10 of the best art and craft toys and kits

Tap into your child's creative potential with these top arty and crafty kits, sets, games and tools for ages 3 to 10

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Whether it’s slapping paint and glitter glue onto a piece of paper (and most of the floor) or carefully creating a model or toy, spending time doing arts and crafts boosts your child’s creative thinking and fine-finger control and usually produces something they can proudly display on kitchen wall or shelf. And it doesn’t have to be messy or complicated either: we’ve found some genius ideas here that keep the mess to a minimum – but the fun factor on maximum.

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Here are 10 top arts and crafts toys, as tested by children… 

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1. Dessineo ‘Painting by Stencils’ Animals, £9.99

Age: 4+

What it is: A learn-to-paint kit that lets you paint an octopus, elephant, crab and whale, using stencils in an easy-to-follow 3-step process. Includes 5 stencils, 5 paints, 4 sheets with coloured border, a roller, a brush and a palette.

Why we love it: We really like how you paint the big areas with the roller, and then use the brush for the details – each time guided by a stencil. The finished results look fantastic – and would give any child a real sense of achievement.

What our child testers made of it:

  • ‘It’s great. I loved all of it!’ Maicee, 4
  • ‘This keeps Nathan engaged from start to finish. He’s excited about using the roller and brush, and choosing the different colours to make his own pictures. Such a great activity with many variations to choose from. Easy to clean and great quality.’ Michelle, mum to Nathan, 4

Available at: Amazon and Gifts for Little Hands


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2. Fuzzikins Cottontail Cottage, £19.99

SILVER winner, Art/Craft Toy or Kit, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards

Age: 4+

What it is:  A pop-up 4-roomed playhouse with 2 flocked bunny figures who can be coloured in with the felt tip pens supplied and then wiped clean, so that they can be decorated again and again. Comes with colour-in stickers to decorate the cottage and a plastic garden fence with a gate.

Why we love it: It’s ever so cute – and we like how you can use and re-use it. Plus, fact that it packs flat is brilliant for anyone who wants toys that work on the move. 

What our child testers made of it:

  • ‘Elsa’s very enthused by the sticker options! The characters in the set are well-made, cute, nice to colour-in and clean well afterwards, so you can start again. And a playset that collapses into the size of a flat book is a clever idea.’ Jillian, mum to Elsa, 5
  • ‘This is a winner! Maisie played with this for 2 hours straight: making it, colouring in and then playing with the actual rabbits. I like the fact it has a craft element, then a play element – and that you can fold it up when it’s not in use.’ Tara, mum to Maisie, 5

Available at: Amazon, Argos and Hobbycraft


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3. Crayola Dough Hairstylist Playset, £18

BRONZE winner, Art/Craft Toy or Kit, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards

Age: 3+

What it is: A playset that lets you style outrageous dough hairstyles for the characters included by pushing the dough through little holes in the character’s head. Includes 3 tubs of dough, a stylist’s chair, 4 character extruders, 2 2-piece hair moulds, scissors and a comb.

Why we love it: The dough in this set is really nice stuff (made from Japanese flour, apparently) and doesn’t get stuck under your nails. And making silly hair is always fun…

What our child testers made of it:

  • ‘The dough smells amazing. My daughter loves it and I found it really easy to get out of the tub. It is easy to manipulate and mould without being too sticky.’ Aisha, mum to Amali, 3

Available at: Amazon


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4. Little Brian Paint Sticks, £4.99 for 6 or £8.25 for 12

Age: 3+

What it is: A solid paint stick in a plastic tube that twists up and down like a glue stick, does not need water and dries almost instantly. Works on paper, card, canvas, board and even glass. Available in packs of 6 or 12, in classic, metallic or day-glow colours.

Why we love it: These are just genius! And very suitable for (supervised) kids under 3, we reckon. The smudge-proof results really do look like paint, rather than wax crayon. Easy to wipe off the ‘wrong surfaces’ too, as the mum of one of our testers found out when confronted with some excitable tester ‘graffiti’ on a wooden sideboard…

Available from: Amazon and Ryman


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5. Great British Sewing Bee Sewing Machine, £39.99

Age: 6+

What it is: A child-sized (23.5cm x 21cm x 12 cm) sewing machine that works exactly like an adult one. Set includes a foot pedal, safety guard, mains adaptor, instructions, scissors, tape measure, 2 spare machine needles, sewing needle, needle threader, metal bobbins, thread reels, pins, assorted fabrics and a pattern.

Why we love it: It’s a perfect mini-me version of the proper thing – with a finger guard added for extra safety. It’s not an impulse purchase but for a crafty child with an interesting in sewing, this will get years of use.

Available from: Amazon and Argos


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6. Kinetic Sand Sandcastle Set, £17.99

Age: 3+

What it is: It’s kind of a cross between play sand and playdough: it runs through your fingers but you can also squeeze it and mould it. This set comes with 4 under-the-sea-themed moulds, and a small sandbox. 

Why we love it: The coloured sand is truly wonderful to touch, mould, squish and shape. Our child testers loved its feel and how well it retains the shape of the moulds you press into it. Unlike real sand, it’s easy to clear up (it sticks to itself, rather than you or the floor) and it doesn’t dry out.

Available from: Amazon and Smyths

7. Aquadoodle Super Rainbow Deluxe, £24.99

Age: 18 months+

What it is: A supersized (65cm x 85cm) drawing and play mat. You draw and doodle on it using a special water-filled pen to reveal the hidden scene underneath. The images fade as the water dries, meaning it can be used time and again. Comes with a pen, 3 stampers, a special paintbrush and a water tray.

Why we love it: This update on the icon, mess-free reusable drawing mat is very impressive. We’re sold all over again – as were our child testers…

Available at: Amazon and Argos

8. Stib Inspirational Mini Colouring Pencils, £6.95

Age: 3+

What it is: A set of 10 chunky and vibrant colouring pencils with an easy-to-use soft-leaded nib. Each one is printed with positive words – such as big thinker, problem solver and freestyler. Comes with a double pencil sharpener and 12 perforated colouring templates featuring Stibler characters, fun games and quotes to colour in.

Why we love it: The triangular shape of the pencils helps your child practise the correct grip, and the colours are very strong and bright.

Available at: Stib

9. Dessineo Learn to Paint by Numbers Jungle Animals, £9.99

Age: 4+

What it is: An art set that teaches your child to paint using black and white animal pictures that come with a numbered guide and colour chart. Includes 4 painting sheets, 6 paints, a brush and an artist palette.

Why we love it: It’s simple to follow and a great way to build confidence and creativity. All our testers really rated this kit – even those who didn’t really like paints to begin in.

Available at: Amazon

10. Aquabeads Magical Unicorn Set, £14.99

Age: 4+

What it is: A crafting kit containing everything you need to make your own blessing of unicorns, using little beads you arrange in a pattern and then set solid with a spray of water. Includes more than 2,000 solid and jewel beads in 14 colours, a bead storage case, a layout tray, a sprayer, templates, 5 joint pieces (so you can move the unicorns’ wings and necks), and a play mat. There’s also a display stand to show off your creations.

Why we love it: This kit has a MASSIVE number of beads – and we like that your child can spray them with water to set them (it only takes 10 minutes), rather giving them over to you to iron. 

Available from: Amazon, Hobbycraft and Asda

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