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18 of the best toys for 8 year olds

There are some great new toys out there for 8-year-olds - from games, crafts and construction toys to dolls, playsets – and even a DJ mixer. Take a look at our favourites...

best toys for 8 year olds

Your 8-year-old now plays for extended periods of time, requiring much less help and direction from you, and is usually quite happy to spend time working out problems independently and completing builds, craft or art creations and other challenges.

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They enjoy games they can play with others their own age, and are (finally) learning how to lose – and win – with grace (sometimes).

It’s worth remembering, though, that your child may have started to develop quite a fixed idea of the kinds of activity they like or are ‘good at’, which can sometimes make play a little restricted, so it’s often well worth doing a little coaxing to try a toy that involves them in something different.

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 8-year-olds, as tested by children and rated by their parents

1. Clementoni Science Museum Mechanics Junior Moving Animals, £25

– Great for learning about motors and movement

Age suitability: 6+ | Best for age: 8 | Batteries: 3 x AAA (not included)
Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 120-piece kit, including a motor unit, that can be assembled into 5 different animals (gorilla, lion, seal, shark, insect), all of which move and walk. Comes with a manual and a QR code for accessing 3D video instructions.

Why we love it: The build for each animal is a good challenge: long enough to keep a child absorbed but not so long they’d get frustrated, and the video instructions are good. The real excitement, though comes when the build is finished and you can make your animal move. “Wow! It’s flapping its wings as it moves!” said our child tester – and insect-maker – Summaya, 8, who added, “I really love the bright colours. I definitely want to make a different one now!” Our only gripe? The animals are a bit trickier to disassemble than assemble – your child may need a bit of help.

Available from: Currys and The Entertainer

2. GraviTrax Obstacle Starter Set, £80

– Great for spatial skills and concentration

Age suitability: 8+ | Best for age: 8+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Gold, MadeforMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 140-piece construction set from which you can quickly build supercool-looking multi-level tracks for magnetic balls to run along and do stunt tricks. Comes with bridges, a magnetic cannon, a spiral, a zipline and 2 trampolines. Includes instructions, tasks and blueprint tracks to follow, plus access to a (free) GraviTrax app, where you can design more complicated tracks, and view the track from the ball’s perspective.

Why we love it: It’s pricey but it’s supercool – and there are so many tracks to build and stunts to devise. It’s definitely a step up in stunt fun from the original GraviTrax starter set. Amelie, 8, one of our child testers, said: “This toy was really exciting to play with. I enjoyed building the obstacles and it kept me and my brother and sister busy for hours.” Her mum Hollie added, “I like how this toy encourages them to really concentrate and use their brains: they have to pick the right pieces and use their minds to really imagine the layout first. I really think this toy will get a lot of use.”

Available from: Amazon, Jarrold and Smyths Toys

3. Apples to Pears Build a Bee Hotel Gift in a Tin, £11.99

– Great for engaging with nature

Age suitability: 6+ years | Best for age: 8+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A little 14cm x 10cm tin packed with all you need to make a 9.5cm x 11cm x 9cm wooden house for bees and other insects. Includes all parts, glue and instructions, plus tips for attracting bees to your garden.

Why we love it: This is a brilliant little gift for a nature-loving child, and there’s loads of info about solitary bees and how your bee hotel can help one. The instructions – with colour pictures – are great and clear enough for a child to (mainly) get on with the build themselves, making this a doable crafty afternoon project. Our child tester Carly, 10, said: “I didn’t need much help to make the bee house but my dad helped with the putting the roof on as it was tricky seeing where the holes went. It was fun to make, and I really like the design. We put the house in the garden on our shed, and I’m excited to see if any bees go in it.”

Available from: Present Mill and Scouts

4. Exploding Kittens: A Game of Cat and Mouth, £24.99

– Great for dexterity and lots of laughs

Age suitability: 7+ | Best for age: 8 | Batteries: None
Awards: Editor’s Choice, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What is it: A battery-free, magnet-powered pinball-style game during which players compete to catapult the most balls into a cat’s open mouth. The 26cm x 26cm box opens up to convert into the game board. Includes 24 balls, 2 magnetic Kitty Paw Flickers and 6 optional wall bumpers. For 2 players (or more if you download the special tournament app).

Why we love it: We love how original and beautifully designed this game is – and that the box is the board. It’s also pretty addictive to play! Natasha, mum of our child tester Anthony, 8,  said, “To be honest, us adults had just as much fun as the children. All of us were cheering one another on and getting more and more competitive as the game went on!” Another of our child testers Rosie, 8, said, “I loved how you flick the paws with the balls inside. It’s really fun. There are no other games like this!”

Available from: Exploding Kittens and Amazon

5. Mindshot Nature + Now, £12 per pack of 7

– Great for puzzles and nature facts

Age suitability: 6+ | Best for age: 8 | Batteries: None
Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A set of 7 pocket-sized paper packs, each containing cards detailing different info and activities, all of them centred on the natural world, and including games, challenges, puzzles, fact files, stickers and temporary tattoos.

Why we love it: We really like how you could just slip a pack in a pocket or bag, ready for whenever those “I’m bored” moments strike. The activities are fun and nicely open-ended and each pack has a nice variety of simple and more challenging activities. On opening her first pack, our child tester, Cadhla, 8, said, “Wow – I love these wee activities!” and was soon running around the garden finding all the things she needed to make one of the pictures. Her mum, Seaneen, said, “This is such a fantastic way to get the kids away from screens. The tasks and activities are very well thought out and they got our whole family involved. We love them!”

Available from: Digital Detox Kids

6. Popular Science Climate Science Kit, £19.99

– Great for fact-finding science

Age suitability: 5+ | Best for age: 8 | Batteries: None
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A science kit containing lots of supplies to conduct 13 different experiments on climate change (some additional household products required). Comes with a 32-page booklet, full of facts and step-by-step instructions for each experiment.

Why we love it: The experiments are fun – you can make snow, an ice cave and gooey glacier slime – and the climate-change facts are presented in an engaging way. As is often the case with these kits, you do have supply some ‘ingredients’ yourself – most of them easy to find around the house – but Emma, mum of our child tester Finley, 7, was a bit thrown to have to find some glycerine. Isla, 7, one of our other child testers was a big fan. She said, “I liked everything about the kit. I’d never made snow before but my favourite was making the ice cave!” Nice to see the kit itself is made from recycled plastics, paper and card.

Available from: Amazon

7. Waboba Wingman, £5.99

– Great for active play

Age suitability: 5+ | Best for age: 8  | Batteries: None
Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A small (15cm) silicone frisbee that can fly over 130ft. Comes in lots of different designs, including limited-edition Christmas versions featuring festive reindeer (pictured, above) or polar bears.

Why we love it: It certainly flies a good distance and we were impressed by how straight it flies, too. Its silicone flex means it’s easy to catch and, because it’s small too, it’ll squish down into a pocket or bag on your way home from the park. “I liked it when it went high in the air,” said our child tester Amber, 7. “Me and my brother liked to see who could get it the furthest.” Apparently, you can use it indoors and outdoors but it has a fair bit of welly, so we’d be a bit cautious about using it inside.

Available from: Amazon

8. LEGO Super Mario Adventures with Luigi Starter Course, £49.99

– Great for construction fun

Age suitability: 6+ | Best for age: 8+ | Batteries: 2 x AAA (not included)

What it is: A 280-piece set (that’s an update on last year’s version featuring Mario), which builds into a Super Mario obstacle course and includes a responsive Luigi figure with LCD screens in his eyes, mouth and belly. Send Luigi round your course to earn virtual coins on a special (free) app. Comes with Pink Yoshi, Boom Boom and Bone Goomba figures.

Why we love it: We really like Luigi’s light-up eyes and the gaming noises, which, according to our child testers, are “very cool”. The Spinning Seesaw Challenge is great fun, too. Don’t be puzzled by the lack of paper instructions: they’re on the app.

Available from: Amazon, Lego and Smyths Toys

9. Eugy, £7.99

– Great for creativity and concentration

Age suitability: 6+ | Best for age: 8 | Batteries: None

What it is: A craft kit from which you make a 6cm-high 3D model of an animal by slotting and glueing together card pieces in numerical sequence. Comes with (non-toxic) glue. Choose from 21 animals, including a dragon, tiger, unicorn, narwhal and sloth.

Why we love it: Building the animal is challenging enough to be fun but doesn’t take forever (between 10 and 20 minutes, judging by our child testers) and there’s no mess! Our child tester Bodhi Rae gave her dragon “10 out of 10”. We really like how cute the finished animals look – and that they’re made from biodegradable card.

Available from: Amazon, Hamleys and The Gift and Gadget Store

10. VTech Kidi Super Star DJ, £49.99

– Great for fun and entertainment

Age suitability: 6+ | Best for age: 8+ | Batteries: 4 x AA batteries (included)

What it is: A 75cm-high DJ mixer with a microphone, adjustable stand, colour changing disco lights, 6 built-in songs, 5 sound effect modes, a recorder and 4 games. Comes with audio cable for using with an external music player.

Why we love it: Our child testers loved the record function – and spent ages listening to playbacks of their performances. The funny-voice sound effects and coloured lights are fun, too. The stand is a bit wobbly and the microphone could be a little better, volume-wise, but this has fantastic child-entertainment value.

Available from: Smyths Toys and Argos

10. Build Your Own Paper Plane Launcher, £16.99

– Great for construction fun

Age suitability: 8+ | Best for age: 8+ | Batteries: None

What is it: A 47-piece kit from which you can make 10 different paper fold-and-fly planes and build an elastic-band-powered launcher to set them flying from.

Why we love it: It’s great value for money and, as our child tester’s mum observed, “a lovely, fun way to get the kids away from their electronics”. Our child tester George, 8, really enjoyed building his launcher all by himself and then firing the planes into the air. “The best bit’s seeing how far the planes go,” he said. “My friends should get one too and then we could all have a big flying contest!”

Available from: Build Your OwnThe Happy Puzzle Company and Amazon

11. I’m A Genius Habitats and Ecosystems, £19.99

– Great for exploring the natural world

Age suitability: 7+ | Best for age: 8+ | Batteries: none

What it is: A set that allows you to build your own mini ecosystem inside the plastic sphere, using the seeds, peat moss and lichens included. There are different habitats you can make: a rock garden, snail garden or pond. Comes with all the tools you need for planting.

Why we love it: The instructions are clear and has good suggestions for adding more to your chosen habitat. Martha, our 8-year-old tester liked how easy this set was to assemble. “The information in the booklet was really cool and interesting, too” she said. “I didn’t know there could be parasite plants.”

Available from: Toys & Bears and Amazon

13. Drone Home, £19.99

– Great for family laughs

Age suitability: 6+ | Best for age: 8+ | Batteries: 4 x AAA batteries (not included)

What it is: A fast-paced action board game featuring a real flying drone. The aim is to launch your aliens up a ramp and into the drone, which will take off once one is inside. But other players can try to knock your alien out with their own before the drone lifts off. For 2 to 4 players.

Why we love it: Our child tester Wyatt, 8, LOVED this game – as did his whole family – and his mum Rebecca said there were all “screaming with excitement” as they played. Wyatt said, “I love how the drone flies off with the alien inside it. It flies so high to the ceiling, it makes me laugh so much.”

Available from: PlayMonsterArgos and Smyths Toys

14. Rainbow High Fashion Dolls, £28.99 each

– Great for imaginative play

Age suitability: 6+ | Best for age: 7+Batteries: None

What it is: A 28cm-high doll with posable limbs, long eyelashes, brushable hair and 2 complete outfits which can be mixed and matched. Comes with a hair comb, 2 hangers and a doll stand. Choose from 6 different dolls, each styled in a different rainbow colour.

Why we love it: These dolls are a good size (a little bigger than a Barbie), their hair is super-soft and their outfits are really quite amazing. “I love how she looks,” said our child tester Carys, who played with Poppy Rowan (pictured), “especially the butterflies in her hair. They are my favourite bit – and the boots have butterflies too, which match!” Our only quibbles would be that it’s a bit of a struggle to get the doll out of its packaging and that the clothes are quite fiddly to take off.

Available from: Smyths Toys, Argos and Amazon

15. Brainstorm Toys 450x Microscope, £24.99

– Great for observation skills

Age suitability: 8+ | Best for age: 8+ | Batteries: 2 x AAA (not included)

What is it: A 28cm-high illuminated microscope that magnifies objects on 3 settings, up to 450 x. Comes with 3 prepared slides, blank slides, a petri dish and a booklet.

Why we love it:  Jackson, our child tester, said: “I like using this. You can see spidery shapes through it and things look very close up. I feel big using it!” We like that the instructions explain how to make your own slides (the prepared ones feature algae, plastic and synthetic fibres). Good value for money, too.

Available from: Amazon, 365 Games and Toy Street

16. Learning Resources Artie 3000, £54

– Great for coding skills

Age suitability: 7+ | Best for age: 8+ | Batteries: 4 x AA batteries (not included)

What it is: A 12cm-high robot that you can programme to draw all sorts of colourful patterns. Mac, PC or tablet compatible, with 4 modes of play. Comes with 4 felt-tip colouring pens, activity cards and instructions.

Why we love it: This little guy is easy to set up (with grown-up help) and lots of fun. There are freeform coding modes of play but it’s best to start with the pre-programmed ones – which our child testers all enjoyed immensely. A really nice combo of coding and arts/creativity which we haven’t seen in many other toys.

Available from: Amazon and John Lewis

17. BrainBox Cities of the World, £13

– Great for memory skills

Age suitability: 8+ | Best for age: 8+ | Batteries: none

What it is: A box containing question cards about famous cities. You get 10 seconds to study the card and then try to win it by answering a question based on the roll of a dice. The person who’s won the most cards after 10 minutes wins the game. Comes with sand timer, dice and instructions. Other BrainBoxes on different themes are also available. For 1 to 4 players.

Why we love it: It may all sound a bit worthy but our child testers really liked being tested on what they could remember – and actually ended up playing for far longer than the 10 minutes suggested in the rules. The speed of the game – and watching the sand fall through the timer – makes this a lot of fun.

Available from: John Lewis and Word United

18. Game of Life, £23.99

– Great for fun and social skills

Age suitability: 8+ | Best for age: 8+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A game where you move your car along the board, making ‘life choices’ along the way about everything from jobs to kids to money. The player with the most money at the end wins. Comes with cards, tokens, spinner, play money and instructions, For 2 to 4 players.

Why we love it: Well, for a start, this game has been around since we were little so there’s a warm nostalgia factor here. It has been updated and is a little more modern, and it is still lots of fun (though the pieces are a bit fiddlier to handle). Our child testers quickly picked up the rules and particularly enjoyed adopting pets and winning the paper money. Takes about an hour to play.

Available from: Amazon and Smyths Toys

Images: Product websites

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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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