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. 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 the whole household some cracking wall art or shelf displays.


We've painted and glued, drawn, sewn, moulded and cut our way through loads of arts and crafts toys – and, crucially, so have a small legion of child testers – to bring you the best arts and crafts toys for children aged 3 to 12 plus...

Here’s our pick of the best arts and crafts toys and kits, as tested by children and rated by their parents

1. Carddies the Card People to Colour and Go, £8.99

– Great for colouring creativity

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 5+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A set of 12 double-sided, hand-drawn characters on white card, for your child to colour, along with a double-sided hand-drawn card scene to colour in and use as a backdrop. Choose from 15 different set on themes including Ballet, Cavemen, Family, Christmas, Fairies, Farm, School, Pirates and Weddings. Comes with 12 colouring pencils and 12 plastic stands for propping the characters up.

Why we love it: It’s old-fashioned colouring-in fun, presented very charmingly – with a lovely, diverse mix of characters. And the backdrop and little stands mean that colouring-in segues quite naturally into imaginative play, as your child acts out little scenarios for all the different characters. Lois, mum of our child tester Mollie, 6, said, "Mollie was instantly captivated. She couldn't wait to start colouring in the characters and had started role-playing with them before she'd even finished colouring the whole set. The quality of the card is really great and the size of the characters is spot on for small hands. The characters are really cute and appealing – and Mollie remained focussed on playing for a really long time. What a lovely kit!" And a very fair price, to boot.

Available at: Amazon and All By Mama

2. Gift in a Tin Magical Fairy Fun, £12.99

– Great for magical makes

Age suitability: 6+ | Best for age: 7 | Batteries: None
Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A little tin that contains all the materials you need to make up to 8 flower fairies and a fairy door. The fairies can be stored in the tin after play.

Why we love it: It's a sweet little craft kit that stands out for its excellent picture-led instructions – and we really like that you get to make a fairy door as well as the fairies. There are plenty of materials, too – and because it all comes in a neat storage tin, it's a good kit for dipping in and out of over several different crafting sessions. Our child testers Roselyn, 6, and Jasmine, 8, were kept happily busy making fairies pretty independently – although Roselyn did need a little help from time-to-time. "I like it because it's creative," she said, "and the fairies have nice dresses. I found some of it difficult but Daddy helped. I like the tin!"

Available at: Present Mill and Bright Minds

3. Kinetic Sand Sandisfactory, £14.95

– Great for creative sensory play

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 5 | Batteries: None
Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A set containing red, blue, yellow and black kinetic sand (silky-feeling play sand you can squish and mould and which never dries out) and over 10 different tools and moulds for slicing, scooping and creating shapes.

Why we love it: Our child testers really loved this – and spent ages squashing and squishing colourful sand shapes with the really good selection of double-ended tools. We like the fork-shaped scraper tool and, best of all, the cube moulds you can line in black sand and then layer inside with rainbow stripes which you reveal later with a suitably theatrical 'ta da!' slice. "This is so fun!" said our child tester Oliver, 5. His mum Jamie said, "This set comes with much more than the standard kinetic-sand kits: there are so many tools we’ve never used before. The cube mould was Oliver's favourite." If we had to find fault, we'd say the instructions are a bit hard to follow – but there are umpteen demo vids on YouTube if you really get stuck.

Available at: Amazon, Smyths Toys,Very and The Entertainer

4. Fiesta Crafts 3D Mask Card Craft, £7.99

– Great for post-craft play

Age suitability: 5+ | Best for age: 7+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A kit for making a wearable 3D mask out of printed, reinforced, recycled card. Choose from 13 different designs, including a shark, unicorn, tiger, T Rex (pictured), elephant, horse, crocodile and a colour-your-own unicorn. Follow-by-number assembly instructions included.

Why we love it: We have a soft spot for craft kits that offer really play value after the initial crafty bit is done – and this great-value kit definitely does that, with all of our child testers spending quite some time sporting their finished masks and one proudly hanging it on his bedroom wall afterwards. The construction is easy to follow but a little tricky in places – definitely an activity for a child a few years older than the marked age 5. "I really enjoyed making my mask," said our child tester Jack, 8. "I would like to buy and make more!" His mum Kayleigh added, "It's worth the price just for the fun we had making it but it's an absolutely fantastic price for a toy that is still going strong despite my reservations over it being broken fairly quickly!"

Available at: Amazon and Fiesta Crafts

5. Play-Doh Kitchen Creations Rising Cake Oven Playset, £24.99

– Great for imaginative play

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3 | Batteries: None
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A Play-Doh modelling set featuring a plastic toy oven you can put your Play-Doh cake in and then pull down a handle to make it rise and 'cook'. Comes with a cake tin, plate, decorating tools, a mixing bowl for making sprinkles and Play-Doh in pink (84g), white, blue green (all 56g) and orange (28g) lidded pots.

Why we love it: This is a very well thought-out Play-Doh set: the instructions are clear and picture-led, and the oven even pings when your cake is ready. We could have done with some more Play-Doh but we do particularly like the way you make the sprinkles, and how you can make cakes with a different colour centre, which is revealed when you cut a slice. Jade, mum of our child tester Harrison, 3, said, "This is a great creative toy. Harrison really liked the whole set and the accessories and it really sparked his imagination." As for Harrison? "It’s like a birthday party! I like using the oven and making the big cakes. I can play for a very long time with my Mummy and we have lots of fun."

Available at: Smyths Toys, Argos and Amazon

6. Fuzzikins Homemakers Family Home, £19.99

– Great for decorating fun

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4 | Batteries: None
Awards: Bronze, MadeforMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 27cm-high house with 2 rooms and a garden that you put together and then decorate with (5 included) washable pens. Comes 10 felt accessories and 2 Fuzzi Bear characters.

Why we love it: This dinky playset is nicely designed (though a little tricky to fit together) but 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 Ophelia, one of our child testers, 4, "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: Amazon, Studio and Smyths Toys

7. Planet Junko Epic Cereal Box Creations, £14.99

– Great for rainy-day creativity

Age suitability: 6+ | Best for age: 10+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A hardcover book with more than 20 ideas for creating fun things from old cereal boxes – including a dinosaur, a space helmet, a vampire bat, a unicorn and more. Comes with 30 reusable 'magic corners' made from recycled plastic which allow you to join card up without having to use any glue or sticky tape.

Why we love it: It's a lovely creative – and sustainable – kit with a good range of projects to make. The magic corners are a bit fiddly to handle at first but our child testers soon got the hang of them. We think this is the kind of craft/construction kit you could come back to time after time – and gradually start to make creations from your own imagination, rather than the book. Child tester Max, 10, said, "I found the measuring out fun and putting it together was good. I made the plane and Mum helped me with the corners. We really laughed trying to get it right. I really like this as it's something I can grab out of the cupboard on a rainy day."

Available at: Amazon, Planet Junko and Nurture Collective

8. Make Your Own Racoon Kit, £7

– Great for learner sewers

Make Your Own Racoon Kit

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

What it is: A sewing kit that contains materials and accessories for a 25cm-high soft-toy racoon. Includes felt shapes, thread, stuffing, plastic needle and instructions.

Why we love it: The instructions are super clear to follow and we really like the pre-punched holes that makes stitching so much easier. Our child tester really liked the racoon's snazzy cape and stripey legs – as do we! The finished toy actually makes a sweet little cushion – and our tester's one is currently occupying pride of place on her bed.

Available at: Hobbycraft

9. Aquabeads Box of Fun Safari, £19.99

– Great for fine motor skills

Aquabeads Box of Fun

Age suitability: 4+| Best for age: 4+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A box of over 3,000 beads in 16 different colours that can be arranged to create little animal-safari-themed pictures that you spray with water to set solid. Comes with safari scene play mat, 10 bead stands, 2 flip trays, a spray bottle, template sheets and a template booklet.

Why we love it: There are loads of beads here! And the booklet of suggestions is great. We particularly like how the container keeps everything neatly in one place. Rhiannon, mum of our child tester Olive, 4, said: "This generated a lot of conversation while Olive was choosing colours and putting the beads in places. It's become a firm favourite – she asks daily if she can 'create more animals'."

Available at: Amazon and Argos

10. Eugy, £7.99

– Great for cute animal models


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

What it is: A 3D animal model kit where you slot and and glue together numbered pieces of (biodegradable card). Each finished model (1 per pack) is between 10cm and 25cm high. Choose from a range of animals, including a unicorn, narwhal, parrot, sloth and penguin. Comes with non-toxic glue.

Why we love it: Our (8-year-old) child testers found these models fun to assemble – no grown-up help needed. And the finished results are lovely – proper mantlepiece show-off stuff. We can see children wanting to build up quite a little 3D collection! A lovely 20-minute craft activity that would make a great stocking filler or party gift.

Available from: Amazon and Hamleys

11. Little Brian Paint Sticks, £14 for 24 or £13 for 20

– Great for toddler painting

Little Brian Paint Sticks

Age suitability: 3+| Best for age: 3+ (or younger with constant supervision) | Batteries: None

What it is: A set of solid paint sticks in a plastic tube that twist up and down like a glue stick, don't need water and dry almost instantly. The sticks work on paper, card, canvas, board and even glass. Available in classic, metallic or day-glow colours.

Why we love it: There's so much to love about these pens – they're super easy to hold for little hands, so great for building arty confidence, and the smudge-proof results really do look like paint, rather than wax crayon. They can easily be wiped off the 'wrong surfaces' as 1 or 2 of our child testers discovered when confronted with some excitable tester 'graffiti' on wooden furniture! They’re last really well for their price.

Available from: Amazon and Argos

12. Galt Toys Fab Foil Art, £5.99

– Great for building art confidence

Galt Toys Fab Foil Art

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

What it is: A box containing materials to create 8 18cm x 13cm sparkly pictures, section by section, by peeling off the top layer, then pressing and rubbing the coloured foil onto the sticky area underneath. Comes with 25 foil sheets in assorted colours and a guide.

Why we love it: The designs are lovely and our child testers had such (clean) fun peeling off the layers and choosing which colour foil to use on which section – there are lots of different colour combinations to create. It's brilliant for children who feel less confident with more freeform arty projects, and it's well targeted at 6 year olds, although smaller children could enjoy it – with some grown-up peeling help.

Available from: Amazon and Waterstones


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.