When picking gifts to go along with the elementary aged books below, I tried to find items that were really interactive and learning focused. I did not include more passive items such as clothing, stuffed animals, or decorative items, instead opting for gifts that would encourage imaginative play or educational engagement. There is a very wide range of ages and interests encompassed in the elementary years, so these books range quite a bit from picture books and early readers to longer graphic novels and novels. Hopefully there is something for every age and interest here, but I always welcome more ideas and feedback in the comments!
Kid Scientists is just one book in a series by David Stabler recounting the childhoods of famous or accomplished people. Stabler has also written Kid Athletes, Kid Artists, Kid Presidents, and Kid Authors. There is something so valuable in kids reading about the setbacks and struggles of people who are now successful in their field, especially if that career is something a child is interested in themselves. I chose the Kid Scientists book to feature here because it has a good selection of scientists from a range of fields, giving kids a good overview of the career opportunities available to someone interested in science. I also like that men and women are featured equally in this book, helping to break through some of the barriers that women and girls still face in scientific fields.
It was very hard to choose just one gift to pair with this book because there are so many fun and educational sets available now! The SmartLab Ultimate Secret Formula Lab looks like a lot of fun and includes experiments to teach about both pressure and fluid dynamics as well as basic principles of chemistry. It includes a guide with 40 experiments and pH strips to test acids and bases.
The Cobble Street Cousins series by Cynthia Rylant were some of the first chapter books my daughter ever read on her own and remain on her bookshelf to this day. We have read this series together more than once and she has read it on her own several times as well. These are books that will stand the test of time. The stories center on three 9-year old cousins who live with their Aunt Lucy in a rambling old house in the middle of a charming small town. The stories are gentle but do a fantastic job of dealing with friendship and sibling dynamics. Although the three girls have some inevitable disagreements, their relationship is a much-needed example of kind, supportive friendships that I haven’t often seen in books for girls. In Aunt Lucy’s Kitchen is the first book in the series, but you should probably go ahead and buy the whole series, because any girl you buy these books for will be instantly hooked!
One of the main plot points of In Aunt Lucy’s Kitchen is a cookie business that the three girls start together, selling their cookies around town and making friends along the way. The Junior Chef Baking set from Williams Sonoma is a great starter set for any young chef who is inspired to bake their own cookies. Unlike many baking sets for kids, this set is very high quality and durable and all the pieces actually function very well for baking.
If you have a Harry Potter fan on your gift list, Exploring Hogwarts: An Illustrated Guide is a great choice. I recently looked at this book in person and the graphics are so well done, informative, and easy to read. This book would be a fun and useful companion to the Harry Potter novels as it gives insight into Hogwarts and all it’s hidden mysteries!
I haven’t tried out this Golden Snitch mini drone myself, but the reviews are great, the price can’t be beat, and I know the young Harry Potter fans in my life would love it. This golden ball can be charged with a USB connection, flies up to 15 feet in the air, and uses infrared technology to hover over any surface.
I have talked to parents who are hesitant to buy their kids graphic novels, but I think these books are excellent for encouraging reluctant readers. With less text than a traditional chapter book, kids can get the feeling of accomplishment that comes from finishing a book more quickly and the visual element of graphic novels can be a great help to kids who struggle with reading blocks of text. There are so many wonderfully rich graphic novels for children now but I start with just about any book by Ben Hatke. We love both the Zita the Spacegirl and Mighty Jack series but I only had a gift idea to match with Mighty Jack, so here it is! This updated telling of Jack and the Beanstalk is both action packed and thought provoking. The books in this series have led to excellent conversations with our kids about courage, loyalty, and friendship.
Although the Rootvue Farm Garden Labratory kit does not include any magic seeds, the unique clear planter that allows kids to see the roots growing is pretty special. I like that this kit seems easy to use and will yield quick results, with seeds sprouting in only days. As a bonus, kids can eat what they grew!
It is difficult to explain the impact of The Wild Robot by Peter Brown but it is a must-read book for anyone, adult or child, living in our world of increasing reliance on technology and automation. Through the story of a robot who is shipwrecked on a deserted island, The Wild Robot explores issues of what it means to be alive and to love others. Programmed to learn from its environment, the shipwrecked robot soon learns the behaviors and languages of the animals on the island. When the robot ends up adopting and raising an orphaned gosling, the tender, poignant bond that forms between them seems to defy the robot’s original design and purpose. Although this book is extremely thought-provoking, it is also an action-packed adventure that I think most upper-elementary aged kids will find engaging.
The Build your Own Robot Kit from Uncommon Goods is made up only of a variety of nuts, bolts, and screws. With instructions to build three different robots from the materials provided, the kit also encourages creativity as the elements can be combined in endless ways to create new robots. The small pieces and somewhat complicated instructions make this a good choice for older elementary kids, but could also probably be built by younger kids with adult help.
Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott is the first book I’ve included here that I haven’t actually read or seen for myself but I’ve heard great things about this series. Aimed at the middle-elementary aged crowd (about 7-10 year olds) this chapter book follows the adventures of Jaxon who unwittingly becomes part of a plan to save a baby dragon. There are 2 books so far in this series and more on the way soon.
This Bloco dragon construction set looks like a fun and different way to build using foam pieces and plastic connectors. There are several different styles of this set available on amazon.com.
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez is an empowering book about standing up for yourself and challenging biases when you see them, even when they are coming from those in power. This book is somewhere between a novel and graphic novel with lots of graphics sprinkled throughout that support the story. The complex themes of this novel make it a good choice for older elementary kids. My daughter read The First Rule of Punk this past summer when she was 10 and really seemed to connect with the story. If you have a child who already read this book and loved it, don’t miss out on Pérez’s latest book, Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers which sounds like it has many of the same themes.
For kids who love expressing themselves as much as Malú, the heroine of The First Rule of Punk, fabric markers are a fun gift idea. Gift these along with a white pair of sneakers, blank tote bag, or t-shirt to give kids a canvas to create their own style.
We recently finished reading Malamander by Thomas Taylor out loud as a family and it was a fantastic adventure story. The protagonist, 12-year old Herbie Lemon, is in charge of the lost-and-found room at the Grand Nautilus hotel in the seaside town of Eerie-on-Sea. One day a mysterious girl pushes her way through the window of his cellar room and draws Herbie into her search for her lost parents. The search includes a villain with a harpoon gun, a fabled sea creature who lays ruby colored eggs, and a mechanical monkey. Quirky, fun, and with a mystery that keeps the reader guessing, this book is hard to put down. The second book in this series, Gargantis, was recently released and I can’t wait to return to Eerie-on-Sea for another adventure. If you are looking for gifts for an avid upper-elementary aged reader, these two book would make a great gift together.
Deep Sea Adventure looks like an intriguing game that comes in a small box, convenient for bringing on trips. We haven’t actually played this game, so I can’t attest to the age that it is best suited for, but the 8+ recommendation on the box puts in the same age range as ideal readers of Malamander. This looks like an engaging game for older siblings or parents to join in, too.
I meant to include more non-fiction books on this list, but instead got caught up with all the wonderful fiction books I wanted to share! However, I’ll end with the gorgeous non-fiction book, The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth by Rachel Ignotofsky because I think this book is important as well as fascinating. With one section devoted to each continent, Ignotofsky details the different biomes that make up planet earth and the creatures who live in each habitat. The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth is much more detailed and science based than most children’s books I see on this subject. For example, in addition to talking about the water cycle, there are also pages explaining the phosphorus cycle and the nitrogen cycle, too. This book does not shy away from discussing human impacts on the environment and has a whole section devoted to humans and planet earth. The detailed content covered in this book make it ideal for older elementary students who are ready to grapple with more information and difficult concepts.
This Animal Kingdom Puzzle from maisonette.com would be a great companion to The Wondrous workings of Planet Earth. It is a visual, hands-on representation of many of the animals presented in the book with equally beautiful illustrations. This puzzle is double sided, giving kids 2 puzzles in one to solve and 100-pieces is the perfect size for elementary aged kids to put together on their own in a reasonable amount of time.