The best toys for 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds and up

Looking for the perfect present for a child? Here’s our pick of the best toys available right now. We’ve not just selected the biggest-selling, highest-profile toys and games, but also found you some less obvious choices that your kids will love.
All of the toys below have been tested and approved by our very own team of little testers, while we adults have observed the play value, tracked how much interest children maintained in the toy over time, and perhaps most importantly, weighed up value for money. Here you’ll find a trove of toys that tick all the boxes, and we’ve separated our recommendations into broad age groups – three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds, six and seven-year olds and eight-years-plus – to make it easier to find the ideal toy.
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Our original article continues below.
What types of toys are best for what ages?
Newborns may not be able to play actively, but newborns soon start taking an interest in the world around them. Bold geometric black and white shapes fascinate younger babies, but you only have to watch them around bright colours to see they get a kick out of those too. Suspending toys such as crib mobiles and playmats are good for tiny tots; once they can sit up, go for anything they can move around or get a reaction from. Basic toys with textures, sounds and lights will prove a big hit, but then again so will a simple rattle.
Looking for baby toys? Then click here to read our guide to the best baby toys
Toddlers love sorting and building, as well as anything they can push, pull or sit on – especially if it makes a noise. Imaginative roleplay kicks in now too – cooking, cleaning, driving, using a phone etc – so miniature versions of household items are always welcome, as are dolls. Basic musical instruments are good, as well as basic puzzles and bath toys – just make sure they’re age-appropriate.
For kids aged 3-5 roleplay really comes into its own, so dressing-up outfits and toys will go down a treat. Creative and messy play is also popular: paints, crayons, Play-Doh and basic craft materials will be well received, as will anything to do with water and sand. Also consider action toys, musical instruments, large-scale construction toys (such as Duplo and Playmobil) and vehicle sets. Children of this age can also cope with basic games and jigsaws, as well as interactive electronic toys.
Kids aged 5-7 will by now be developing their own interests – which might mean anything from action figures and dolls to basic science or crafts. They may start to take an interest in sports or computer games. Kids of this age often get a real kick out of remote-control toys, as well as board games that include some strategy. There are many good active toys aimed at this age group, such as Nerf guns.
Kids aged 8 and over may be quite settled in their chosen sports or hobbies, and have longer attention spans, so they can appreciate gifts that take time to master. More intricate construction, model and craft sets may go down well, as can computer and board games that give them a sense of mastery and competence. Some children will enjoy elaborate STEM-related toys, including robotics-related projects.
What about gender?
Don’t assume that cars are just for boys and dolls are only for girls. Toys focused on action, construction and technology help kids of both sexes learn spatial skills and problem-solving, while toys focused on role play help them learn about social skills. Both boys and girls need to develop in all these areas, and research shows that if they’re left to their own devices, they enjoy all of them.
How much should I spend?
A high price doesn’t necessarily mean more enjoyment – especially not with younger kids. Think before you splash out on larger toys too, as storage space can quickly become a problem. And remember, only buy toys from reputable outlets, and make sure that what you buy is suitable for the child’s specific age range, particularly if you’re buying for a child under three.
The best toys for 3-year-olds and up
Early Learning Centre Adventure Train Set: A beautiful wooden train set
£15, Buy now from ELC

With 100 pieces, including a magnetic train and other vehicles, this wooden train set is incredible value. As well as train tracks, you get a bridge, a police station, people, trees, signs, animals and – our testers’ favourite – a working magnetic crane. Traditional, chunky, colourful and durable, these pieces will withstand almost anything and there’s no reason the set shouldn’t last until the grandchildren come along. Our testers enjoyed setting it up as much as playing with it, although woe betide anyone who tries to tidy it away when they take a break.
Key details – Age range: 3+; Other colours/versions available?: Yes
Wicked Megabounce XTR: The ultimate bouncy ball
£6, Buy now

Do you know a kid who doesn’t love bouncy balls? Exactly. And so this, the bounciest ball ever, is the ultimate stocking-filler. Dropped onto a hard surface it bounces to 85% of its original height (a regulation basketball manages just 56%); throw it down hard and watch out birds – this thing goes seriously high into the sky. Available in red, blue and yellow, be prepared for it hitting the ceiling if you don’t get them playing it outside.
Key details – Age range: 3+; Other colours/versions available?: Yes
Sylvanian Families Starry Point Lighthouse: Best for imagination
£50, Buy now from Amazon

Sylvanians, if you don’t know, are those tiny animal figurines that have been around for decades, yet still hold their appeal. There’s so many to collect that once you start you’re pretty much set for Christmas and birthday presents for years to come. The all-new Starry Point Lighthouse doesn’t come cheap, but it boasts a great range of features, with imaginative play encouraged by getting the little creatures to watch the moon or stars (which kids can also do by projecting the included slides onto their bedroom ceiling). The lighthouse lights up too: it’s all reassuringly twee, and come with lots of tiny accessories, including a whale-shaped table and a pirate-ship shaped bed. Just be warned that some of the pieces really are minute.
Key details – Age range: 3+; Other colours/versions available?: Yes
Robo Alive: Best animal-themed toy
£10, Buy now from Argos

Any amphibian-loving child under the age of 10 will love this lifelike toy, with its glaring eyes, soft rubber tail and – this is the best bit – head-tilt sensor that makes it stop and search for prey when you tilt its head. There’s a snake available in the range too, with moving eyeballs and equally realistic movements, which kids can get to silently slither up to the rellies on Christmas Day, giving them the shock of their life. You’ll need to buy batteries separately and don’t expect too much of it – it doesn’t respond to your movements, for example – but for fifteen quid, it’s is a good mid-priced toy that will guarantee amusement (and probably a few shrieks) for Christmas and beyond.
Key details – Age range: 3+; Other colours/versions available?: Yes
Early Learning Centre Four-in-One Games Table: Best for multiple games
£40, Buy now from ELC

If you’re thinking of treating your child to a football or snooker table, check out this more comprehensive alternative that includes both, plus table tennis and hockey – and all the accessories you need to get playing. At 198cm x 48cm (and standing 65cm high) it’s the perfect size for little ones, and suitably sturdy and colourful too. It might start to feel a bit cramped by the time they reach six or so, but that’s a good few years of play value and it’s great for building hand-to-eye coordination.
Key details – Age range: 3+; Other colours/versions available?: Yes
The best toys for 4-year-olds and up
Smoby Black & Decker Ultimate Workbench: The best action toy
Price: £82.99 | Buy now from Early Learning Centre

Four-year-olds love role play, make believe, making things and enhancing their fine motor skills. But probably most of all, they just love to copy mum and dad. All of which combines to make this realistic toy workbench a dream-come-true for this age group. This one comes with oodles of tools – including a saw, drill, hammer, simple spanner, screwdriver, pliers, elbow spanner and a tool for the bench vice – plus screws, nuts, a ruler and a pushing nail function. It’s more robust than others on the market and it’s easy to store all the bits and pieces away. Plus, it has a real brand name behind it. Just give yourself plenty of time to assemble it.
Buy now from Early Learning Centre
Key features – Materials: plastic; Weight: 4.55kg; Age range: 3+
My First ABC Brainbox: The best educational toy
Price: £10.99 |  Buy now from Amazon for £9.45

Gary Wyatt came up with the idea for the Brainbox range when he spent far too much time stuck in traffic on his commute. As he started passing time creating words from numbers, then making words from the letters, then linking them to animals, he realised he was onto something. Sixteen years later, the range boasts 40 products sold across 57 countries. This one is an easy-to-play, fun educational game that’s designed by a primary school teacher to improve early literacy, observation and memory skills – and it was an instant hit with our four-year-old testers who felt really grown-up playing it and couldn’t wait to get stuck in again the next day. And all the while, it’s clear they are learning, especially when it comes to phonics. Education as its finest.
Key features – Materials: 70% recycled card; Age range: 4+
Play-Doh Cranky the Octopus: The best toy for messy play
Price: £16.99 |  Buy now from Amazon for £11.99

Any parent worth their salt will find themselves ensuring their household never runs out of Play-Doh in their kids’ younger years. Other modelling clays are available, but – let’s face it – they just don’t cut the mustard when it comes to vibrant colours and ultra-pliable dough, or have the same wide range of accessories. With this kit, you can even spice things up a bit, which is ideal for four-year-olds who are ready to progress from stackable pots and biscuit cutters. First your children pack the octopus with dough, then they turn the crank to make it grow long tentacles (cue squeals of laughter). What’s more, the clamshell and treasure chests can be opened into moulds to make pearl rings and gold doubloons. On top of this, you get a range of accessories designed to get young imaginations running wild. Great messy play and amazing value.
Key features – Materials: recycled card, modelling clay, plastic; Age range: 3+
FurReal Roarin’ Tyler the Playful Tiger: The best electronic toy
Price: £134.99 | Buy now from Argos

At first glance, Tyler looks like a cuddly little tiger cub – one for youngsters to cuddle up to as they go to sleep. But believe us, you won’t want this anywhere near your little cherub at night time unless you want them to be up all night playing. You will, however, be very grateful for it during the day when it will become their virtual pet – ideal for four-year-olds, who are exploring and learning to express their emotions. With over 100 sound-and-motion combinations, Tyler responds to both voice and touch, as well as being extremely huggable. This toy doesn’t come cheap, but the advanced technology really makes this come alive for young imaginations and they’ll love stroking his ears and tickling his tummy to see his reactions. You’ll need batteries, but once in, Tyler is good to go. He even comes with his own pet toy that he plays with too.
Buy now from Argos
Key features – Materials: plastic, fabrics; Age range: 4+
ELC Key Boom Board: The best music toy
Price: £40 | Buy now from Early Learning Centre

Many four-year-olds love nothing more than to sing, dance and, well, do anything that involves music. With this toy, they can actually make the music with their own recordable music station. Featuring animal sounds, demo and learning songs, drum sounds and rhythms, it’s set up so children can DJ, drum, record and sing – and the stool and stand are both included, along with the detachable microphone. There’s some fantastic detail for younger kids, including our favourite – the ‘light up’ drum pads that help your child keep up – and you can attach an MP3 player too. Don’t forget the batteries – you’ll need four AAs – and don’t expect it to be the most robust bit of kit. It won’t last forever, but it will works straight out of the box to see them through a year or two (or more) of heavy use.
Key features – Materials: plastic; Weight: 1kg; Age range: 3+
Buy now from Early Learning Centre
Le Toy Van Doctor Set: The best toy for fantasy play
Price: £40

Truth is, most kids aged two upwards would get excited by this. Find us a child, after all, who doesn’t like playing doctors in their preschool years? But we think this doctors’ kit comes into its own around four-years-old, when children can get stuck into slightly more complex role play. And while there are seemingly infinite doctors’ kits available, this one stands out for its vintage style and beautifully made wooden medical instruments including a toy stethoscope, thermometer, syringe, blood pressure gauge, ear scope, reflex hammer, scissors and two medicine bottles – all of which pack away into the cute bag provided. Imaginative play doesn’t get much more exciting.
Key features – Materials: wood and fabric; Weight: 812g; Age range: 3+
Buy now from Jojo Maman Bebe
ELC Cash Register: Best for playing shops
Price: £25 | Buy now from Early Learning Centre

Playing shops is right up there as the favourite sociable imaginary play for littluns. At four, your child should be able to progress onto introducing some more realistic features than just toddling around with a shopping basket, making this plastic cash register the perfect addition. It’s colourful and gets kids doing some basic sums and used to handling money. They even get a scanner (our tester’s favourite bit) thrown in, along with a credit card, play money and some food. The working microphone is also popular with your preschool tykes (‘Mummy to the till, please, Mummy to the till’). To our horror, there’s a pink one available (does a cash register really need to be gendered?) but this one is an excellent choice and likely to be a big hit with any friends that come around to play. It requires three AA batteries, which are included.
Key features – Materials: plastic; Weight: 946g; Age range: 3+
Buy now from Early Learning Centre
The best toys for 5-year-olds and up
Laser X Two-Player Pack: Best competitive toy
£44, Buy now from Amazon

Laser Tag is a game that never goes out of style and here’s a great, affordable set for kids. The concept is simple: if you’re blasted by your opponent’s gun – which works up to 60 metres away with impressive accuracy – then your vest changes colour. Get hit ten times and you’re out. It’s got plenty of effects – including lights, sounds and music, plus speech – making for a hi-tech gaming experience. The guns feel nice and solid, without being heavy, and the trigger has a satisfying responsive click. The vest, meanwhile, is held securely in place with stretchy elastic straps, with a power switch that doubles up as team selector. It’s not great in bright sunlight, but otherwise this is seriously good fun.
Key details – Age range: 6+; Other colours/versions available?: No
B Toys Pop Arty Jewellery: Best craft toy
£20, Buy now from Brightminds

There’s no shortage of jewellery-making kits available, but this award-winning one stands out because the pieces pops together so easily, making it much less fiddly than other kits. The parts are equally easy to unpop, so you can use it again and again. The booklet has some great ideas and you get a generous five bracelets and seven rings to which the pop-able parts can be attached. It’s a great, creative way to develop fine motor skills, and lots of fun too: our little testers cried (yes, really) when we told them it was time to put the kit away.
Key details – Age range: 4+; Other colours/versions available?: No
Hatchimals Surprise: Best interactive furry toy
£40, Buy Now from Amazon

Hatchimals were last year’s must-have Christmas toy; no surprise that the manufacturer has come up with all-new versions for Christmas 2017, including this one that contains twins. Once you’ve taken the egg out of the box, it takes around 20 minutes to hatch; after that, you “raise” these interactive furry friends, teaching them to walk, dance, play games and more. Our little testers’ favourite bit was the way the creatures interact with each other, even bickering. Not everyone is a fan – you may have seen a viral review from mum-of-two Kirsty Myerscough who deemed Hatchimals a complete rip-off. But while the toys certainly aren’t cheap, this double-bubble version undeniably gives you more bang for your buck. Parents will be very grateful for the shut-off button, however, as they can be noisy.
Key details – Age range: 5+; Other colours/versions available?: Yes
L.O.L. Surprise Series 2: Best collectable toy
£10, Buy now from Argos

There are no fewer than 45 dolls in the L.O.L. Surprise range – some rarer than others – and you won’t know which you’ve got until you peel off the first layer of wrapping, to reveal a message that gives a clue to the identity of the doll inside. Next you come to four collectable, emoji-like stickers which link to the things the doll might do – such as wee, spit, cry or change colour – and which can be stuck onto a collector poster. The next four layers reveal accessories and outfits, then finally you get the doll itself. Dressing the doll up and seeing what features they have got our testers pretty excited, and the ball doubles up as a carry-case, stand and lounge/diner. Great play value for the money, but be warned – they’re addictive, so expect to be hassled to buy more of them.
Key details – Age range: 6+; Other colours/versions available?: Yes
Vtech Kidizoom Action Cam 180: Best tech toy
£53, Buy now from Argos

This robust camera with its rotatable lens lets kids take photos, record videos and play games. It even has a waterproof case for underwater pics – great fun for bathtime and on holidays in the pool – and it can be mounted to a scooter or bicycle so they can take photos on the move. It’s nice and lightweight, yet easy to use and impressively sturdy (we dropped it on purpose just to make sure). Our young testers loved playing with its special effects, particularly the slow and fast motion: “awesome” was the overall judgment.
Key details – Age range: 5+; Other colours/versions available?: No
The Original Stretch Armstrong: Best action figure
£19, Buy Now from Amazon

Here’s a retro toy that will give parents of a certain age a bit of nostalgia – while kids will have great fun discovering the world’s stretchiest action figure for the first time. Extend and pull him to up to four times his normal strength, then tie him in knots and watch in wonder as he uses his superhuman strength to return to his original shape. As his original size is about 15 inches, that means you can stretch him out to a whopping four or five feet. No wonder this toy was such a hit in the 1970s – and it’s just as fab today.
Key details – Age range: 5+; Other colours/versions available?: No
The best toys for 8-year-olds and up
Nerf Nitro Longshot Smash: Best blasting toy
£20, Buy now from Argos

“Not another Nerf gun, please!” is what you might well be thinking – but wait. This one is a damn sight cheaper than most Nerf guns, and instead of encouraging little boys to mow down their siblings, it’s designed for setting up long-distance jumping stunts, using the foam cars, ramp and obstacles provided. Just blast a car at the ramp and it’ll soar through the air towards a grand crash-landing into the barrels. An excellent variation on a popular theme.
Key details – Age range: 8+; Other colours/versions available?: Yes
Geosafari Vega 360 Telescope: Best astronomy-themed toy
£38, Buy Now from Amazon

This first telescope is a wonderful way to introduce youngsters to astronomy. It’s specially designed for small hands, and is very lightweight and portable – yet the quality of vision was much better than we expected, giving a clear view of the moon through the small viewing area, as well as the planets and stars. It’s easy to set up, and comes with a tripod, two eyepieces with different magnification factors and a longer extender eyepiece for viewing earthbound objects. You can get cheaper telescopes, but this one hits the sweet spot for quality and price. Just note that it could be a bit sturdier – you’ll definitely need the tripod to hold it still.
Key details – Age range: 8+; Other colours/versions available?: No
Rubik’s Original Cube: Best classic toy
£13, Buy now from Argos

Ernő Rubik’s colourful little cube is the world’s best-selling toy, shifting more than 350 million units since its heyday in the 1980s. With over 43 quintillion moves possible, it remains a fascinating and absorbing puzzle, and worldwide competitions take place year after year as more and more young people get addicted. You can buy cheaper imitations, but they always seem to lack the smoothness and durability of the original.
Key details – Age range: 8+; Other colours/versions available?: No
Anki Cozmo Robot: Best STEM toy
£200, Buy now from John Lewis

At two hundred big ones, your child may need to be really angelic to get this for Christmas, but it’s a clear winner among STEM toys. Created by a team of roboticists, animators and developers, Cozmo is great fun not just for kids but adults too. Designed to want to play, he’s like one of those pet robots you see in the movies, with a personality that draws you in from the off and seemingly endless capabilities. Facial recognition enables Cozmo to learn who he’s talking to (although he occasionally muddled our children up) and there’s no shortage of games to play with him. Robust, portable, funny and adorable, Cozmo is a great addition to the family – though note that you will need a Wi-Fi connection to make him work.
Key details – Age range: 8+; Other colours/versions available?: No
Nikko RC Pyscho Gyro: Best remote-control toy
£26, Buy now from Argos

Available in blue and green, this remote-control car puts on quite a show, with serious speed and stunt capabilities, such as spinning around on one wheel. The high-grip tyres mean it works on most hard surfaces both inside and out, and we found the controller easy to use and very responsive, so you feel in complete control of the drive. The range is decent too, at 40m, and if your child’s friends get one too, then up to ten cars can race at once. It’s perhaps rather noisier than we’d like, but it’s not as if the kids mind.
Key details – Age range: 8+; Other colours/versions available?: Yes

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