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By the age of 9, your child is likely to be a pretty independent thinker and character. He or she now enjoys some really quite complex problem-solving games and toys, and is probably up for science, nature and craft projects that take a fair bit of time and patience to complete.
That’s not to say, of course, that your child doesn’t still love to have a laugh with some very silly stuff, too.
There are lots of robots, LEGO sets, complex games and more substantial arts and creative projects as well as STEM toys (that are also fun!) aimed at this age group.
Some will undoubtedly stretch your child and they may need a bit of help: frustration might set in occasionally but if they stick to the task and complete the build/game/creation you know the pay-off at how proud they are at having done it will be worth it in the end.
Here’s our pick of the best toys for 9-year-olds…
What is it: A thrill-packed alliance of bestselling mini-robot Hexbugs and the hugely popular TV show Robot Wars: your infra-red remote-controlled armoured and weaponised Hexbugs do battle, RW-style, in a(moulded plastic) arena. Comes with 2 robots and 25 other pieces including armour and weaponry to add to your robot and 2 infrared remote controls. Requires 6 AAA batteries (included).
Why we love it: We really like how you can customise your Hexbug with stickers or fix on one of the interchangeable pitchfork, wedge, shovel, spikes and battering ram weapons – but basically it’s all just about brilliant, silly, laugh-out-loud fun.
“I love this and particularly love the hammer on the robot, and enjoy trying to destroy the other robot,” says one of our MadeForMums Toy Awards child testers, 8-year-old Hal.
Available from: Smyths Toys and Amazon
What is it: A new 403-piece set (updated from the 2011 version) from which you construct a 16cm x 16cm moving model of the famous purple 3-decker Night Bus. Features a removable rood and opening side panel. Comes with Harry Potter, Stan Shunpike and Ernie Prang figures, plus a shrunken head, Harry Potter’s chest (containing his wand and potion bottle), a sliding bed and swinging chandelier.
Why we love it: It’s kind of the dream LEGO set, especially if your child loves a satisfying LEGO build or is obsessed with the Harry Potter movies. We think this set is very well-designed, as realistic as LEGO can be, and also it’s a good length of time and difficulty for a build. It’s not too easy, not too hard, and will take long enough to make the price worth it, but won’t stretch on forever.
Available from: LEGO
What it is: A large 578-piece rod-and-connector rollercoaster building set with a dragon theme. The dragon is motorised so adds extra thrills as your coaster car zooms across the ride. Full colour instruction booklet is included – and much needed – as you’ll be building this rollercoaster from scratch.
Why we love it: This is a great build – and what a result when you’re done! The rollercoaster itself is a guaranteed thrill with the fun special effects the dragon adds. We especially like the “burning” castle.
Available from: Smyths
What it is: A 30cm playset bus with opening rear door based on the computer game that’s been obsessing pre-teens for the past year or so. Plenty of space to store other Battle Royale figures. Comes with 2 exclusive figures and victory umbrella.
Why we love it: This is the most iconic vehicle in the Fortnite game – a must-have toy for true fans. It has some great details and the figurines being exclusive make them oh-so collectable. It’s not as intricate as some LEGO sets but does have some nice storage for characters (the battle bus fits 15 of them).
Available from: Amazon (currently pre-order only)
What it is: Inspired by Japanese friendship bracelets, called ‘Kumi’, this good-sized (35.6 x 27.9 x 8.1cm), colourful machine comes with 88 spools of string, and allows your to child to weave 10 bracelets. Comes with instructions, but it’s also got a video tutorial, too.
Why we love it: It looks a little complicated, and some people have said it’s a bit fiddly at first but once you get the hang of it we reckon this is SUCH a productive and creative toy for children to get involved with. You can buy more string too and keep using it rather than buying another set: in fact we’ve heard a lot of people say it’s worth buying a couple of refill packs when you order this set as you will get through the string and make the 10 bracelets pretty quickly.
Available from: Argos
What it is: A kit for creating animations, including software (with music and sound effects), webcam and adjustable stand, plasticine, modelling tools and a mini animation set. It includes 2 everlasting software licenses, animation webcam, green screen, modelling clay, mini-set and handbook.
Why we love it: This is aa superb starter kit (it’s used in over 1,000 UK schools) for any child wanting to make stop motion movies. The software is easy to install and there’s a support team to contact if you get stuck who we’ve heard are very helpful, though hopefully you won’t need them. The software is straightforward to download and the camera nice and robust.
Available at: Zu3D
What it is: A 20cm spherical puzzle, where you have to navigate the metal ball along the tracks, and through 125 barriers of varying difficulty.
Why we love it: It’s easy to play but hard to complete: a real challenge of spatial awareness and hand-eye co-ordination. Everyone in the family will want a try but we’ve heard it can take months for anyone to complete. There is a practise stage run which you can do that breaks the puzzle into 4 parts so that might be worth tying if you all get too frustrated.
Available at: VidaXL and Amazon
What it is: Award-winning kit that includes 40 sweetie experiments (plus 28-page instruction booklet). There’s ingredients, moulds, cups, lollipops sticks, templates and so much more – everything you need to create some tasty, science-based treats.
Why we love it: The accessories and ingredients are good quality, and we particularly like the jelly sweets in worm shapes! Of course it’s messy and sticky so do make sure you cover the table and have napkins/wipes handy when you get it out.
Available at: Amazon
What it is: A snap-fit construction kit that includes everything you need to build a mini greenhouse (6cm x 69cm x 37cm) with an opening door and, thrillingly, a gear-controlled natural ventilation system in the roof. Comes with 12 plants pots and tray, a watering syringe and a booklet packed with plant facts, activities and challenges.
Why we love it: The gear-controlled roof mechanism is very impressive – and we really like how this toy combines construction with plant-growing, making it so much more than just a cool build.
BRONZE winner, Best STEM Toy, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards
- ‘This is expensive but it’s so much more than just a toy, making it excellent value. Assembling the greenhouse is really great – Poppy loved doing that – but then there are weeks of enjoyment, tending the seeds and watching them grow. The extra resources are really interesting too. We’re really excited to see how everything grows!’ Katie Rose, mum to Poppy, 8
Available from: Teach Tech
What it is: A 30cm tall plastic human body and stand with removable bones, muscles and squishy major organs – a total of 21 body parts. The set includes tweezers, instruction sheet and book guide – making discovering the human body fun and interactive.
Why we love it: It’s a great toy to play with together and talk about the body. Some of the parts are sticky which adds a great ‘eeeugghh’ factor! The tweezers are really good for picking body parts up and looking at them and we think it’s also really good for a broad age range – from as young as 3 up to 10.
Available at: Amazon
What it is: A perfectly sized, 40cm long wand that requires 3 AAA batteries (included). By responding to specific movements, the wand can cast 11 different spells and has 5 play modes. There’s a guide to help learn all the different spells. Some of the spells require 2 wands.
Why we love it: With so many different play modes it’ll be hard to get bored of this fun wand. It’s portable and addictive – a cherished gift for any Harry Potter fan. The interactive spells (such as wizard tag) with 2 wands are so much fun.
Available at: Smyths
What it is: Bestselling drone ‘copter, with remote control, that hovers high (80m or so) and also has a camera and filming option. Gives about 10 minutes’ flying time (5, if you’re filming).
Why we love it: A good-sized drone for the price and the picture quality is pretty decent, too. With some grown-up help, your child should be able to fly it within a few minutes. Do be considerate to your neighbours, though – it’s for fun, not snooping! And also note there are no-fly zones for drones so don’t get caught out flying it where you absolutely shouldn’t be.
Available at: Amazon
What it is: A set of (fake) coloured chocolates (there are 9) that you have to organise in their tray in the correct sequence. Comes with a booklet of 40 (harder and harder) challenges (and solutions).
Why we love it: It’s kind of like Sudoku with chocolate. It looks cute but is actually quite hard – and the more advance challenges are frankly devilish. The plastic pieces are strong sturdy and easy to store and the game can be played alone. Age-wise we think it’s one that will last and older children and adults will enjoy so worth keeping in the game drawer.
Available at: Amazon
What it is: A science kit that includes all you need for 6 experiments with magnets. Use the included parts to set up 7 different scenarios and watch gravity work its magic.
Why we love it: There are some seriously cool things to do in this kit, including building a spinning pencil, and a levitating screw that rotates in mid-air. As there are lots of science kits out there this one is definitely for children into magnets in particular: if they are they will love the things they can create like a levitating cyclist and UFO that randomly moves around planet Earth.
Available at: Amazon