Six year olds usually love a structured play activity – where you end up with something at the end – and their steadily increasing attention span means they should enjoy sitting down to focus on a fun project for an hour or so. All of which makes a LEGO® set an excellent choice of toy – especially ones that offer lots of potential for play after the build is done.

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Sets in this age range tend to be straightforward builds that are finished fairly quickly and are often themed around animals, vehicles, superheroes, hit children's films or familiar real-life scenarios like a trip to the shops or the fairground – all themes that lend themselves to lots of extended imaginary play. There are also some more creative 6+ sets, where you can use special tile bricks to decorate (and redecorate) the items you've built or where you get extra bags of bricks to free-build your own way.

To help you find the best set for your child, we asked a group of 6 year olds to test a whole variety of sets, in a range of prices and themes, and tell us honestly what they thought about them – both as a build and as a set to play with afterwards...

Best LEGO sets for 6 year olds, at a glance

  • Best for eco-friendly play: LEGO Friends Recycling Truck, £17.99
  • Best for pocket-money creativity: LEGO Dots Rainbow Bracelet with Charms, £5.99
  • Best for a story-led build: LEGO City Wild Animal Rescue Missions, £14.99
  • Best for action-packed play: LEGO Minions King Fu Battle, £34.99
  • Best for real-life role play: LEGO City Grocery Store, £54.99
  • Best for pocket-money thrills: LEGO Reckless Scorpion Stunt Bike, £6.99
  • Best for interactive fun: LEGO Super Mario Adventures with Mario Starter Course, £54.99
  • Best for functional use: LEGO Dots Cute Banana Pen Holder, £17.99
  • Best for entertaining vehicle play: LEGO City Space Ride Amusement Truck, £34.99
  • Best for free-build extras: LEGO Classic Space Mission, £69.99

Here's our pick of the best LEGO sets for 6-year-old girls and boys

1. LEGO Friends Recycling Truck, £17.99

– Best for eco-friendly play

LEGO Friends Recycling Truck with 6 year old tester

Number of pieces: 259 | Age suitability: 6+ | Build time: 1 hour | Size when built: H7cm x W6cm x D15cm

The rather-more-pretty-than-the real-thing-looks recycling truck actually has some excellently realistic features including a hinged up that lifts up all 3 wheelie bins and empties them into the truck and rubbish to sort into the glass, paper or food bins.

The truck rolls along nicely and, if you take the roof off, there's room for both of the minifigures in the cab. We like the grabber accessory for picking up the rubbish and the little racoon is sweet, if a bit out of context in the UK!

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Our 6-year-old tester Evelyn (pictured above) was able to build the whole thing almost without adult help. It comes with both paper instructions and digital instructions on the free LEGO Building Instructions app, where you can also zoom in on and rotate your creation for a more immersive build.

Eveyln's mum, Lindsey, was impressed by how clear the instructions are."She found it very easy to follow the instructions,"she said, "and to assemble it. I had to push a few bits down as she was rushing on in her excitement and didn't push the bricks all the way down, though – I'm too much of perfectionist to let that go!

"The set itself is bright and colourful and I like how it encourages children to think about the planet and recycling."

Available from: LEGO and Argos

2. LEGO Dots Rainbow Bracelet with Charms, £5.99

– Best for pocket-money creativity

LEGO Dots Rainbow Bracelet with Charms with 6 year old tester

Number of pieces: 37 | Age suitability: 6+ | Build time: 10 minutes | Size of bracelet: L20cm (adjustable)

This great-value set is all about doing your own thing and decorating a bracelet in a design of your choice, using any combination of 36 coloured tiles, 8 rainbow tiles and 2 dangling heart charms. And when you're done, you can wear it – or snap all the tiles off and decorate it again – and again.

"I think other children would like this," said our child tester Isabella, 6 (pictured above). "And I like it because I can use all my favourite colours."

Hannah, Isabella's mum, liked the open-ended play the set allows. "There are so many options for different patterns – there are some designs to copy on the packaging but you can do your own thing, too. It was easy for Hannah to decorate the bracelet independently. I would definitely recommend it – so many opportunities for creativity in 1 little bag!"

Available from: LEGO and John Lewis

3. LEGO City Wild Animal Rescue Missions, £24.99

– Best for a story-led build

LEGO CITY Wild Animal Rescue Missions with 6 year old tester

Number of pieces: 246 | Age suitability: 6+ | Build time: 1.5 hours | Size when built: H6cm x L15 cmx W6cm (truck)

This is a LEGO set with a difference: to build it, you don't page through a paper booklet but use a phone or tablet to find out what to do instead. And that's not all: instead of following step by step instructions, you follow a storyline that sets you a series of immersive building missions to help rescue animals.

The set comes with 3 minifigures and a very cute baby crocodile, panther, owl, frog and hare. There are also loads of fun accessories you'll need to complete your missions, including a magnifying glass, a camera, binoculars, a feeding bottle, a walkie-talkie, a net and a shovel.

This type of set is a great way to introduce a child who's not quite patient enough yet to stay focused on following diagrams and printed steps to the whole process of building and creating with LEGO. Our child tester, Zachary, 6 (pictured above), is a printed-instructions veteran, so was a bit surprised by the whole digital-only thing. "But I do like the set," he said. "It just took me longer to do it compared to other sets because you're also taking part in the story."

Available from: LEGO and Argos

4. LEGO Minions Kung Fu Battle, £34.99

– Best for action-packed play

Minions Kung Fu Battle with 6 year old tester

Number of pieces: 310 | Age suitability: 6+ | Build time: 2 hours | Size when built: H17cm x W13cm x D26cm

This vibrantly coloured set is designed to help your child replicate – and riff in their own way off – the Chinese New Year scenes in the Minions: The Rise of Gru.

You get Kevin, Stuart and their newer Minion pal Otto as minifigures, along with accessories including a golden banana, a dancing Chinese dragon, a weapons rack, a rotating training dummy, a medallion and weapons. The temple setting has red tasselled lanterns, golden leaves, a teal roof from which you can shoot 'firework' discs, and – best of all – a launchpad at the back which, when pressed, fires a Minion up into the air as the back walls fall apart.

"That's the best thing – where the Minion can fly out the building by pressing the lever!" said our child tester Jai, 6 (pictured above). "I also liked it because it was fun to build. I liked how you make the Minions. It's really interesting and there are lots of choices to build it how you want to build it."

Jai's mum Nina was impressed by how immersed her son became in imaginative play after the build. "I love how this set keeps my son occupied," she said. "He built it from start to finish without a break and then it's so interactive once it's been built, he just keeps playing with it. He has other LEGO sets but there are just on display – this is the one he plays with on a regular basis."

Available from: LEGO and John Lewis

5. LEGO City Grocery Store, £54.99

– Best for real-life role play

LEGO CITY Grocery Store with 6 year old tester

Number of pieces: 404 | Age suitability: 6+ | Build time: 1 hour | Size when built: H11cm x W36cm x D13cm

This eco-supermarket set is teeming with the kind of details that trigger loads of shopping role play fun. "I really like this one," said our child tester Hafsa, 6 (pictured above). "I like the cars and the pretend food. It did take a long time to build but I enjoyed it – it was a little bit hard when I made the windows."

The set comes with an electric car (to park and recharge in the parking space) and a forklift truck (to bring the new stock in– and which does lift crates up and down), 5 mini figures, solar panels for the roof, produce displays outside, a till and shopping trolley inside, loads of food accessories and a recycling area.

Nadia, Hafsa's mum thought the build was maybe just a little too challenging for a 6 year old to manage on their own. "The manual was easy to read and easy to understand but Hafsa did need my help in places.

"The finished set is a little smaller than I was imagining but the attention to detail is amazing. I liked the fact that it comes with baskets and trolleys and fruit and vegetables, giving the whole supermarket vibe, even right down to the juice cartons. After Hafsa built it, all my daughters played with it together and took turns being the shopkeeper."

Available from: LEGO and Smyths Toys

6. Reckless Scorpion Stunt Bike, £6.99

– Best for pocket-money thrills

Reckless Scorpion Stunt Bike with 6 year old tester

Number of pieces: 15 | Age suitability: 5+ | Build time: 5 minutes | Size when built: H3.5cm x L6cm x W2cm

"This is brilliant!" said our child tester Frasier, 6 (pictured above). "I like making the motorbike do wheelies! I liked building it - it's fun and easy to make."

The LEGO Stunt range has a range of great-value different bikes to collect, each one with a different design and rider. Both we and Frasier were drawn to Reckless Scorpion with his red and green colours, horned helmet and little blue scorpion friend.

The bike and rider is quick and easy to assemble, and then you just push the bike to activate the flywheel – and watch it zoom off and do backflips, wheelies and other aerial stunts. You could also splash out and buy the Stunt Loop (£44.99) or Stunt Park (£24.99) playset and set up a bike obstacle course.

"This immediately looked like a cool little set I knew my son would love," said Frasier's mum Lauren."The bikes really whizzes along which is lots of fun. It had very clear instructions with pictures too. I would describe this as a perfect birthday gift for your child's friend or a great stocking filler at Christmas time."

Available from: LEGO and B&M

7. LEGO Super Mario Adventures with Mario Starter Course, £54.99

– Best for interactive fun

LEGO 71360 Super Mario Adventures with Mario Starter Course with 6 year old tester

Number of pieces: 231 | Age suitability: 6+ | Build time: 30 minutes | Size once built: Varies each time | Batteries: 2 x AAA (not included)

If you judge purely on the number of bricks you get, this is the priciest set in our selection. But, obviously, here you're paying that bit more for the thrill of the Super Mario theme – and some really quite clever interactive features.

So, the idea is, you use the digital instructions on the special free app (no paper booklet in this set) to build your bricks into an obstacle course for Mario (or Luigi or Peach – there are alternative versions if other characters float your child's Nintendo-game boat more than Mario does). And then you send Mario round it, earning virtual coins as he goes. Afterwards, you can rebuild the set to create new levels for Mario to conquer.

The (battery-powered) Bluetooth Mario figure itself is charmingly interactive – with colour sensors, LCD screens in his eyes, mouth and belly which display over 100 different reactions, triggered by special 'action' bricks on your course, and a speaker that plays the familiar Super Mario music and sounds. He also plays music from the game.

"This is cool!" said our child tester David, 6 (pictured above). "I like it when Mario collects coins and fights with other characters – and when he says that he's tired after playing!"

We're impressed by how closely the set mirrors the much-loved features of the game, with everything included from the start pipe, goal pole, question mark block and spinning platform to the Goomba and Bowser Jr figures for Mario to clash with. And you can buy expansion packs to make bigger and more challenging courses.

Mariana, David mum said, "I think this set is great because David loves Mario and is a big fan of LEGO – and this combines the two. He found it easy to understand and follow the instructions and spends lots of time playing with it. I'm happy to see him so excited! I've already bought him an extension set for his birthday."

Available from: LEGO and Argos

8. LEGO Dots Cute Banana Pen Holder, £17.99

– Best for functional use

Cute Banana Pen Holder with 6 year old tester

Number of pieces: 438 | Age suitability: 6+ | Build time: 15 minutes | Size once built: H12cm x W14cm x D14cm

With this set, not only can you build a bright, cheerful, fruity pen holder, you can – thanks to the snap-on, snap-off coloured tiles or 'dots'– decorate it how you like, and redecorate it as often as you want.

You get dots in 7 different colours, including eye-shaped ones, and the whole thing comes in a sorting tray, so you can keep all your colours separated and store any unused dots neatly. And, although this set is all about creative your own designs for the pen holder, the instructions include some starter decoration ideas to get you going.

"I did it on my own!" said our child tester Eus, 6 (pictured above). "My mum said I could do it on my own and I did. I want to do it more. It's like the Minions banana, so it's cool."

Eus' mum Chantal thought this set would make a great gift. "It's fun and it's such a great child-led activity – it required very little input from me beyond double-checking the brick placement for the pen holder with the instruction image a couple of time. I also think the storage tray is a great addition as it allows all the colours and pieces to be sorted without going everywhere."

Available from: LEGO and Amazon

9. LEGO City Space Ride Amusement Truck, £34.99

– Best for entertaining vehicle play

LEGO CITY Space Ride Amusement Truck with 6 year old tester

Number of pieces: 433 | Age suitability: 6+ | Build time: 2 to 3 hours | Size when built: H16cm x W21cm x D35cm

This cleverly designed set builds into articulated transporter lorry with a (detachable) trailer load that folds down to become a aliens-in-space theme-park ride with a crank you can turn to send it spinning round in a whizzy circle.

It comes with 3 mini figures, a ticket boot and a generator, and accessories including money and a cute alien hat that a mini figure could wear on the ride.

Our child tester Casey-Mae, 6 (pictured above) found it fun to build – and even more fun to play with afterwards. "I like playing with it in my room with my other toys. It is like a funfair and it makes me laugh when the space carts go round the track."

"It looks fantastic – very colourful – and it's very robust," said Casey-Mae's mum Sarah. "It was fairly easy for my daughter to assemble, though some parts were a bit tricky. I like the fact that it's so interactive, and that it can be folded for easy transportation around the house."

Available from: LEGO

10. LEGO Classic Space Mission, £69.99

– Best for free-build extras

Classic Space Mission with 6 year old tester

Number of pieces: 1700 | Age suitability: 5+ | Build time: Up to 20 minutes per build | Size once built: Varies from build to build

"There is SO MUCH LEGO!" said our rather stunned child tester Stanley, 6 (pictured above). "I think we will have enough LEGO for ever and ever now. That's really cool."

Yep, not only are there enough bricks in this set for you to make 10 space-themed mini-builds, including a launch tower, a mission control centre, a rocket, a space shuttle, a sun, earth and moon, 2 technicians and a little astronaut, you also get 3 extra bags of bricks to have some free-building fun with.

We love the sweet details in this set: the star-shaped door handles on the rocket; the mug for the mission control desk, and the little tools for the technicians. We also like that the last pages of the instruction booklet have some pictures of LEGO aliens, planets and flying saucers you could make – to get you started with ideas for your free building.

Stanley's mum Jessica was just as impressed as he was by the number of bricks you set: "It's a lot bigger than I expected. And it's a great mix of instruction-led LEGO and things you can inventing on your own. Stanley enjoyed creating his own masterpieces! It's an expensive set but there is so much LEGO in it, I think it's worth it." pdf

Available from: LEGO and Smyths Toys

How did we choose our 10 of the Best?

To select the best LEGO sets for 6 year olds, we asked a whole load of 6-year-olds to test a variety of sets and give us their honest feedback. We asked them – and their parents – to tell us what the build element was like and how long it took, what features they liked or didn't like and how much they enjoyed and played with the finished set.

Our 10 of the Best lists are compiled by qualified and experienced parenting journalists. They rely on a number of sources, including our independent reviews, testing undertaken during the MadeForMums Toy Awards, the MadeForMums Awards and feedback from our Top Testers Club. Each year, thousands of products are put through their paces by hundreds of parents across the country on behalf of MadeForMums, to ensure we're bringing you honest and true reviews and recommendations.

Our list is not an ordered ranking from 1-10, instead it is a carefully selected group of tried-and-tested products, each of which we believe is best for a different situation or requirement. We don't just tell you what is best, we help you discover what is best for your family.

About the author

Chloe is a Digital Reviews Writer and Coordinator for MadeForMums. She researches and writes articles, recommending the best products for parents. She has a 1st-Class Honours degree in Psychology and a strong interest in child development.

Pics: Product websites/MadeForMums testers

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