In the elementary school years, kids are growing and learning SO much. To support all that learning, it’s absolutely essential that they get time with open-ended toys. Plus, kids simply have more fun when they play with battery-free toys!
RELATED: Open Ended Toys that Encourage Imaginative Play
Between school time (whether in-person or virtual learning), video games, and iPads, kids are on screens more and more as they get older. But they’re definitely not too big to play! It’s vital that they decompress with imaginative, creative toys.
RELATED: 7 fun ways to limit screen time for kids
While some toys (like simple blocks) are great for any age, a lot of new possibilities open up as kids reach the elementary school years. They have better fine motor skills, (hopefully) don’t shove small parts in their mouth anymore, and are able to play more nuanced pretend games. If you haven’t broadened their toy collection since they were little, now’s a good time!
Whether you’re looking for a battery free toy holiday gift guide, or the perfect no battery toys for a elementary aged kid’s birthday, these toys are all great gifts for an imaginative child from ages 6-10.
Read on to see which battery free toys are best for your big kid to encourage open-ended, creative play.
Blocks and STEM toys
You can never go wrong with blocks. Blocks are perfect for building towers for dolls and figures to live in, and they grow with your child. Plus, if you’re wanting to give your kids a solid foundation in spacial orientation and building (great for math and engineering), blocks are where it’s at.
As kids get older and able to build more intricate structures, blocks can become more interesting. Read on to learn about our family’s favorite styles of blocks.
Magna-Tiles are a big hit in our home! Each block edge has little magnets (sealed away very well) that allow you to put the tiles together edge-to-edge. Preschoolers will love building different structures with them, as well as recognizing colors and shapes. I love this new set with quarter circles and windows.
(Note: You can find cheaper alternatives to Magna-Tiles at big-box stores, but they don’t work as well. The magnets aren’t as strong, so structures fall down. It’s worth the investment to just go with Magna-tiles.)
Legos are a classic for good reason. You can build all sorts of structures with them, and they come in more colors now than when we were kids. I loved building with Legos as a child, and I’m excited to let my kids start using them too (we have an infant right now who is at the perfect age to stick them in his mouth).
This set comes in a nice case to keep your Legos together, but if you’re looking for a different way to keep your Legos together, I’ve written a post on how to sew your own drawstring Lego Play mat.
RELATED: DIY Lego bag and play mat – no sewing machine needed
This Lego mat is especially useful for sets like these:
Nesting rainbow stacker
If you’re looking for something more unique for your kids to play with, check out a rainbow stacker.
This beautiful set of nesting arcs can be arranged all sorts of ways to make roads for cars, homes for small stuffed animals or peg people, towers, and more.
Spoiler alert: Rainbow stackers aren’t just fun for kids. I have fun playing with this toy. Making designs with it is soothing.
I really love the Grimm’s Rainbow Stacker (it’s what we have). It is truly a piece of craftsmanship, cut from one solid piece of wood and hand-stained. The only problem? It can be pricey. Sometimes you can catch them on sale for less than $100, and if you do, you should snatch it up. Lately, I’ve seen them around $200, and I just have a hard time suggesting you pay that much for a set of blocks, no matter how lovely it is.
In case Grimm’s rainbow is not available at a good value, this nesting rainbow is also well made (although it has a glossier finish instead of a satiny matte) and a fraction of the price.
K’nex are hands-on fun alternative to Legos. Instead of focus on building structures, it’s more about building moving machines (great if you’re looking for STEM toys).
Full disclosure: Most K’nex come with battery-operated motors. But the point of K’nex is to build something you can put the motor in last, not to let the toy play for your child.
Just like with Legos, you can either get a large basic set, or you can get a set with instructions designed for building a specific project. It’s up to you.
Whether your child is into amusement park rides, Jeeps, or architecture, there’s a K’nex for them.
Mindware Marble Run
My kids LOVE playing with marble runs. My older girls build runs, and then my 3 year old will send a marble down over and over.
While there are a lot of great marble run brands out there, we’ve always enjoyed the Mindware brand. The parts connect well (and easily) to each other and the marbles don’t fall out (they also come with several marbles). Plus, there are plenty of add-on sets to get (which we ended up doing).
Ravensburger jigsaw puzzles
While maybe not a traditionally “STEM” toy, jigsaw puzzles are great for kids to learn patience and problem solving, great skills for STEM.
Ravensburger puzzles are especially well made. You know how some puzzle pieces warp as they age, and some boxes don’t even come with all the pieces? That doesn’t happen with Ravensburger. They have a really nice blue backing that interlocks perfectly.
Plus, Ravensburger puzzles come in many sizes. We prefer 100 pieces for our kids, but they offer up to well over 1000 pieces (in case you want your own puzzle).
It’s good to have large stuff that your children can play and climb on. Especially when you’re stuck indoors on a rainy day, it’s a good way to let your kids burn off some energy. Here’s my favorites for big kids.
Elementary age kids will love this hopper ball for bouncing around an open area. Our kids each have a ball at my in-law’s house and they have a blast with them.
Have you ever seen Step-a-Logs? These short balance beams are connected to one another, so your child can step from one to the next. Once your child becomes confident with the balance beams close to one another, you can move them farther apart for a little more difficulty (and a lot more fun).
Straw connectors are kind of like large K’nex – but they’re flexible so kids can build arches or straight walls either one.
Straw constructors are a great way for kids to build forts – just add a blanket on top after. Perfect for a rainy day when you’re stuck indoors.
Dolls and stuffed animals
Dolls and stuffed animals are great for girls and boys. There are a bunch of great options out there.
I most like to let my kids play with stuffed animals and dolls that aren’t from a particular movie or cartoon. That way, their play is most wide open to imagination. That’s why I love these sets of dolls and stuffed animals.
Baby Stella Dolls from the Manhattan Toy Company
Baby Stella is a particular type of doll with a happy little face and cuddly body. There are boy and girl dolls available from the Manhattan Toy Company. If your child is more into soft, snuggly dolls, they’ll love these.
This little guy from the Manhattan Toy Company holds a special place in my heart. In our home, his name is simply “Baby,” and my oldest son got him for his first birthday. The pacifier is magnetic and will stick to Baby’s mouth.
And of course, there are several adorable little girl dolls too. Really, the only hard part about these dolls is how to pick from this super-cute collection.
Plus, Baby Stella dolls have a bunch of cute little clothes to accessorize with. Make sure you check those out!
And if you have a baby doll, your child will love having a stroller to roll it around in.
It is surprisingly difficult to find a doll stroller that is not super pink (not that there’s anything wrong with pink, but if you want a different color, it may be hard to find. However, this little denim doll stroller fits the bill nicely. It’s well made to withstand wear and tear, and it even comes with a little buckle so kids can strap their “babies” in their seat.
If you’re a family where you carry babies in a wrap or sling, your preschooler will love having their own baby carrier for their dolls. This one comes in several sweet prints.
Glitter girl dolls
If your child likes dolls that look a little older (but not too old, if you know what I mean), Glitter Girls might be for you. Your child can play pretend with these and imagine themselves in the situations they put the dolls into, which is great for helping them process emotions.
Glitter Girls are a great lower-cost alternative to American Girl Wellie Wishers, which are beautiful but around $40-$60 each, or American Girl dolls, which are well above $100.
The only issue with Glitter Girl dolls: They are supposed to have posable arms and legs, but several reviewers said they didn’t. But given that most other dolls don’t either, that’s not a big deal if you’re okay with it.
Do you remember Puppy Surprise from when we were kids, where the mother dog was pregnant with either 3, 4, or 5 puppies?
(BTW, Puppy Surprise has made a comeback! It just annoys me that they ONLY come in pink or purple. There were brown and black/white ones when we were kids).
Nursing Nana is similar. She comes with 3 puppies, but the really cool thing is the puppies and her each have little magnets that allow them to latch on and “nurse.” Plus, I prefer the more realistic colors.
Wild Republic stuffed animals
Wild Republic stuffed animals are my favorite. They’re detailed, cuddly, and super cute. Plus, they include a bunch of different animals from around the world.
Whether your 6-10 year old wants a honey badger (yes, really), a giant squid, or a baby penguin, Wild Republic has you covered.
Plus, there are dinosaurs (our own stegosaurus and T. rex are creatively named Spike and Bite, respectively), extinct animals, and more imaginatively colored stuffed animals (mint green tiger cub, anyone?) if you prefer. Your child can create a whole zoo from these stuffed animals.
Beginner board games
Sure, you can struggle through board games with a 4 year old (or just let them do whatever they want with the pieces), but playing board games with bigger kids is when it actually becomes fun. Plus, games like these develop your elementary aged kid’s number sense, problem solving, and critical thinking skills.
If you’re the type who loves Settlers of Catan, you’ll be super excited about Catan Junior, a pirate-themed version of the game set on a ring of islands.
Kids use ships and hide-outs instead of roads and settlements as they race to get resources while avoiding the dreaded Ghost Captain. Resources are more evenly distributed in this game and building rules are simplified compared to the original. But there’s still plenty of opportunity for kids to think carefully about their next move!
I’ve spent many an after-school afternoon playing Catan Junior with my six year old and we love it. I look forward to her siblings getting bigger so we can all play together.
Sneaky Snacky Squirrel
The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game is a big favorite around here. While it’s on the easier end (preschool siblings can play along), it’s still fun for older kids too!
While the spinner involves a large strategy element for the Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game, there’s strategy involved too: You can sometimes steal another player’s acorn, so you have to think about which one you should choose.
Yeti in my Spaghetti
Yeti in My Spaghetti is a quick, silly, and fun game that will have everyone giggling. A little yeti sits on top of a bowlful of “spaghetti,” and players must take turns removing one noodle at a time, careful not to let the yeti fall into the bowl.
Yeti in My Spaghetti is marketed as 4 and up, but honestly? Sometimes my husband and I play it when the kids are in bed.
We love Dinosaur Escape from Peaceable Kingdom in our home. First of all, there’s dinosaurs (always a win), but secondly, it’s cool because it’s a cooperative game. In this matching game, everyone works together to survive, or else the volcano takes out your dinosaurs.
Toy cars for 6-10 year olds
Cars are classic toys for kids with good reason. Here are some favorites for the big kid set.
Hot Wheels, with their smaller 1:64 scale, are often preferred by elementary aged kids. Plus, the detail and colors of these cars is great.
For even more fun, kids can build this vertical launch kit for their cars. This track is up to 50 inches tall and awesome for launching cars down.
And if you’re looking for a flat surface for your kids to play with their cars, you might want a road playmat like this one from KC Cubs. The backing doesn’t allow the mat to slide around on hard floors, and also because it combines my kids’ love of both cars and dinosaurs.
Pretend play is vital for kids as they get older. It’s a great way for kids to connect and have fun together, or just to enjoy time on their own. Here are some of our favorite toys for pretend play.
My kids have so much fun pretending with Schliech figures. They are beautiful and well made. They have several types, including horses, farm animals, wildlife, and more fantasy type characters.
We recently got some beautiful unicorns and fairies from their Bayala set and they are so much fun (like, I enjoy playing with them too). I wish I had these when I was a kid!
But seriously, listening to my kids play and come up with adventures for their Bayala unicorns is really wonderful. They’re better for kids 5 and up, so we keep them upstairs in my oldest daughter’s room. She knows that they are special toys and treats them respectfully.
If you’re looking for more menacing (but still beautifully detailed) characters, the Eldrador line might be more for your kids. I’m hoping mine show interest in characters like these one day too, because they’re awesome.
Pretend vet’s kit
If your child likes animals, she will love to play vet. This vet set comes with a dog and carrier, as well as pretend medical equipment.
Doctor’s play set
Or maybe your child prefers a doctor’s kit to treat human patients.
Note: I like this set from Fisher Price because it comes with a well-made bag. After our kids have had a few kits over the years, I’ve seen plenty with bags that fall apart after a few months.
Kid sized tools
If your big kid wants to help in the garage but needs tools more her size, she’ll love this tool kit, weighted and sized for small hands.
Like I said, this tool set isn’t just a toy! These are real tools of good quality, just small enough for your kids to use easily.
Conclusions on my battery free toy gift guide for elementary aged kids
These no-battery toys are great options for your 6-10 year old this holiday season.
Make sure you grab my printable battery-free toy gift guide to make it easy to give suggestions to friends and family. Let me know what other toys for 6-10 year olds you wish were on this list!