A child plays with the ThinkFun Potato Pirates card game.
Photo: ThinkFun

ThinkFun Potato Pirates ($20 at the time of publication)

This wacky card game may look like it’s just a battle between cute little potatoes, but it also introduces kids to the fundamentals of computer programming. Each player (between three and six) is the captain of a pirate ship with a crew of potatoes, represented by soft tan balls. Drawing cards, players search for the elusive “Potato King” cards and take turns “programming” their ships to execute a function—for instance, “roasting,” “frying,” or “mashing” (that is, destroying) another ship’s crew. Students who tested it “were laughing and hollering,” said Elizabeth Gajdzik, one of the educators responsible for Purdue’s Inspire Research Institute naming Potato Pirates its overall top-pick engineering toy of 2019. Fair warning: Regardless of age, players might need some help getting the hang of how this game works; the instructions can be difficult to decipher, one of our editors found.

—Ellen Lee

Learn a new trick

A photo of the Juggling for the Complete Klutz beanbag and instruction book set.
Photo: Klutz

Juggling for the Complete Klutz ($15 at the time of publication)

Juggling for the Complete Klutz, a set of three red beanbags and an instruction booklet (first published in 1977!), appeared under my family’s tree one year when I was a kid. My three younger brothers and I tossed the cube-shaped bags around for months till we became fairly proficient jugglers. To say this set changed our lives would be an overstatement, but I’m proud to say all four of us can still juggle. (To this day, my dad has hung onto our original set.) Klutz still makes the classic kit, and although my 6-year-old isn’t quite ready to take on the challenge (the set is recommended for ages 8 and older), we’re gearing up for it. The velour cubes are easy to grip, and the clear-cut instructions lay out the steps to successful juggling (the toss, the drop) with expertise and a dash of humor. Juggling is great for hand-eye coordination, but more than that, it’s one of those hard-won skills that helps instill the joy (along with the inevitable frustration) of mastering something new. And it’s not a bad party trick, either.

—Ingrid Skjong

A sticky challenge

A photo of the Melissa & Doug Suspend Family Game.
Photo: Melissa & Doug

Melissa & Doug Suspend Family Game (about $20 at the time of publication)

My kids and their friends love pulling out this easy-to-learn and easy-to-set-up game, which was also recommended by Lisa Regalla, then head of on-site and digital experiences at the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito, California. Players take turns balancing thin, bent metal rods (which come in an assortment of colors and lengths; a roll of a die determines which rod a player must use) on a stand, creating a delicate wire sculpture. If you place too many rods at a precarious angle, the structure (or parts of it) comes crashing down—a satisfying end to the game.

—Ellen Lee

How illustrative

The cover of How to Draw All The Things by Alli Koch.
Photo: Paige Tate & Co

How to Draw All the Things for Kids ($10 at the time of publication)

As the saying goes, we should never judge a book by its cover. However, in the case of How to Draw All the Things for Kids, it’s probably safe to do just that. The inviting images on the front of this how-to guide prompted me to pick this up as a birthday gift for my son’s friend; once we’d heard it was a hit, we got our own copy. The author, Dallas-based visual artist Alli Koch, demonstrates how to draw various things (an astronaut, a butterfly, a cactus plant, a strawberry) by breaking them down into their most basic, approachable steps. The resulting illustrations are unfussy and satisfying. (They’re also simple enough to allow room for individual embellishments.) I appreciate that the book is fairly short, with only 42 projects, so kids aren’t overwhelmed by trying to figure out what to draw. And you can work your way through it, regardless of how much experience or proficiency you’re bringing to the table.

Ingela Ratledge Amundson

Pom-pom projects

A photo of the Klutz Mini Pom-Pom-Pets kit.
Photo: April Chorba / Klutz

Klutz Mini Pom-Pom Pets (about $20 at the time of publication)

My boys can’t get enough of cute little stuffies. So they were pretty excited to unwrap the Klutz Mini Pom-Pom Pets kit, which lets kids create their own diminutive animal friends from yarn pom-poms. My husband and I had to help with the first couple of critters, but the instructions are clear. And once the “body” is created—you wrap the included yarn around a fork to form a sort of ball, then clip the string loops, tie it off, and voilà!—the rest of the job (gluing on eyes and other features) is simple. The kids seemed to find satisfaction in envisioning and creating their own little bunny or chick, and one even gifted the resulting poofball to a friend who was going through a rough time. We liked the set with a variety of animals, but you can also focus on just pom-pom pups or pom-pom kitties.

—Kalee Thompson

An iconic cube

A photo of a Rubik's Cube.
Photo: Hasbro Gaming

Rubik’s Cube ($13 at the time of publication)
GAN 356 XS Speed Cube (about $40 at the time of publication)

There are, apparently, 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 ways to spin a Rubik’s Cube (the legendary puzzle, invented in 1974, that continues to draw new fans to this day). YouTube videos of people solving it blindfolded (and underwater, while juggling, and on America’s Got Talent) only add to the enduring allure. Know an avid puzzler with a need for speed? Consider taking it up a notch with the GAN 356 XS Speed Cube, which was recommended to us by an expert kid puzzler who can solve it in under 45 seconds. It’s made from adjustable magnets, and you can twist the interlocking pieces at a dizzying pace.

—Ellen Lee

An approachable intro to chess

A photo of the No Stress Chess board.
Photo: Winning Moves

No Stress Chess ($14 at the time of publication)

The board game is cardboard; the pieces are lightweight plastic. The special thing about No Stress Chess is that one side of the board is marked to remind you where to put the pieces to set up a new game. A deck of cards instructs you on which piece to move, a sort of training-wheels approach to understanding the game well enough to eventually make your own choices. Of course, using the cards means that you’ll miss out on much of the strategy, but when my son was suddenly interested in learning to play chess, I found that the method helped to quickly teach him (and re-familiarize me) with the pieces and rules of how to navigate the board. After maybe a dozen games, we graduated to cardless play and, a year later, still face off regularly. The game is officially rated for ages 7 and up, but since the cards have diagrams as well as words, it’s possible that it could be understood by some pre-readers.

—Kalee Thompson

A book about differences

A photo of the front cover of the Different Differenter book.
Photo: The Colo(u)rism Project

Different Differenter: An Activity Book About Skin Color by Jyoti Gupta, illustrated by Tarannum Pasricha (about $20 at the time of publication)

Few books are able to eloquently tackle the subject of race for kids while also offering something for adults. Different Differenter by Jyoti Gupta goes a step further, addressing a topic that, it turns out, is critical for kids to grasp before taking on racism: colorism. The beautifully illustrated Different Differenter introduces children—pictured with different skin colors, body types, and physical abilities—to terms like melanin and genes, as well as cultural differences among families and family traditions. Because it’s also an activity book, it’s full of instructions on how to learn and interact with children on these topics through play. My then 5-year-old son, whom we call a chef for his love of playing with food, often asks to make the book’s recipe for laddoo, a popular Indian dessert. My teen took on one of Different Differenter’s more serious activities: making a one-minute anti-bullying video. Between the art activities and the theatrical prompts, it’s a book our family refers to often to kick off authentic conversations that are both warm and thoughtful.

—Kelly Glass

Ultra-creative clay

Hey Clay Aliens sit posed on a white background.
Photo: Hey Clay

Hey Clay Aliens ($20 at the time of publication)

We already recommend Hey Clay in our gift guide for 6-year-olds. But it’s become such a favorite, we added it here, too. Options include these aliens, monsters, animals, and more. The molding mania begins with 18 cans of delightfully textured clay. Kids can either sculpt on their own or create figures with the help of a fun instructional app. Burgeoning sculptors learn useful techniques (how to introduce texture, for instance), and the clay dries completely in 24 hours, resulting in a figure that can either be displayed or played with. Artistic expansion aside, we’ve also found the kits to be excellent travel companions. One word of warning: Once the individual pots of clay are open, it’s a good idea to use up the contents within a couple of weeks. We’ve found they dry out if left alone for much longer.

—Ingrid Skjong

Circuit construction

A photo of the E-Blox Circuit Blox 120 building set.
Photo: Elenco

E-Blox Circuit Blox 120 (about $40 at the time of publication)
Elenco Snap Circuits Classic (about $70 at the time of publication)

From a working radio to a toy house that lights up, the E-Blox Circuit Blox 120 and Elenco Snap Circuits Classic building sets let kids explore the fundamentals of electronics and circuit design with easy-to-use pieces that snap together. Snap Circuits Classic, one of our recommended STEM toys, comes with basic components such as power sources, switches, and wires. E-Blox Circuit Blox pieces are similar to Snap Circuits but resemble—and are compatible with—Lego bricks. STEM education expert Elizabeth Gajdzik likes both sets for kids who are interested in exploring the basics of circuitry, though she found that E-Blox pieces can be easier to manipulate for kids with a little less dexterity.

—Ellen Lee

A storytelling game

The Dixit board laid out on a wooden table.
Photo: Rozette Rago

Dixit (about $45 at the time of publication)

My daughter came home from a friend’s house one day raving about “a bunny game.” The bunnies turned out to be from Dixit (players are represented by bunny-shaped game pieces), one of Wirecutter’s favorite board games for both kids and adults and the winner of the 2010 Spiel des Jahres prize for general audience games. Dixit players are each dealt six wordless cards that bear provocative and interesting illustrations (though my daughter and I noticed that the humans represented in those illustrations could be more diverse). In each round, a “lead player” chooses one of their cards and makes a short statement—a sentence, poem, story, song, even a single word—about what’s on it (without revealing what it is). The other players respond by selecting a card of their own that they think best fits with the statement, and then everyone votes on which card is the closest match. Rather than rewarding speed or dexterity, Dixit is all about creativity, provocation, and storytelling.

—Ellen Lee

Balls that keep the game going after dark

GlowCity's Light Up LED Basketball sitting on a basketball hoop.
Photo: Dan Frakes

GlowCity’s Light Up LED Soccer Ball (starting at $40 at the time of publication)
GlowCity’s Light Up LED Basketball (about $50 at the time of publication)

Even in places where winter nights are temperate enough to spend time outdoors, it can be tough for kids to play their favorite sports once the afternoons grow short. Backyard or driveway lighting helps, but it can still be difficult to see a ball well enough to avoid the occasional face shot. GlowCity’s regulation-size soccer ball and basketball solve this problem because they light up from the inside, allowing kids to keep the game going as late as they want to (or at least as late as you let them). The company also makes a football, but we haven’t tried it.

—Dan Frakes

Friendly reminders

The contents of the Loopdedoo Friendship Bracelet Making Kit spread out in front of its box.
Photo: Loopdedoo

Loopdedoo Friendship Bracelet Making Kit ($30 at the time of publication)

Friendship bracelets are a nostalgic craft that have made a big comeback. “It’s a nice gesture for kids to be able to give something that’s homemade and that lasts,” said Debbie Imperatore, manager and buyer of Funky Monkey Toys & Books in Greenvale, New York, and Greenwich, Connecticut. The Loopdedoo Friendship Bracelet Making Kit includes a spinning loom that twists the brightly colored threads into bracelets that, according to Imperatore, are not like the ones you might remember braiding in the ’80s or ’90s. “It makes these gorgeous, multidimensional designs that are truly gift worthy,” she said. In 10 minutes, kids can weave bracelets, headbands, necklaces, and other accessories into designs as simple or as intricate as they want, thanks to a set of online step-by-step Loopdedoo video tutorials.

—Kelly Glass

Fabulous watercolors

A picture of the Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolor set.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolors (about $35 at the time of publication)

Kuretake watercolors are a step up from most watercolors, and they make a special and likely unexpected gift for a kid (or an adult) who’s interested in graduating to next-level artistry. Made by a 117-year-old sumi-ink manufacturer in Nara, Japan, this set features an array of bright colors to experiment with, and the large pans and quick-dissolving formulation make the paints easy to use, even for kids.

—Michael Hession

Finishing touches for projects

A picture of the Kid Made Modern Arts and Crafts kit with all of its pieces.
Photo: Kid Made Modern

Kid Made Modern Arts and Crafts Supply Library ($50 at the time of publication)

Whether or not your kid is ultra-arty, the Kid Made Modern Arts and Crafts Supply Library is an appealing tool kit for finishing off any creative endeavor. According to senior staff writer Lauren Dragan, whose young son routinely dives into this collection of fun stuff, it’s the finishing touches like those found here—googly eyes, beads, stick-on jewels, pom-poms—that take a project from good to great. (We recommend the 300-piece Kid Made Modern Rainbow Craft Kit in our guide to the best gifts for 7-year-olds.) And when the treasure trove of (over 1,000 pieces) begins to dwindle, the cardboard box itself can be used as a space to store miscellaneous arts and crafts items your kid already owns.

—Caira Blackwell

A trip to the theater

People preforming in costume at Theater Works USA.
Photo: Jeremy Daniel/TheaterWorksUSA

TheaterWorksUSA tickets (prices vary based on show and location)

A few years ago, my sister gifted my son tickets to see Dog Man: The Musical, based on Dav Pilkey’s ridiculously popular series about a cop with a dog’s head and a human’s body. It was good, cheeky fun, and gratifying to see him perk up to a spectacle unfolding IRL instead of on-screen. But what I love most about this gift, and any gift of theater, is the built-in opportunity to spend time together. We had lunch beforehand and then talked about the show for days afterward: Which actor was funniest? Was Petey the cat more evil in the book or onstage? Depending on where you live, theaters may still be reopening gradually—or their seasons could already be back in full swing. Many cities have terrific kid-focused playhouses (such as The New Victory Theater in New York) and play host to touring shows, such as those supported by TheaterWorksUSA, which brought us Dog Man and produces a number of other kid-focused musicals featuring beloved characters and stories, such as Charlotte’s Web, Pete the Cat, and The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System. But options exist in small towns, too—nights out with my parents to see a local school production remain among my favorite childhood memories.

—Joanne Chen

A doll to pass along

A photo of an American Girl Doll with its accessories.
Photo: American Girl

American Girl Truly Me Doll + Accessories (about $150 at the time of publication)

I can think of no single toy I coveted more fiercely as a child than an American Girl doll. They were expensive then (around $80 in the early ’90s), and they’re still expensive now. They’re also a pick in our guide to the best dolls). But for my sister and me, they were a long-term investment in imagination and love, in more ways than I could have realized at the time. We cherished and played with our dolls through adolescence, amassing a collection of outfits and high-quality accessories. Years later, my stepmother rescued our dolls and their belongings from the attic and sent them off for a restorative stay at the Doll Hospital. A quarter-century after we first got them, the spiffed-up American Girls were presented to my two daughters when they were right around the same age. They now love their dolls, just as I remember my sister and I having loved ours.

When I was a kid, American Girl offered just five dolls, each from a different time period. Those historically themed dolls are still available, but nowadays the company has a much wider, more diverse, and more inclusive slate of dolls, allowing your child to choose one that looks like them. To my delight (and awe at the march of time), American Girl introduced a new historical doll in 2020: an ’80s girl named Courtney.

—Courtney Schley

A classic pirate ship

An assembled Lego Classic Pirate Ship next to a Lego shark.
Photo: Michael Murtaugh

Lego Creator 3-in-1 Pirate Ship ($100 at the time of publication)

The Lego Creator 3-in-1 Pirate Ship is large and sturdy, with interactive elements like an openable captain’s quarters, cannons, and movable sails. With over 1,200 pieces, the ship—which was also a pick in our guide to the best Lego sets for kids—is challenging enough for an 8-year-old with some Lego experience under their belt. Lego’s Creator 3-in-1 kits come with instructions for making three different projects with the same pieces, so after they build the pirate ship, kids can repurpose the bricks into a dollhouse-style inn or a spooky-looking Skull Island. For a kid who likes a combination of guided building and imaginative play, this themed Lego set offers a lot of hours of creating and interaction.

—Signe Brewster

An easy read

Photo: Amazon

Kindle Paperwhite Kids ($160 at the time of publication)

Some folks get skittish at the prospect of introducing an e-reader to their kids, and I understand where they’re coming from: The last thing children need is another screen to suck them in, right? I was skeptical about buying one for my then-second-grade son, remembering how much I had loved the tactile delights of real books when I was growing up, and wanting the same for him. But after a year and a half of regular use, I can happily report that the benefits of my son’s Kindle far outweigh the sacrifices. (We have an earlier model, but the Kindle Paperwhite Kids is waterproof, has adjustable light, and is Wirecutter’s top e-reader pick for any age). Some of the obvious perks—as adult e-reader converts can attest to—are the convenience (an unlimited library that’s lightweight and portable) and long-term cost-effectiveness (thousands of titles are included with a monthly $5 subscription to Amazon Kids+ for Amazon Prime members). I also appreciate how low-fi the whole experience feels. Unlike tablets, with their videos and apps and untold rabbit holes, the Kindle only serves up black-and-white words on a page. And I’ve noticed that as soon as my son finishes a book on his Kindle, he rushes to find the next one—the rare example of a kiddo’s desire for instant gratification having a healthy byproduct.

—Ingela Ratledge Amundson

A cozy comforter

A photo of a bedroom with the POttery Barn Kids Solar System Duvet Cover adorning the bed.
Photo: Pottery Barn Kids

Pottery Barn Kids Solar System Glow-in-the-Dark Duvet Cover (twin) (about $100 at the time of publication)
Utopia Bedding Comforter Duvet Insert (twin) (about $30 at the time of publication)

If your 8-year-old is still sleeping with a comforter from their preschool days, they may be ready for an upgrade. Pottery Barn Kids duvet covers are a nice middle ground between little-kid bedding and adult linens. The covers come in more than a hundred colors, prints, and patterns, including glow-in-the-dark solar systems, Minecraft, and ballerinas. The more classic options, like checkered, floral, or solids, could grow with a kid through their teenage years. We chose a pastel, watercolor-like rainbow print for our three kids’ beds, and I’ve often remarked to my husband that the silky cotton fabric feels softer and finer than that of our own duvet cover. The Pottery Barn Kids covers have handy corner ties that attach to a comforter insert to keep it from shifting around. Pair your cover of choice with the inexpensive but ultra-fluffy Utopia Bedding Comforter Duvet Insert, our pick for the best down-alternative comforter.

—Courtney Schley

Crash landing

A blue Skil-Care Sensory Crash Pad
Photo: Skil-Care

Skil-Care 5x5 Sensory Crash Pad (about $190 at the time of publication)

The Skil-Care 5x5 Sensory Crash Pad is like a supersize bean bag, except that it’s filled with ultra-absorbent pieces of foam, and rather than encouraging kids to chill out, it practically begs them to summon their inner Hollywood stunt double. An occupational therapist mom friend first told me about the crash pad; she keeps a bunch of them in her office gym for pint-size patients to gleefully topple into. My son primarily uses the cushion for epic belly-flops, horseplaying with his friends, and (way less frequently) curling up to read. We keep it in his room, and when my husband and I do our nightly bedtime rounds, we both make a beeline for it—it may be the most comfortable spot in the house. It comes with a non-negotiable royal blue nylon cover. The blue isn’t bad, but I can imagine us tiring of the color before we tire of the crash pad, so I’ve already begun scoping out Etsy for alternatives; I’m thinking shops that specialize in custom covers for wildly oversize dog beds are gonna be our best bet. (Note: I like the extra-large, 35-pound 5-by-5-foot model because it provides a lot of runway for shenanigans. But it's definitely huge; Skil-Care also makes a more scaled-down, 3-by-4-foot version.)

Ingela Ratledge Amundson

Marvelous marbles

The Ravensburger GraviTrax Starter Set box and board.
Photo: Ravensburger

Ravensburger GraviTrax Starter Set ($60 at the time of publication)

My then-8-year old spotted this next-level, build-it-yourself marble run at a local toy store and requested it from his grandparents for the holidays that year. The toy, which has you stack and arrange plastic disks to build complex marble-racing routes, incorporates concepts of gravity, magnetics, and kinetics, and it feels far more refined overall than the taller, tubular plastic marble runs we encountered when my son was younger. (This GraviTrax set was one of the top picks in Inspire Research Institute’s 2019 gift guide.) I’ve found that it’s the sort of thing he pulls out and focuses on for a few days, and then doesn’t play with again until a number of months later. But each time my son rediscovers GraviTrax in the game closet, he seems ready to take his marble chutes to the next level of complexity.

—Kalee Thompson

An invention kit from MIT

A photo of the JoyLabz Makey Makey Classic kit with all of its pieces.
Photo: JoyLabz

JoyLabz Makey Makey Classic (about $50 at the time of publication)

Developed at the MIT Media Lab, Makey Makey is an “invention kit” that connects to a computer via USB and lets kids turn household objects—like bananas or Play-Doh—into a keyboard, controller, or touchpad. (If this is hard to visualize, check out this video, which shows some of the things kids can create with Makey Makey, including a banana piano and a Play-Doh gaming controller.) The possibilities are endless, which is why Makey Makey is recommended by Lisa Regalla, who was the head of on-site and digital experiences at the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito, California at the time of our interview. “You can hook up fruits, vegetables, flowers, anything that mildly conducts electricity,” Regalla said.

—Ellen Lee

Sleek headphones that sound as they should

The Puro BT2200 headphones against a pink background.
Photo: Rozette Rago

Puro BT2200 ($100 at the time of publication)

Though a lot of headphones for kids claim to limit the volume to safe levels for developing ears (under 85 decibels), many fail to actually do so. The Puro BT2200 headphones, our pick for the best kids headphones, remain within safer listening levels when used properly—and were the favorite of all of our kid panelists. While other kids headphones are made of breakable cheap plastic, the BT2200 has a well-constructed aluminum frame. The Bluetooth connection lets kids use them wirelessly or with a cord. (Puro also makes a version of these headphones with active noise cancelling, called the PuroQuiet). The BT2200 headphones come in a range of appealing colors, and they’re sleek and fun without looking like a toy.

—Lauren Dragan

A fun first smartwatch

The Verizon GizmoWatch 2 sits on a star-speckled surface.
Photo: Sarah Kobos

Verizon GizmoWatch 2 ($100 at the time of publication, plus a monthly service fee)

Verizon’s GizmoWatch 2 is a fun smartphone alternative for kids who are ready to venture out on their own a little bit—it's a pick in our guide to choosing the best first smartwatch for your kid. The GizmoWatch 2 can make phone calls, send simple, preset text messages (such as “Where are you?”), and produce silly fart sounds, in addition to telling time. It's a tool that allows school-aged kids to communicate simply but easily with their parents or other caregivers, potentially contributing to their own growing independence. (It also uses GPS to track a kid’s location, which parents can see on a smartphone app; this may help some feel better about their kids’ first solo ventures.)

—Ellen Lee

A baller gift

A photo of the Spikeball outdoor set.
Photo: Spikeball

Spikeball (about $50 at the time of publication)

My sister has five kids, so finding a single gift that can appeal to the whole lot has always been both a challenge and a moving target. This wildly physical backyard game has been a pandemic-era hit with the entire crew, their friends (ages 8 and up), and parents. Spikeball is played a little like volleyball, but with a much smaller ball and a net pulled taut over a mini-trampoline base (instead of stretched between poles). Two teams of two gather around the net, volleying the ball back and forth to each other before spiking it down onto the net at the other team. It’s fun and exhausting for all, without taking up a large amount of space in the backyard. This game is also easy to pack down for travel to the beach or park.

—Caitlin Giddings

Take them out to the ball game

A kid eating a hotdog at a baseball game.
Photo: aceshot / iStock

Tickets to a professional or collegiate sports game (price varies)

Eating cotton candy may have been my son’s favorite part of going to baseball games, but he still loves reminiscing about all the games he’s been to with his dad. Taking a kid to a live sports event can be a special shared experience, whether they’re witnessing a series-winning home run or cheering for a breakaway shot. And it doesn’t have to be a high-profile game: A minor-league hockey game can be just as fun and memorable as the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Your closest pro team’s website should have a link to its minor-league affiliate, or you can search for the minor-league affiliates by sport, such as baseball.) You could also check to see whether any professional soccer games, women’s basketball games, or ultimate Frisbee tournaments are hosted in your area. If you have your heart set on tickets to a match-up that will be on the front of the sports page, keep in mind that the “nosebleed seats” are less expensive, and they may actually deliver a more relaxed experience. Yes, you might have to catch some of the action on the Jumbotron, but if your kid gets tired or overwhelmed by the noise of the crowd or the blaring music (as my son has in the past), you won’t feel as bad about leaving early.

Lara Rabinovitch

We love finding gifts that are unusual, thoughtful, and well vetted. See even more gift ideas we recommend.

This article was edited by Ingela Ratledge Amundson and Kalee Thompson.


About your guides

Ellen Lee

Ellen Lee

Ellen Lee is a Wirecutter contributor, reviewing baby and kid gear. Her writing has also appeared in Real Simple, Working Mother, and Family Circle magazines, and she was previously a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Her three kids earn their keep by helping her test products.

Wirecutter Staff

Wirecutter Staff

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