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, including winners of our 2019 Toy Awards

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Toy Awards Best Art and Craft toys

There’s something special about a toy or activity that unleashes your child’s creative potential (even if the carpet clean-up can be painful!).

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Whether it’s slapping paint onto a piece of paper (and most of the floor) or carefully creating a model or toy, an arts and crafts session boosts your child’s creative thinking and fine-finger control and best of all, gives you some cracking wall art or shelf displays!

If you’re worried about mess, don’t be – while some kits are admittedly made for getting your hands dirty, many of the options below are designed to minimise chaos and stamp out a stressful post-craft tidy-up.

Each product has been through a rigorous process of testing by the MFM team, toy experts, judges and crucially, a legion of mini artists in the making, so you can be confident that each and every one has well and truly earned its place.

Here’s our pick of the best art and crafts toys and kits for children…

1. Fuzzikins Fuzzi Street, £9.99 each – best for reusability

Age: 4+
Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Arts and Crafts Toy – Gold

What it is: A range of 3 cardboard pop-up shops, each of which come with a cute flocked character who can be coloured with the felt tip pens supplied and then wiped clean, so that they can be decorated again and again. There’s a pizzeria, ice cream shop and post office to choose from and each comes with accessories and stickers. 

Why we love it: The potential for creative fun with the Fuzzikins Fuzzi Street is endless as little ones can colour, wash and re-use the sweet character that comes with each shop.

Our mini testers also loved customising the shops and there are two fun accessories with each one, which adds to the delight – a post office and letter stand for the post office, pizza oven and sign for the pizzeria and ice cream cart and mini ice creams for the ice cream shop.

Each shop is sold separately, and the price does stack up if you want to collect all three, but the role-play aspect kept our testers busy for hours and the reusability of the cute characters make them a good buy alone.

MFM tester Christy, mum of 4-year-old Audrey, says: “My daughter loves the little figure, and was thrilled to discover she was allowed to colour it, as well as decorate the shop. I like the fact they have a toy to keep long after the cardboard part of the kit has been used up.”

Available from: Hobbycraft, Amazon and JD Williams

2. Canal Toys So Slime DIY Slimelicious 3 Pack, £9.99 – best for slime fans

Age: 6+
Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Arts and Crafts Toy – Silver

What it is: A pack of DIY slime shakers that contain everything you need to make 3 pots of perfume-scented slime. There are 2 sets of 3 shakers to choose from and each pot of slime is scented to smell like its cute container – from ice-cream to hot chocolate.

Why we love it: There’s no getting away from it, kids are mad for slime and in recent years there’s been somewhat of a takeover of the slippery stuff in toy shops across the land.

Our testers report that the Canal Toys So Slime DIY Slimelicious 3 Pack slime is less messy and easier to make than others on the market, which is a big plus. Each pack comes with 3 shakers, which even without the slime were a big hit – designs include a cute carton of milk, gumball machine and bag of popcorn.

MFM tester Marianna, mum of Angel, 9, says: “This was great – Angel didn’t get bored and didn’t want to stop playing. She also said each one had the right smell!”
Available from: Amazon, Very and Smyths Toys

3. Aquabeads Box of Fun – Safari, £19.99 – best for fine motor skills

Age: 4+

Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Arts and Crafts Toy – Joint Bronze

What it is: A box of over 3,000 beads in 16 different colours that can be arranged to create anything – the only limit is your imagination! Once made, creations are set with just a spray of water. The kit contains a safari scene play mat, 10 bead stands to display your work, two flip trays, a spray bottle, template sheets and a template booklet.

Why we love it: This kit includes a mammoth amount of beads in a rainbow of colours, which is great for sparking little imaginations with the sheer number of creative possibilities in front of them. We like that your child can spray them with water to set them, rather giving them over to you to iron, keeping them involved from start to finish. The fiddly nature of creating with the beads is also great for motor skills.

The container keeps everything in one place – essential with so many tiny parts flying around – and the safari-themed play mat extends play even after your little one is done creating. MFM tester Rhianon, mum to Olive, 4, says: “Olive was very excited about the exotic animals she could create and this generated a lot of conversation. We’ve already played with the Aquabeads several times and they have become a firm favourite – she asks daily if she can ‘create more animals’.”

Available from: Amazon and Argos

4. The Original Spirograph Deluxe Set, £29.99 – best for learning potential

Age: 8+
Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Arts and Crafts Toy – Joint Bronze

What it is: An iconic set brought up to date and back to life, with everything aspiring artists need to make millions of amazing designs. The kit includes 19 Spirograph precision wheels, 2 precision rings, 1 rack, spiro-putty to keep paper in place, 3 pens, a 14-page guide, design paper and a storage case.

Why we love it: Practically an icon in the craft toy sector, Spirograph has been a fixture in countless childhoods throughout the years and the Original Spirograph Deluxe Set, with its distinctive interlocking gears and wheels, is inspired by the design of the first set back in 1965. It continues to capture the attention of children and it combines art and maths seamlessly.

MFM Alex, mum to Mia, 8, says: “Mia found it tricky at first, but soon got the hang of it and then didn’t stop for nearly two hours solid. She loved trying out all the different patterns and invented some of her own too – she said she felt like a designer.”

Available from: Amazon, Debenhams and John Lewis

5. Dessineo Painting By Stencils Animals, £9.99 – best for painting skills

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: The process of painting each animal is really simple and it teaches children the basics of creating all manner of creatures – a clever product that scooped Gold in our 2018 awards. We like how you first paint the big areas with the roller, and then use the brush for the details – each time guided by a stencil.

The finished results are impressive and children are guaranteed to be proud of their works of art. MFM tester Michelle, mum to Nathan, 4, says: “This keeps Nathan engaged from start to finish. It’s such a great activity with many variations to choose from. Easy to clean and great quality.’ 

Available from: Amazon and Gifts for Little Hands

6. Little Brian Paint Sticks, £4.99 for 6 or £8.25 for 12 – best for painting with less mess

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. The sticks work 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: There’s so much to love about these genius pens – they’re super easy to hold for little hands, so great for building arty confidence, plus the smudge-proof results really do look like paint, rather than wax crayon. They can easily be wiped off the ‘wrong surfaces’ as one or two of our testers discovered when confronted with some excitable tester ‘graffiti’ on wooden furniture! They’re also fantastic value and last really well for their price – unlike other painting kits on our list, the sets don’t come with templates or instructions, but the free play aspect is all part of the joy and arguably sparks even more creativity among little ones. 

Available from: Amazon, Argos and Baker Ross

7. Tiger Tribe Neon Colouring Set Unicorn and Friends, £11.99 – best for on-the-go colouring

Age: 3 to 8
Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Portable/Travel Toy – Bronze

What it is: A neon-bright colouring set jam-packed with activities and adorable scenes to colour. There are 36 pages to colour, all featuring unicorns, five sheets of stickers and 3 double-ended neon markers. It all comes in a storage box with a magnetic flap to keep things safely inside.

Why we love it: With its black and white contrasting design, the Neon Colouring Set Unicorn and Friends is seriously striking and our pint-sized artists loved filling it with colour.

The unicorn characters are fun and fanciful – there are pandas, cats and horses all with unicorn horns, plus there are plenty of stickers to get going with and the chunky pens are perfect for little hands.

Its biggest selling point is how easy it can be transported from place to place – everything stays contained in the clever magnetic box, so it can be taken out and about.

MFM tester, Colleen, mum to Poppy, 5, says: “Poppy has taken the set outside to play in the garden and I love that it can be transported so easily. When it’s time to tidy up, it’s quick and simple and folds up nicely together.”

Available from: Crafts4Kids and Trouva

8. Addo Play Sandsational Castle Kingdom, £25 – best for sensory play

Age: 3+

What it is: Marvellous mouldable sand that feels soft and squidgy to the touch and can be squeezed, shaped and sculpted into a whole world of different shapes. It comes with a large play tray, 5 tools, 16 castle moulds, plain sand, bright sand and glitter sand.

Why we love it: The sand feels wonderful to squish and shape and the moulds for the castle kingdom really capture the imagination of children who want to create their own fairytale world.

Our child testers loved its feel and how well it retained 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), it doesn’t dry out and the 5 tools keep little ones busy cutting, rolling, digging and shaping.

The play tray is a welcome addition and parents say it contains mess well.

MFM tester, Laura, mum of Jack, 4, says: “There are lots of different things to build and create with, it’s fab for sensory play. Jack thought the glitter sand was ‘beautiful’ and enjoyed mixing the colours together to make rainbow sand.”

Available from: The Entertainer

tomy aquadoodle

9. Tomy Aquadoodle Super Rainbow Deluxe Water Doodle Mat, £18.99 – best for younger crafters

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: One of the best-selling doodle mats of this type, it’s a great starting point for budding crafters to let their creativity flourish. In comparison to most others on our round-up geared towards ages 3 and above, it’s aimed at children aged 18 months plus, so it’s perfect if you want to get your child started early.

Our little artists were delighted as the picture slowly revealed itself, they loved experimenting with the different tools it came with and parents give it a big thumbs up for its mess-free, reusable design. An update on an iconic former doodle mat, our testers were sold all over again.

Available from: : Amazon, Argos and John Lewis

10. Crayola Dough Hairstylist Playset, £7.99 – best for dough fans

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 characters, 2 2-piece hair moulds, scissors and a comb.

Why we love it: Made from Japanese flour, the dough in the Crayola Dough Hair Stylist Playset is fantastic quality – it doesn’t get stuck under nails and worn into the carpet, which scores a massive tick from parents and ensured it won Bronze in our 2018 awards.

Children can enjoy hours of fun creating silly hairstyles and each new brilliant creation brings with it a fresh round of giggles from little hairdressers. The comb and scissors are a good extra and give children another level of play.

MFM tester Aisha, mum to Amali, 3, says: “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.”

Available from: Amazon and Freemans

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