The holidays are upon us, and it’s the time of year parents start to think of great gift ideas for kids. Toys are wonderful, but not all toys are made equal. Some break, some don’t hold their interest, and some are easy for kids to grow out of. With two busy boys, I am always on the lookout for awesome, hands-on toys that are also durable, easy to store, and keep my kids busy!


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What makes a toy awesome? As an educator, I want gift ideas for kids that:

spark imagination, curiosity, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, independence, and any other learning outcomes my children can gain as a result of playing with them. I want this toy to be worth it!

This year, I created a list of the best hands-on gift ideas for kids that is sure to lead to endless hours of play and lots of smiles upon receiving.


These magnetics tiles should be on every parent’s holiday shopping list this year! Magna-Tiles are magnetic blocks, made for building, playing and learning. They come in a variety of shapes, colors, and styles with endless opportunities for free and independent and hands-on play. Magna-Tiles are also considered STEM toys that can also help encourage interest in those fields of study. Check out my Instagram account to see all the ways we use our tiles. Educational, hands-on gift ideas for kids are truly the best.

BeginAgain Tinker Totter Sets

Looking for wooden gift ideas for kids under 5? These BeginAgain Tinker Totter Sets are our favorite! Kids create objects mixing and matching wooden pieces. We own the rocket ship and monster sets, and both are well-loved and played with often. BeginAgain have a few other themes that are equally as cute as the ones we have at home.

HABA Animal Upon Animal

Wooden toys are among some of our favorites. We mentioned the BeginAgain sets, but we also love anything from HABA. This set from HABA Animal Upon Animal is a fun way for kids to work on hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills, as they stack little wooden animals on top of one another without letting them fall! We play this as a game or independently, either way they make wonderful hands-on gift ideas for kids under or above the age of 5.

Kinetic Sand Sets

Do you own any Kinetic Sand yet? Kinetic Sand is a uniquely created material that is made to resemble real beach sand, but tackier. Kids can play with sand at home without it becoming too messy, and they LOVE it. Kinetic Sand now makes really cool sets to help consolidate mess and keep everything organized. Gift ideas for kids that involve sand and tools will always be a hit in our house. We own this construction set and my 5 year old adores it. He can stay busy with this activity for awhile.

Dinosaur Tracks

Have kids that love dinosaurs, cars, and building? This Dinosaur Tracks set is perfect for them! Kids can design their own dinosaur park, fit with battery-operated cars and easy to assemble tracks. I love that my kids (ages 3 & 5) can piece together the track on their own. They also must use problem-solving and critical thinking skills to design a course- mixing education with play is always a win!  This dinosaur track is among one of the most hands-on, dinosaur related gift ideas for kids under the age of 5. Definitely don’t pass it up if you have fans of dinos at home!

HEXBUG Flash Nano nanotopia

HEXBUG Flash Nano nanotopia is a super unique gift that is sure to keep little hands and big minds busy! Great for 4-5 year olds, children build tracks and courses for tiny robotic “nanos” that move just like real bugs. Creative and curious kids will love playing with these little guys, while those that love to build can put their skills to use. Robotic gift ideas for kids rock, especially ones that can be used with my help!

Games: Don’t Break the Ice & Yeti in My Spaghetti

Playing games as a family is so fun, and yet also a learning experience for our kids! Engaging and spending that quality time with my kids makes us all feel good, but kids are learning the winner/loser lessons while also trying to understand rules and social norms of playing board games. It’s a lot! These are two super hands-on and fast-moving games that my boys absolutely love and are very simple to understand: Don’t Break the Ice and Yeti in My Spaghetti. Family games make perfect gift ideas for kids.

Hape Wooden Spaceship Center

Looking for larger gift ideas for kids, this Hape Wooden Spaceship Center is the perfect addition to any list. Highly durable and complete with little wooden pieces, this Hape spaceship is perfect for open-play opportunities with your little ones.

We received this spaceship as a gift last year, and I don’t think one day has gone by that the boys haven’t used it. I’ve enjoyed watching the play change over time and how much more involved it has become! This is one of those toys that will grow with your kids and lead imaginative and creative opportunities for learning, playing, and growing.

Marble Track

STEM gift ideas for kids are wonderful ways to incorporate education and play together. When I taught middle school, our 7th graders designed tracks for marbles. Now, kids as young as 3 can start thinking like engineers and scientists by constructing really fun marble tracks. Younger kids will need more help with this activity, but I myself have found the building process fun to perfect.

Busy Board

Busy boards are unique gift ideas for kids that are learning to tie, button, and zip. We mainly use this board for road trips, but would be useful anytime. This busy board is named correctly because it truly keeps hands busy, while also being a nice break from screens. While they play, they are learning basic skills for daily life as well as building the muscles in their hands needed for pencil grip and writing. On a recent trip, this Busy Board kept my 3 year old busy for over 45 minutes! I’ll take that as a win any day.

Race Track Adventure

This magnetic and soundless car track is also super hands-on making it one of my favorite gift ideas to share with people. Kids use little magnetic cars and levers, pulls, and buttons to get the car from start to finish. My boys love figuring out this “puzzle” and I love that it doesn’t make any loud or annoying sounds. Definitely check list out if you have kids who love figuring puzzles out and enjoy keeping busy with their hands; they will love it!

Best Hands-On Gift Ideas for Kids Under 5

Shopping for kids can be tough. These hands-on and creative gift ideas for kids under 5 years old make great additions to any list. What are your favorite hands-on toys at your house? Comment below to share more gift ideas for others to see.