I had similar criteria in choosing book and gift ideas for elementary aged kids as I did for preschoolers, mainly that they be interactive and educational. I tried to create a list with a mix of fiction and non-fiction that would appeal to wide range of interests. With elementary schoolers, I always think it is a great idea to gift them the first book in a series they might like. This is especially good for reluctant readers as it can spur them on to buy or check out the next book, if they love the first one. Therefore, most of the fiction books I’ve included here are the first book, or first few books, in a series. There is a very wide range of reading levels in this age group, so I tried to include some early readers along with beginning chapter books and easy graphic novels. This gift list is meant for the younger end of elementary ages, about 5 to 8 year olds; check out our Middle Grade Book + Gift guide for older elementary and middle school students, about 9 to 14 year olds. To see book and gift guides for other ages, check out our baby and toddler, preschool, and middle grade guides.
The Zoey and Sassafras series are fictional books that also teach some pretty advanced science concepts to young kids. In each book, Zoey and her cat Sassafras encounter magical creatures who have problems that can only be solved using science. Although the creatures are fictional, the science is very real and these books do a great job of breaking down scientific concepts into easy-to-understand ideas. Zoey often uses the scientific method when solving problems and each book has a glossary of scientific terms from the story in the back. This set includes the first six books in the series, but you can buy just the first book, Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows. This series is about a third grade reading level, but I read the first few books out loud with my son when he was in first grade and they were also great read-alouds.
Zoey’s mom is a scientist which means that Zoey has access to impressive scientific tools in these books. Give a child the same gift with this My First Lab Microscope set. This gift is on the pricier end of the gifts I usually feature at about $100, but I know from experience that any microscope under that price is just not much good. The My First Lab microscope is made by a company that manufactures microscopes used in research labs and is very high quality with a built-in light. Most microscopes for kids do not have a built-in light which can make viewing kind of disappointing. This set also includes useful tools such as glass slides (some already prepared with specimens for immediate viewing), two kinds of dye for dying hard-to-see items, a scalpel, dropper, tweezers, and more.
Pirates Magnified by David Long is sort of like a game and a history book rolled into one. Each page has a detailed illustration of a pirate ship with different items for the reader to find. Some of these items are quite tiny and difficult to find so the included magnifying glass really comes in handy. Along with the fun picture search, the pages are packed with historical facts about pirates and the times they lived in. For kids who aren’t into pirates, there are several books in this series including Egypt Magnified, Castles Magnified, and Ancient World Magnified.
Blockbeard’s Boat Balancing Game from Imagination Generation includes a wooden boat and 17 wooden pieces that need to be balanced on top of the boat before the pirates can sail. These pieces vary in weight, size, and shape, so it can be challenging to get them all placed just right. This versatile game can be played solo or cooperatively with other players.
Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot and the rest of the Ricky Ricotta series by Dav Pilkey are some of the books that finally got my son reading chapter books. By the author of Captain Underpants, these books are action packed adventure stories that also demonstrate the importance of kindness and friendship. Ricky Ricotta lives in the town of Squeakyville and doesn’t have very many friends at school. One day, a giant robot built by an evil scientist escapes and when the robot and Ricky meet, they form an unlikely friendship and end up saving the day! Every book I’ve read in this series is engaging and entertaining and the illustrations are fantastic.
There are so many different robot building kits available these days and it can be hard to sort through all of them and find a kit that is easy enough for kids to use, fun, and durable. The Jumbo Robot Building Kit from Uncommon Goods is all of those things. This kit uses real hardware and tools to create little, colorful robots. There are directions to build 4 different robots, but the pieces are very versatile so that kids can create endless robots of their own design. This kit does create robots that actually move and does not include motors of any kind, the fun here is more in the designing and building. For robots that actually move and walk, try out the Build & Play Robot Factory from Lakeshore Learning.
In The Trouble with Magic by Ruth Chew, a brother and sister, Rick and Barbara, find an old bottle that turns out to contain a wizard. They are excited at the prospect of using magic but soon find out that magic is not as simple as it seems. The Trouble with Magic is pure, exhilarating fun. The reader gets to follow Rick and Barbara’s adventures as they experiment with magic in ways that most kids only dream about! This book is part of the the Matter of Fact Magic series by Ruth Chew and every book in the series is just as fun. Each book in the series only connects loosely with the others so they do not need to be read in chronological order.
The Deluxe Magic Set from Melissa & Doug is the sturdiest, easiest to use magic set for kids that I’ve found. Many of the pieces are made out of wood and the set comes in a box that can be used to store all the pieces. Most of the tricks are easy enough for kids to learn and perform on their own, giving them a sense of accomplishment. My daughter first got this set when she was about eight and some of the tricks she learned and performed for us were honestly astounding!
Maps is the perfect first atlas for kids. Its large size make it easy for two kids to peruse the pages together and the highly detailed illustrations can keep them engrossed for hours. The book is divided into a section for each continent with pages showing the major countries on that continent. The country pages have hundreds of tiny illustrations showing the landmarks, foods, customs, and geographical features of each country. If you know a child who loves maps and/or dreams of traveling to far away places, this is the gift for them!
The Atlas Sticker Poster by OMY art looks like a book at first, but actually folds out into a large, colorful world map. Kids can add the 150 included stickers to complete the map, learning about the people, animals, and plants on each continent as they go.
The first in the Clubhouse Mysteries Series by Sharon M. Draper, The Buried Bones Mystery is the story of four boys who decide to build a clubhouse and discover a buried secret in the process. The books in this series are fast-paced mysteries that focus on the importance of friendship and teamwork, great for older elementary kids aged 8 to 11.
This Small Tool Box Set from Moulin Roty contains beautifully designed, fully functioning tools sized just right for kids. The set includes a hammer, hand saw, phillips head and flat head screw drivers, ruler, and pencil in a wooden carrying case. I also love this similar set from Lakeshore Learning that has more comfortable rubber handles and includes safety goggles. Just add wood, screws, and nails and any kid will be ready to build a clubhouse of their own (or at least a bird house).
Kenny and the Dragon by Tony DiTerlizzi is hands-down one of my favorite recent chapter books for young readers. Kenny is a rabbit who has big dreams of fighting dragons one day, like his friend George, a retired knight. When Kenny actually meets an intelligent and cultured dragon named Grahame, he soon realizes that dragons just want to be left in peace like everyone else. However, the rest of the town does not agree and soon Kenny’s two friends, George and Grahame, are headed into battle, with each other. Kenny and the Dragon is a beautifully told tale that challenges our ideas of friendship, belonging, and acceptance.
This Winged Dragon Kite from Melissa & Doug is durably constructed of heavy-duty nylon but light enough to easily catch the breeze. With a 62-inch wingspan, this kite looks impressive in the sky but still folds down to a manageable size for carrying. Easy to put together, fly, and pack up for storage, this is a great first kite for kids.
The Big Book of Bugs by Yuval Zommer is a big book full of interesting facts and colorful illustrations. Each two-page spread features a different family of bugs with plenty of illustrations to show what they look like and facts to learn about them all. The large size and bright pictures make this book lots of fun while the well-researched facts make it educational.
The Bug City from Lakeshore Learning will delight any young, aspiring entomologist. This set goes beyond a simple bug jar with a whole system of tunnels and pods for collecting and observing bugs. The tunnels and pods easily slide together and have air vents to keep bugs alive. The set includes tweezers and a collection jar.
Piper Green is starting second grade at her little school on a remote island in Maine and dealing with a lot of big changes. Along with a new teacher at school, she is also adjusting to her big brother being away at boarding school for the first time. When Piper discovers she has a fairy tree growing in her front yard, she hopes the fairy magic can give her what she needs to fix all her problems. Piper Green and the Fairy Tree is a lovely early chapter book that does not shy away from the big emotions that young children feel.
Playmobile sets are always well-made, durable, and full of little details that feed kids’ imaginative play. This Fairy Garden Play Box is all of those things and also folds up into a convenient carrying case for play on-the-go. In addition to the carrying case that folds out into an enchanting garden, the set includes a mother and baby fairy, unicorn, wand, flower furniture, and many more accessories.
Badger lives a steady, quiet life in his aunt’s brownstone house where he conducts his Important Rock Work and subsists mostly on bowls of cereal. When Skunk shows up one day, claiming that Badger’s aunt told him he could stay for awhile, Badger’s world is shaken up. Skunk is a wonderful cook, but he has other habits that Badger is not fond of and seems to attract a large number of chickens to the house. Can Badger and Skunk ever learn to live together in peace? Skunk and Badger is hilarious, thought-provoking, and sincere with gorgeous illustrations throughout. Although this a shorter chapter book, the language and ideas are fairly complex so I would recommend it for ages 8 and up, or as a read-aloud for younger kids.
This Exploring Rocks, Minerals, and Crystals kit from The Young Scientist Club will get kids started on Important Rock Work of their own. The set includes 20 rock and mineral samples, identification cards, and instructions for several experiments for hands-on geology learning.