An eighth birthday could be the last hurrah before Amazon vouchers or stone cold cash is the entirety of their wish list, but that of course does make it a tricky age to buy for.
They’re starting to outgrow some toys and technology is becoming the order of the day. But they’re still young and constantly consuming information at every turn. So why not tap into something that broadens their knowledge, such as an unputdownable book, or a gift that hones in on a talent or passion?
Or you may want to consider buying something that draws their attention away from the computer screen – like an old-fashioned board game or something outdoorsy. That way everyone in the family can get involved.
That’s why we’ve put a whole host of gifts to the test that will suit a mix of personalities, interests and budgets. We paid particular attention to those that will be used often – rather than opened and forgotten about before the month is up.
We also wanted the gifts we found to still subtly educate our 8-year-old, but wouldn’t dampen the fun. We wanted the presents you give to provide memories that could last a lifetime, and with those teenage days getting that bit closer, we think we’ve really found some gems.
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Amazon Fire HD 8 kids edition tablet
Amazon’s latest kids’ tablet is a power to be reckoned with. Faster than ever before, with up to 12 hours of battery life, this 8in device boasts 32GB of storage and enhanced wifi, and can be charged using a USB. It comes with a “kidproof” case with built-in stand – choose from pink, blue or purple – and, if that’s not enough assurance for clumsy hands, then the two-year worry-free guarantee might sway you: if they break it, you can simply return it and get a replacement for free.
More importantly though, this was an absolute triumph with our eight-year-old tester. It fit perfectly in their hands, and it’s incredibly durable, so you won’t have the same fears you might when passing over your iPad. It also comes with a free unlimited subscription to Amazon’s Fire for Kids app for a year (£1.99 a month after that), which allows them to browse and download from a curated, age-appropriate selection of games, video, books and audiobooks – for us it was the icing on the birthday cake.
If you’re hesitant about starting them on technology young, this comes with great in-depth parental controls. You can limit screen time, set educational goals, set a bedtime and put an age limit on content. They also can’t access social media or the internet, so there’s no fear of pesky in-app purchases either. All in all we love this kids edition tablet. It’s a walled garden that allows them to learn and have fun in a safe and controlled environment.
Lego City town center
We were totally impressed with this 790-piece set and couldn’t believe quite how far the Danish construction toy has come. We loved all the little intricacies of this set – from the new mother complete with baby carrier to the spinning washer brushes at the car wash and the miniature bottles for the recycling bins. It’s so fun and playful that we enjoyed constructing it just as much, and maybe even more-so, than our eight-year-old.
They loved completing the look by building the roads then racing the vehicles around them. We went old school and used the printed instructions which, on the whole, our tester used independently, but there’s also the option to use the Lego Building Instructions app on your phone or tablet, which we’d recommend for younger builders. What’s great about this set is that you can combine it with others in the range to expand it, so Christmas could be sorted too.
‘Maps of the United Kingdom' by Rachel Dixon and Livi Gosling, published by Wide Eyed Editions
Whether your child is a geography enthusiast, history buff or culture champion, this book is sure to please. It gives children the chance to travel through and explore England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales (something we’re all craving right about now) all while filling their boots with vast Blighty knowledge.
The colourful maps are filled with a variety of ditties from the quirky to proud historic moments, and our eight-year-old tester loved finding out about where famous UK actors and singers were born too. It also offers nuggets of information on everything from the best look-out points in Edinburgh to the discovery of the Scilly Shrew on the isles off Cornwall.
Playfully illustrated and thoughtfully considered, Maps of The United Kingdom has struck the balance so well; it has so much to offer without being intimidating or dull. It’s a beautiful hardback edition, which makes a wonderful gift. Explore more than 1,000 highlights from the British Isles: just don’t be surprised when a request to visit a far-flung ancient abbey comes your way.
Micro Scooters maxi micro deluxe pro scooter
Let them whizz around in style with a birthday gift to remember: the maxi micro deluxe pro scooter. It’s designed to last and we’d expect nothing less from the company which invented the original folding two-wheeler scooter.
It’s designed for those aged five to 12 years, and we love the retro Chopper-style handlebars and the chunky sports wheels that complete the look. While these features look the part they also deliver on ride-ability, as the thick wheels allow for better stability. You can easily adjust the handlebar length (extending up to 91cm) as they grow so you can ensure this scooter will be a sidekick way past their eighth birthday.
Though it might not look it, this is a pretty addictive buy. If your eight-year-old loves challenges and brain teasers, and is a bit of a fidget, then this is the game for them. On paper, it aims to help with development of fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, concentration and problem-solving skills, and balance is, of course, the big one. In reality, though, it’s just a whole lot of fun.
The objective of the handheld toy is to get the rotating magnetic discs to stack up by gently moving your wrist. It might sound a doddle, but we assure you it’s not. Our eight-year-old tester immediately took on the challenge, and while it required a few attempts, it was something that she wanted to complete and wouldn’t rest until she had.
If you manage to smash that challenge, then you can try with a different hand or by placing the toy upside down, which is still defeating us. This simple toy consists of eight wooden discs with magnets in, and we love how it keeps you coming back for more. Simple but timeless.
Janod bohemian multi-row bracelets
If arts and crafts are a passion of your present receiver, then this creative kit from chic French brand Janod should do the trick nicely. With materials to make two multi-row bracelets, there’s a mix of charms, beads and everything needed to connect the pieces, plus an instruction booklet to follow. Concentration is required, but our eight-year-old revelled in the task, making a bracelet for herself and one for her best friend.
Tarmak B100 kids’/adults’ basketball basket
If your soon-to-be-eight-year-old has bucketloads of energy and a passion for shooting hoops then this is sure to take their birthday to new heights... literally. The Tarmak B100 may be just shy of £120 – and we don’t deny this is a pretty hefty birthday present – but we see it as an investment piece and the quality is second to none.
It took us just under an hour to set up and we were immediately impressed with how professional it looked. It had great stability – thanks to the 46l base which can be filled with water or sand – and the post is made from super-sturdy metal. The backboard is 32mm thick as well, meaning when the ball hits it, you’ll get a good rebound.
Best of all, this present will grow and evolve with them. You have the option of five different playing heights, starting at 2.20m for kids aged eight and older, through to 3.05m, which is the height of a professional hoop. It means everyone has the chance to play and our eight-year-old has used it every day for the past two weeks so it’s well worth the money.
Converse white made with love Chuck Taylor all star hi tops trainers
At eight-years-old, kids’ sartorial desires come thick and fast, and as they start to develop their own fashion sense, they’ll certainly want a cool pair of kicks to complete the look. Everyone needs at least one pair of Converse in their life, and these Chuck Taylor hi tops are the sweetest on the market. They come with heart-emblazoned laces and embroidery details at the heel, and there’s even a hidden heart print on the sole. These birthday trainers will have them running, skipping and dancing through the celebrations.
Smartivity music machine
Building and music enthusiasts unite with the Smartivity music machine. This is a toy like no other... and we think it’s a bit Marmite, but if your child has an abundance of concentration and patience they’ll relish in the challenge. As this is a DIY kit the assembly is a big part of its draw, and it took our eight-year-old tester just over two hours to build, and while adult help was required from time to time, the result is oh-so-satisfying. Made from laser-cut engineered wood, this is a sustainable choice, but also an educational one.
Once the machine is built, young musicians can work their way through the supplied music book or freestyle with their own masterpieces. Simply place the black plastic pegs in the wooden barrel, as the handle is turned the pegs tap on the metal bars and make them vibrate with sound. It’s fascinating to see in action.
We were pleased that there’s also a special peg keeper compartment (which also requires assembly), keeping all the extra pegs safe and away from the vacuum nozzle. If your child is a construction champion they’ll love the challenge and the result!
ZooBooKoo educational world football cubebook
Football fanatics will love filling their curious minds as they follow the arrows on this cubebook to reveal stats and fun footy facts. From finding out about top goal scorers to regional championship winners, we love the way ZooBooKoo has laid out this book, giving child-friendly bitesize nuggets of information, and the cube design keeps reading fun. Designed for those aged seven plus, there are 12 “pages” to navigate, and the top-quality rip-resistant paper and long-life hinges will keep it in one piece – even for the most aggressive page turner.
Projex projecting game arcade
Projex is an arcade-style game that doesn’t require a screen: just a dark room with a blank wall. There are five built-in games and three skill levels to master challenging your speed and accuracy. Play solo, head-to-head or team up to blast the targets as they move across the wall and check out your score on the LED screen. There are three interchangeable image slides to choose from (ducks, targets or UFOs) each playing different sound effects, and all offering plenty of fun in that typical arcade fashion.
You’ll need to place the projector about five feet away, and make sure you choose a lightly coloured wall, plus the darker you can get the room, the better. It was refreshing to see something that didn’t require logins and tag names, in fact it filled us with nostalgia from simpler gaming times... fun at its best! One thing we did notice is that you’ll need to buy four AA batteries, which tend to drain quite quickly.
The verdict: Gifts for 8-year-olds
We can’t fault Amazon’s Fire HD 8 kids edition tablet. While we were uncertain about gifting an eight-year-old with a tech device, this is safe, built to last and something that filled our tester with a smile from ear to ear, performing just as well for weekend gaming as it does for school Zoom calls.
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