Your 4 year old is developing greater self-control and ingenuity, and much higher degree of empathy – wanting to be a 'helper' or comfort those who are sad. They enjoy playing with other children their age, especially play where they can all pretend to be grown-ups or TV characters or superheroes and act out imaginary scenarios.


Which type of toys are best for 4 year olds?

At 4, your child's pretend play is getting more and more complex – and can go on and on and on... As well as being a way to try on different roles, like doctor or astronaut or teacher or rock star, make-believe play – with playsets and chid-size replicas of household objects – is also a way to act out emotions and explore feelings.

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Best toys for 4 year olds at a glance

  • Great for fine-finger skills: Play-Doh Kitchen Creations Ultimate Ice Cream Truck Playset, £99.99
  • Great for house-based role play: Gabby’s Purrfect Dollhouse, £69.99
  • Great for active play: Yvolution Twista Skates, £69.99
  • Great for school role play: Awesome Academy by Our Generation, £159.99
  • Great for superhero role play: Marvel’s Spidey and His Amazing Friends Flip and Jet, £15
  • Great for fairy adventures: My Fairy Garden Blossom Balloon, £19.99
  • Great for TV show role play: Octonauts Above and Beyond Octoray Playset, £45
  • Great for nurturing skills: Golden Bear Curlimals, £15
  • Great for astronaut role play: Great Little Trading Co. Wooden Space Toy, £60
  • Great for transforming fun: Super Wings World Aircraft Robot, £39.99
  • Great for musician role play: Little Tikes My Jam Electric Guitar, £39.99
  • Great for real cooking: Casdon Kenwood Mixer, £24.99
  • Great for trainset thrills: Thomas & Friends Trains & Cranes Super Tower, £89.99
  • Great for firefighter role play: Hape Fire Station, £69.99
  • Great for bubble thrills: Kindi Kids Poppi Pearl Bubble 'N' Sing, £15.99
  • Great for early literacy skills: Great Little Trading Co Alphabet Learning Toy, £36
  • Great for doctor role play: Barbie Fast Cast Clinic, £59.99
  • Great for dexterity: Fuzzikins Homemakers Family Home, £17.99
  • Great for logical thinking: Kid K'NEX Oodles of Pals, £30.99
  • Great for early maths skills: Spotty Sausage Dogs, £8.30
  • Great for family-trip role play: Playmobil Family Fun Family Camper, £66.95
  • Great budget buy: Galt Velvet Picture Animals, £2.99
  • Great for hospitality role play: Casdon Morphy Richards Kitchen Set, £15.99

Your child's ever-improving finger dexterity means they can hold pencils and colouring pens with a more mature grip, and better hand-eye coordination means they can do more complex puzzles and art or craft activities, and play with toys that have smaller parts or slightly fiddlier buttons to press.

Playing simple board games or games with other toys that involve sharing and taking turns are good to encourage. Your child will still find sharing hard: give them lots of praise when they do so willingly.

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How to choose toys safely

  • Look for the CE symbol as this is used by manufacturers to show the toy meets all the relevant regulatory requirements
  • Also keep an eye out for the British Toy and Hobby Association's (BTHA) 'Lion Mark' – although this is voluntary it means that the toy has to meet safety requirements to be a member 
  • Pay attention to the age suitability of the toy
  • Avoid toys with loose fabric, hair that sheds easily or small parts that detach easily as these can be a choking hazard
  • Check toys over time for sharp points or edges. If they have become dangerously worn considering getting rid of them or having them repaired if possible

Here is our pick of the best toys for 4 year olds, as tested by children and rated by their parents...

1. Play-Doh Kitchen Creations Ultimate Ice Cream Truck Playset, £99.99

– Great for fine-finger skills

Play Doh Kitchen Creations Ultimate ice cream truck playlet with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: L20cm x W62cm x H95cm | Batteries: 2 x AA (not included) | Awards: Editor's Choice, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

This big, almost small-person-height truck doesn't actually roll along (the wheels are pretend ones) but it is absolutely stuffed with features and accessories for squishing, scooping, moulding and serving up all manner of Play-Doh ice cream creations.

There's a (slightly stiff) musical soft-serve machine, a scooping station, a little cash register with a bell and – genius touch – a little rim on the countertop into which you can sweep (brush included) Play-Doh bits and collect them in a little 'bin' underneath.

There's no disputing this toy's wow factor. "My daughter squealed with delight when she first saw it," said Laura, mum of our child tester Amelie, 4. "She spends hours playing with it, making lollies, cones and desserts. It's been great for learning through play – embedding life skills, communication and numeracy."

Our other child tester, Alfie, 4 (pictured above), also spends hours making ice creams, and his mum Dee was impressed both by its size ("It's huge!") and by all its different compartments – including a lockable bin in the bonnet for stowing everything away after play.

Comes with 4 dishes, 6 cones, 2 lolly sticks, 2 rollers, 5 moulds, a scoop, a decorating tool, a knife, 3 spoons, a brush and 12 pots of Play-Doh (10 small and 2 large).

Available at: John Lewis and Next

2. Gabby’s Purrfect Dollhouse, £79.99

– Great for house-based role play

Gabby's Purrfect Dollhouse with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: L13cm x W56cm x H61cm | Batteries: 3 x AAA (not included) | Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

"Wow! It’s Gabby's house! I love it so much!" shouted our child tester Leyla (pictured above), who's nearly 4, as soon as this 4-storey playhouse was unpacked. And yes, it's an almost an exact replica of the house in the popular Netflix series and plays sounds, music and phrases from the show when you press the heart on the base.

There are 7 different rooms, a purple Cat-a-Vator that moves (a bit clunkily) between the floors and a mail tower, down which you can drop your 2 included Dollhouse Deliveries – small parcels with surprise accessories inside. There are also little surprises in the rooms (including in the toilet!), 8 pieces of furniture (we like the slide best) and a nicely sized (9cm) Gabby doll.

It is pricey for a plastic playhouse with good but not loads of furniture and accessories. But there's no denying the sheer amount of pleasure it's brought our child testers.

“Leyla's been playing with it every day for the past 3 weeks," said her mum Andrea. "Every time she sees an episode of the show, she goes back to her dollhouse and replicates it! The house is very bright and the wide variety of rooms lets children create infinite stories and play scenarios. Also, because of its size it’s a great toy to play alongside a sibling or friend"

Available at: Amazon, Argos and Selfridges

3. Yvolution Twista Skates, £69.99

– Great for active play

Yvolution twista skates with child tester Arthur

Age suitability: 2+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: Adjustable (max weight 20kg) | Batteries: None | Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

These funky-looking beginner roller skates cleverly convert, at the touch of a button, from learner mode with 2 wheels in a stabilising line at the back (as demo'd by our child tester Arthur, 4, above) to inline skate with all the wheels in a row (as in the pic of the red skate, above).

They also adjust in size over at least 4 shoe sizes, up to UK (child) size 12, so although they're pricier than your average child's roller skate, they will last your child for longer.

We were impressed by the noise-dampening, ultra-wear-resistant polyurethane wheels and the comfy, curved, well-padded boot that our child testers found easy to fasten and unfasten and adjust. Arthur did find it tricky to put his skates on at first but solved that by always putting on the insert sock before he put his foot in. "These skates are great!" he declared.

Rebecca, mum of our other child tester Esmae, 4, said, "The fact that these skates encourage young children to develop their balance and skill before adjusting to inline mode is excellen. And their quality of the skates is great."

Choose from Blue, Red, Green or Pink.

Available at: Amazon

4. Awesome Academy by Our Generation, £159.99

– Great for school role play

Awesome Academy by Our Generation with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: L51cm x W71cm x H53cm ‎| Batteries: 4 x AAA (included) | Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

Yes, it's very pricey but it's very big – and the amazing detail in this 68-piece schoolroom playset blew us away.

It has a real clock and a whiteboard that lights up, lockers outside with coat hooks, a fire alarm and school bell, classroom lights, blinds that come down and books with paper inside. In the little desks are highlighter pens, protractors, sticky notes and rulers and on the teacher's table is a mug, a pencil sharpener with a working handle, a pot plant, the class register, achievement certificates – and chalk that works for the chalkboard.

"This is the best toy EVER!" said our child tester Hettie, 5 (pictured above). "So much fun stuff to do – and play with. My dolls can go to school now just like me! My favourite part is all the little pens and books."

"This is the perfect toy for children who like to play school," Hettie's mum Becki added. "It has everything you could need and want for hours of fun. And it really encourages a child to use their imagination and play out all sorts of school scenarios."

Available at: Smyths Toys

4. Marvel’s Spidey and His Amazing Friends Flip and Jet, £15

– Great for superhero role play

Marvel's Spider and his Amazing Friends Flip and Jet with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: L17cm x W9cm x H9cm | Batteries: None | Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

Flipping easily from a car into a jet and back again, this Spidey-themed vehicle has a super cool rotating cockpit where Spidey can spin around, and the wheels that turns smoothly for floor-whizzing missions.

"I love it 1000 percent!" said our child tester Alfie, who's just turned 5 and is a big superhero fan. "It flies and it turns into a car! I can flip it round and round and round for superhero fun and Spiderman spins round in the car. I would play with this every day forever."

It’s robust and well-made – and a decent price for a licensed Marvel toy, as Denice, mum of our other child tester Malaki, 4 (pictured above) pointed out.

Available at: Argos, Incywincy Toys and Smyth Toys

5. My Fairy Garden Blossom Balloon, £19.99

– Great for fairy adventures

My Fairy Garden Blossom Balloon with child tester

Age suitability: 4+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: L6cm x W30cm x H27cm | Batteries: None | Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

A cross between a playset and activity kit, this little fairy garden features a fairy figure, spinning flowers and a hanging balloon with a petal canopy that folds up to reveal a pet dragon for your fairy.

It comes with coriander seeds that you can plant in the bowl (no compost included), a mini watering can and an activity book that includes a bird spotting guide and instructions for building a wind chime.

It is all quite plastic but the manufacturer does pledge to plant a tree for every 5 sets purchased. And we do love the herb-growing element – although one of our child testers was much more interested in turning the bowl into a fairy swimming pool than a seed bed!

"It's so cool. It's magic with the fairy and dragon," said our child tester Aurelia, 4 (pictured above). "I like that the balloon hangs and I can take it off and play with it, and I like that I can grow plants like Mummy."

Tanpreet, mum of our other child tester, Reeva, 5 said, "I love the idea of a really good playset that also teaches your child to love and care for plants. It's colourful, interactive and my daughter absolutely loves it – though it was a little tricky to assemble."

Available at: JD Williams and Hobbycraft

6. Octonauts Above and Beyond Octoray Playset, £45

– Great for TV show role play

Octonauts Above and Beyond Octoray Playset with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: L14cm x W52cm x H39cm (in HQ mode) | Batteries: 3 x AAA (included) | Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

This sturdy playset on wheels transforms from the Octoray jet transporter (pictured above, right) into a big Octonauts HQ (pictured with our child tester Ethan, 4, above left) with a drop-down ramp, working lift, lights and sounds.

It comes with Captain Barnacle, a detachable Mini-Ray for him to fly off in on his adventures, 3 creature figures (Chinese Sturgeon, Giant Salamander and Panda) and a mission card.

The sounds are good (just like the cartoon show) but the lights are a little underwhelming and we do wish there were another couple of Octonauts figures to join Captain Barnacle on his missions.

"I think this toy has a vast amount of play potential," said Ethan's mum Sam. "My little boy was so excited when it arrived and then he played with it all day, even carrying it up to his bedroom when it was time for sleep! It inspires such open-ended imaginative play."

Available at: Amazon and Argos

8. Curlimals Higgle the Hedgehog, £15

– Great for nurturing skills

Golden Bear Curlimals with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: L10 x W10cm x H14cm | Batteries: 3 x AAA (included) | Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

Higgle is a cuddly, fluffy-spiked, interactive hedgehog who curls up into a ball and responds to your child's touch with over 50 sounds and reactions, including sneezing, humming, blowing kisses and saying phrases like,"Tickles please!"

"I like when it sings to me when I play with it," said our child tester Ophelia, 5 (pictured above). "It's really soft and you can tickle its head and it curls up to go to sleep. You have to be quiet when it curls up to sleep or it wakes up, like when Daddy woke it up!"

Ophelia's mum Fiona said, "It's well made and good-quality and the responses are fun, in my opinion, not annoying – as we all know some interactive toys can be for adults who have to listen to them constantly all day! It would make a great birthday or Christmas gift."

The Curlimals range also include Blue the Badger and a Bibi the (pink) Bunny.

Available at: Amazon, Argos and Very

9. Great Little Trading Co Wooden Space Toy, £60

– Great for astronaut role play

Great Little Trading Company Wooden Space Toy with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: 28cm diameter (earth); 23cm diameter (moon) | Batteries: None

This space-themed playset has 20 wooden pieces, including a chunky rocket, a rotating launch pad, a satellite, a loading arm, a moon buggy, a fuel pump, 4 astronaut play figures and 2 sturdy circular play bases, 1 representing the moon and 1 representing the earth.

The loading arm has little magnets that allow it to pick up the cargo blocks and the astronauts also have little magnets so they stay in the rocket.

It might not have the sounds and lights of some other playlets but we think it's a lovely, flexible playset for all sorts of imaginative play. "I didn't think this toy would keep my daughter occupied for long but I was wrong!" said Heena, mum of our child tester Inaaya, 4 (pictured above). "She makes up such a variety of games with it."

Our child tester Edward, 5, was a fan from the outset. "Wow, this toy is amazing," he said. "AMAZING! I'm having a race to the moon! I like the astronauts with their happy faces."

"This is such a great playset< said Edward's mum Rachel. "And I think it's good value for money as there are so many pieces in the set and they are so well made. It's also the sort of toy that will grow with a child's imagination and understanding/interest in space."

Come with a fabric drawstring storage bag.

Available at: Great Little Trading Company

10. Super Wings World Aircraft Robot, £39.99

– Great for transforming fun

Super Wings World Aircraft Robot with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: L21.6cm x W44cm x H36cm (in robot form) | Batteries: 3 x LR44/AG13 (included)

Even if your child isn’t a Super Wings fan (yep, unlikely, we know), this is a really nice, big chunky transforming toy.

It has button-activated lights and sounds and transforms from robot to World Aircraft in smooth steps that are just numerous enough to be interesting but not too many or too complicated. "It's cool that it transforms. It's a lot of fun!," said our child tester Joshua, 5 (pictured above).

There's a detachable Mini Flyer Jett that can be stowed away inside the hull of the control room or the feet of the robot.

Our child tester Samson, 4, was beyond excited at the sight of it and thrilled to be able to transform it himself. "I can connect it all by myself and I can make him fly," he said. "It’s brilliant, I love it."

Samson's mum Sarah, who describes herself as normally hard to please on the transformer-toy front, was also full of praise. "It's well-built, moves smoothly, is good value and I like his gigantic size," she said. "Samson's face lit up with the biggest grin when he made the robot talk with its blue lights. He also loves the small jet as it fits in his school coat pocket so can take him to school with him."

Available at: Amazon and Smyths Toys

11. Little Tikes My Jam Electric Guitar, £39.99

– Great for musician role play

Little Tikes My Jam Electric Guitar with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: L50cm x W6.5cm x H19cm | Batteries: 3 x AA (included)

This fun lightweight interactive toy guitar has a detachable shoulder strap and can be used in 4 different modes: ‘Play with the band’, ‘Free play’, ‘Solo jam’ and ‘Play any song’, where you can sync the guitar with any Bluetooth-enabled device to play your favourite songs through the guitar speaker.

Our testers loved strumming along to the music and living out their mini rock star dreams. "I like singing along as I'm playing at it's cool," said our child tester Lauren, 4 (pictured above). Our other child tester, Ronni, 4, declared it, "the bestest guitar ever!" and kept asking his mum to play different songs from her phone through the guitar using the Bluetooth hook-up, which he loved.

You can use the original packaging as a travel case which we thought was a clever touch, and we appreciated the volume control button – although some parents thought it was still a little loud even on the lowest of settings. That's rock stars for you!

Available at: Very, Amazon and Little Tikes

12. Casdon Kenwood Mixer, £24.99

– Great for real cooking

Casdon Kenwood Mixer with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: L26cm x W15.5cm x H19.5 | Batteries: 2 x AA (not included)

Baking's always a hit with kids, and this mini version of the iconic titanium Kenwood mixer has a real mixing action for realistic play and even bona fide baking. It also comes with a ‘K’ beater, whisk and spatula. The battery-operated motor has 2 speeds (it can also be operated by hand using a lever) and the mixer arm also lifts up like on the real thing.

We absolutely love that this toy mixer actually works well enough to mix real cakes (though it might struggle with a very dense mixture that has lots of lumpy ingredients, like a fruit cake).

Our child tester Mila, 3 (pictured above), loved using it to bake cakes with her nana, and was thrilled that it looks "just like a grown-up cake mixer".

It’s great that it comes with a whisk attachment, as well as a beater (mini meringues, anyone?) and Mila’s mum Danielle was impressed that it could be used with or without batteries. She said the mixer is now a firm fixture in Mila’s toy kitchen and café.

Available at: Amazon and BargainMax

13. Thomas & Friends Trains & Cranes Super Tower, £89.99

– Great for trainset thrills

Thomas and Friends Trains Cranes Super Tower with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: L87cm x W65cm x H87cm | Batteries: 2 x AAA (not included)

Well, there's big and then there's MASSIVE! This train set is pricey, takes up loads of room, absolutely guzzle batteries but it out-wows most other train sets we've seen, with its towering multi-level, 360° action.

There's a spinning turntable at the bottom, so your child can decide which way the motorised Thomas engine is going to go, 3 different cranes up top (including Cranky of course) to load and unload cargo and move bridges into place, and switches and handles to change the track.

"I like watching Thomas go chugga chugga choo choo up the track!" said our child tester Kaiden, nearly 4 (pictured above). And his mum Pooja added: "Kaiden has not stopped playing with this toy since we got it. It has a huge play potential as it has so many different components. The changes you can make to the track engages his fine motor skills and teaches him to prepare for what he will need to do next. And there are so many stories to create with the trains!"

Comes with non-motorised Percy train, Harold the helicopter and 4 cargo cars. Compatible with other Thomas & Friends track sets (excluding wooden versions). Some assembly required.

Available at: Very, Argos and Smyths Toys

14. Hape Fire Station, £65.78

– Great for firefighter role play

Hape Fire Station with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: L30cm x W60cm x H48cm | Batteries: 2 x AAA (not included)

Budding firefighters will love this wooden fire station, which boasts a rooftop helipad, helicopter, fire engine, furniture, fireman's pole, bell, light and a pullstring to open the doors and launch the engine from the garage.

It comes with a firefighter figure and other accessories, including a little rescue dog.

It's a really good size and we love the attention to detail – there's even a treadmill to keep the firefighters fit when they are not putting out fires! We do wish, though, that there was more than 1 firefighter figure.

"There are so many features and details in this set," said Hayley, mum of our child tester Niko, 3 (pictured above), "that even after 3 days of having it, Niko hasn’t spotted them all yet! His favourite thing is definitely the alarm and lights on the roof. It’s a brilliant playset."

Some self-assembly required.

Available at: Amazon, Toy Street and Smyths Toys

14. Kindi Kids Poppi Pearl Bubble ‘N’ Sing, £15.99

– Great for bubble thrills

Kinda Kids Poppi Pearl Bubble N Sing with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: L5cm x W9cm x H26cm | Batteries: 3 x AA (not included)

With her multi-coloured ponytail, feeding bottle and bubble wand, there's already a lot to like about this doll. But what sets her apart from the usual doll crowd is that, if you feed her the bottle, then press the shell on her bathing suit, she giggles, sings her 'happy bubble' song, then blows ice-cream scented bubbles from her mouth.

Bubbles and a doll combined are always going to be a winner, and this interactive toy proved a great hit with our child testers (the bubbles stream out really well).

Addie, 3 (pictured above) loved feeding the doll her bubble mixture bottle, then trying to catch and pop the bubbles, and enjoyed seeing her little sister Bella, 12 months, clapping her hands along to the song. Their mum, Anna, thought the bubble indicator on the back of the doll, which indicates how much mixture is left, is very handy to help keep track of when it needed re-filling – tantrums averted!

Available at: Very and Argos

16. Great Little Trading Co Alphabet Learning Toy, £36

– Great for early literacy skills

Great Little Trading Company Alphabet Learning toy with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: W16m x L26cm x H6cm | Batteries: None

This sweet white wooden box contains alphabet tiles (upper case on 1 side, lower case on the other), flashcards (with letters on one side and letter-formation guides on the other) and a wooden pencil. The box itself has a chalkboard lid which can be flipped over to become a tray for sensory letter-tracing play with sand or rice (not included).

It's a beautifully designed box that's just perfect for lots of child-led letter play. It would be nice if it came with some chalk for the chalkboard, though.

Katrina, mum of our child tester Sienna, 3 (pictured above) said, "Sienna has gained so much confidence with phonics since using this box. The flashcards are a good size, they are colourful and they have age appropriate images on for letter recognition and phonics."

Available at: Great Little Trading Company

17. Barbie Fast Cast Clinic, £59.99

– Great for doctor role play

Barbie Fast Car Clinic with child tester

Age suitability: 4+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: Varies (several components) | Batteries: None

Barbie turns doctor in this medical-themed playset with 4 play areas (a medical station, exam table, X-ray machine and gift shop – well, this is medicine, US-style!). There are also moulds into which you put play dough to make 'plaster' casts for Barbie's patients (or Barbie herself, for the matter).

It comes with over 30 accessories, including stickers for decorating the casts, a face mask, a stethoscope, a hospital bed and crutches, as well as a white-coated brunette Barbie doll.

It's a sweet, high-quality playset – and it's nice to see a doll included – but it's the cast-making equipment that really makes this toy special.

"Zehra was amazed when she saw she could cast with the dough, and 'treat' patients with broken legs or arms," said Emine, mum of our child tester Zehra, 4 (pictured above). "It's very original and such fun to play with, and will definitely stand the test of time. The crutches are brilliant!"

Available at: Very and Argos

18. Fuzzikins Homemakers Family Home, £17.99

– Great for dexterity

Fuzzikins Homemakers Family Home with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: L12cm x W25cm x H27cm | Batteries: None

This dinky playset has 2 rooms and a garden that you put together and then decorate with 5 washable pens. It comes with 10 felt accessories and 2 Fuzzi Bear characters.

It's nicely designed, though a little tricky to fit together. The real thrill is the colouring – especially because you can draw on the walls! And then you can wipe it all clean and start again.

"I love drawing on it and making pretty patterns," said our child tester Ophelia, 4 (pictured above). "And I like the house because the Fuzzikins can go for a bath and to bed and then they can play in the garden."

Available at: Very, Amazon and John Lewis

19. Kid K'NEX Oodles of Pals, £30.99

– Great for logical thinking

Kids Knex Oodles of Play with child tester

Age: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: Varies (different pieces) | Batteries: None

This construction set has 116 brightly coloured pieces from which you can make over 60 different creatures and vehicles. It includes spinning wheels, tractor scoops, big feet, googly eyes and curly tails and comes with a picture guide.

The chunky pieces click together really easily and our child tester Arthur, 4 (pictured above), had a lot of fun creating "funny animals with googly eyes and horns".

His mum Catherine said he's carried on playing with it every day since – and even roped his older brother in. We really rate this set for its 'long-life' play value.

Available at: Very and Amazon

20. Spotty Sausage Dogs, £8.50

– Great for early maths skills

orchard toys spotty sausage dogs with child tester

Age: 4+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: L5cm x W19cm x H14cm (box) | Batteries: None

Who can build the sausage dog with the most spots on its tummy? This counting game comes with 40 sausage-dog cards, a spinner, 7 coloured discs and instructions.

It's a fun game that's good for maths and matching skills and is still fun when you play it again (and again). We like that it has 2 different endings: 1 slightly more complicated than the other – and involving some additional colour-matching.

The sausage dog characters are very funny, too – our child tester Elliott, 4 (pictured above) liked the "Sherlock Bones" one best.

For 2 to 6 players.

Available at: Amazon and Orchard Toys

21. Playmobil Family Fun Family Camper, £66.95

– Great family-trip role play

Playmobil Family Fun Family Camper with child tester

Age suitability: 4+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: L39cm x W12cm x H28cm | Batteries: None

This Winnebago-style camper van has a removable roof and sidewall and a pop-up roof storage box. It comes with 3 family figures (a man, woman and boy), and accessories including camping chairs, mountain bikes, BBQ, crockery and cutlery, a teddy bear and sun cream.

The attention to detail is amazing. Our child tester Eliott, 4 (pictured above), was amazed by the rotating seats and driving wheel, the foldout telly and the sliding door to the bathroom.

We really like all the clever accessories, especially the electric-box charging point with its little strip of flowers along the base.

Available at: Amazon and Playmobil,

22. Galt Velvet Picture Animals, £2.99

– Great budget buy

galt velvet picture animals

Age: 4+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: L21cm x W14cm x H1cm | Batteries: None

In this little spiral-bound pad, there are 10 cheery animal pictures, set on a velvet background, for your little artist to colour in. The way the images are set on the velvet means that, if your child goes over the lines, it won't show, however wobbly the pen-holding.

It's AMAZING value for money and, judging by our child testers, a great way to boost colouring-in confidence. The pictures look lovely when finished: perfect for display on a wall.

Available at: Amazon and Uber Kids

23. Casdon Morphy Richards Kitchen Set, £15.99

– Great for hospitality role play


Age: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: Varies | Batteries: None

Who needs a toy kitchen? This bright red mini set includes a coffee maker, a kettle, a toaster, cutlery, crockery and play food, and sets a child up brilliantly for hours of food-prep, food-serving and food-eating role play.

It's neat and bright and has been around for ages (we first tested it back in 2017) but is still a great buy: the toaster actually pops up and you can fill the coffee maker (with water) and pour out from the pot.

The only downside might be that it comes with 2 plates but only 1 bacon, sausage and egg: looks like Mum or Dad may have to go hungry, eh?

Available at: Amazon and Argos


About the author

Helen is Deputy Editor of MadeForMums, the author of Parenting for Dummies (Wiley, £17.99) and the Head Tester for our MadeForMums Toy Awards. She has written about parenting for Mumsnet, Pregnancy & Birth, Prima Baby, Boots Parenting Club and She Magazine and she's also been Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby. She has 3 boys and a heavy-duty washing machine.

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Helen Brown
Helen BrownHead of Content Delivery

Helen is author of the classic advice book Parenting for Dummies and a mum of 3. Before joining MadeForMums, she was Head of Community at Mumsnet and also the Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby.