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By the age of 10, children have reached the double digit milestone and their teenage years are approaching. Children in this age group are growing and completing their interests. So a gift for a 10-year-old can be an opportunity to deepen these feelings while encouraging exploration.
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Friendships mean more to 10-year-olds, too, so look for gifts they can enjoy with their peers, such as joint art projects. Now that they are learning abstract thinking and reasoning, they are also ready for board games that are more complex not only in tone and content, but also in play style (involving strategic decisions and longer game sessions). Many 10-year-olds can also handle complex projects on their own and can focus, see them through, and spot any mistakes on their own.
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Also, keep in mind that as kids get older, imagination is “something that gets overlooked,” Lisa Regala, director of on-site and digital experiences at the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito, California, said at the time of our interview. We think it’s for babies, but it’s not. It’s your brain’s natural way of withdrawing, processing and re-engaging.” Toys, games and sets that encourage imagination, creativity, role-playing and imagination allow the imagination to flourish.
We’ve drawn on the advice of Regalla and other experts—as well as the collective experience of parents and other caregivers on our staff—to identify gifts likely to challenge and excite 10-year-olds’ imaginations. Don’t see what you’re looking for? We also have guides to the best gifts for 9-year-olds, tweens and tweens, and adorable stocking stuffers for kids. If you’re looking for ideas for younger kids, check out our guide to the best gifts for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8-year-olds. (Since children vary greatly in personality, interests, and development, we encourage you to take these age recommendations with a grain of salt.) Please share your best ideas in the comments below.
When my daughter and her friend tried needle felting for the first time, they complained that they accidentally poked themselves a few times. Popularized in Japan, this art involves gathering and piercing small tufts of wool (or even cat or dog hair) with a needle to turn them into soft, fluffy objects. The children were proud of the result of their efforts – a soft and beautiful owl – and also a little proud of their sore fingers. Each Woolbuddy animal needle felting kit includes materials, needles and instructions to make a different cute animal (you can choose from giraffes, owls and cows). And now that my daughter knows how to whip felt and has a set of needles, she can buy extra wool and use her imagination to make whatever she wants. (I’m sure some family members will be getting stuffed animals as holiday gifts this year.) “It’s a jumping platform,” said Lisa Regala of the Bay Area Discovery Museum, who recommends this collection for kids. It’s good to do something that’s open-ended.” age category . .
Thames & Kosmos’s Exit: The Game—The Cursed Labryinth is part of a series of escape room-style action games that you can play at home. “It’s a fun way for older kids to get involved in solving puzzles,” said Brian Mayer, a play, learning and library specialist in New York City. In this particular game, players are “locked” in a garden maze and must solve a series of puzzles and riddles to “escape”. The Exit series won the 2017 Kennerspiel des Jahres award, which focuses on games aimed at more experienced players. There are more than two dozen games in the series with varying levels of difficulty (Dungeon of the Cursed is among the beginners, which we still find challenging; thankfully there are additional hints and tips to keep the game moving along), as well as are puzzle-based
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Meyer also recommends The House of Riddles as a good choice for most 10-year-olds. Since the games in this series require players to drag and cut game pieces, you can only play them once. These one to two hour games can be a fun bedtime activity or a stormy afternoon.
Graphic novels have grown in popularity in recent years and have proven to be an effective way to engage reluctant readers, as many children benefit from the extra support that pictures bring to the text (plus they’re just plain fun). . One of my family’s favorites: Jerry’s
Which tells the story of a seventh grader who is one of the few children of color at his new school. In 2020, it won a Newbery Medal—the first graphic novel to do so. The sequel, Class Rule, follows another student at the same school as he enters eighth grade. (Both novels can be purchased in a box set). Several existing popular series have also been adapted into graphic novels, such as
(which inspired my daughter to pick up the rest of the series in book form) and the cat-themed Warriors franchise. And graphic novels can provide a powerful platform for teaching nonfiction:
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Solo) is about the captivity of Japanese Americans – including Taki and his family – during World War II. For more suggestions, The New York Times offers a wealth of graphic novel reviews, including these picks and a list of graphic novels for beginning and intermediate readers.
“Painting Chip Poetry,” a colorful twist on magnetic poetry, is fun for both children and adults who love words, said Hilary Conklin, professor in DePaul University’s College of Education. This set includes 400 colored cards with words or phrases such as “Out of the ordinary”, “First kiss” and “Golden hour”. In one of 40 prompts (such as “When I Was Little” and “Worth the Wait”), players line up their colored tokens and make a song. There is no way to win – this game simply gives kids a chance to be creative, express themselves and appreciate the combination of words and colors. If kids have a knack for writing, a game can spark their creativity—and maybe even spark their next masterpiece.
If you grew up playing with a spirograph (like me), this collection of fun shapes to gift your child will be as nostalgic as it is creatively soothing to use. Inspired by the original Spirograph released in 1965, this version includes new shapes (diamonds, hearts, ovals and more) in the mix and can be used with other Spirograph sets. (If your child really wants to brush up on their technique, this video is a good place to start.) Pro tip: Try pairing the Spirograph with Pilot FriXion ColorSticks Erasable Gel Pens, an erasable selection from our guide to six great pens.
I can only draw basic shapes and scenery, but that’s part of the fun of Telestrations, a board game that combines the children’s game of telephone with pictures. Each player starts with a dry erase marker, a sketchbook, and an item list card. Draw one of the objects (such as a shipwreck, a rhinoceros, or a typewriter) and then pass the sketchbook to the next player, who must guess the object and draw their own interpretation. By the end of the round, what started out as, say, a “basketball hoop” can turn into a “submarine,” as happened in one round with my family. Telestrations are a fun, loud game — especially if you have a large group — and are great for many kids 10 and up, said Brian Mayer, a New York-based play, learning and library expert.
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There is something mesmerizing and relaxing about watching the moving bubbles of brightly colored wax in a lava lamp. Sometimes my kids and I stare at our kids and try to guess the shapes made by the spots, like a tree, a cat or…a fish. It takes a while for the lamp to heat up and the wax to start moving, but once it does, the lamp will light up any room. Choose one of your 10-year-old’s favorite colors to complement her taste (Lava the Original lights come in a variety of colors and styles). These lights get hot, so they’re probably not a good choice for very young children. Remember to turn them off at night and let them cool between uses to keep the wax smooth.
A portable, packable hammock is always a winner for camping or vacations, but it can also create a cozy and private corner for your child to hang out in your backyard while reading or daydreaming. After testing 10 low-profile hammocks, our favorite was the ENO SingleNest Hammock. It’s compactly packed and weighs only one pound, but when placed between two trees (or other supports) it turns into a comfortable sling.
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