Most 8 year olds enjoy focusing independently on fun projects, which makes a LEGO® set a great choice for a gift. Your child will probably want to figure out how to build the set on their own (with maybe the odd helping hand) and they will love the sense of achievement that comes with managing to complete the more complex 8+ models.

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Sets in this age range tend to offer lots of playability after the build and have themes based on films or games, with Harry Potter, Minecraft and Minions featuring large (of course). But there are also some great 8+ sets with other themes, from theatre schools to space rockets, and also some creative sets where you can build and rebuild your bricks into all sorts of new construction and designs.

To help you find the best set for your child, we asked a group of 8 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 8 year olds, at a glance:

  • Best for authentic details: LEGO Friends Olivia's Space Academy, £59.99
  • Best for magical role play: LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Courtyard: Sirius's Rescue, £44.99
  • Best for creativity: LEGO Dots Message Board, £34.99
  • Best for gaming-inspired play: LEGO Minecraft The Ice Castle, £44.99
  • Best for a hidden reveal: LEGO Brick-Built Minions and their Lair, £44.99
  • Best for clever accessories: LEGO Friends Andrea's Theatre School, £89.99
  • Best for reconfigurable wizardry: LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Magical Trunk, £54.99
  • Best for a pocket-money build: LEGO Sunflowers, £11.99
  • Best for feature-packed play: LEGO Friends Friendship Tree House, £69.99
  • Best for a 3-in-1 build: LEGO 3-in-1 Creator Fish Tank, £24.99

Here's our pick of the best LEGO sets for 8-year-old girls and boys

1. LEGO Friends Olivia's Space Academy, £59.99

– Best for authentic details

LEGO Friends Olivia's Space Academy with 8 year old tester

Number of pieces: 757 | Age suitability: 8+ | Build time: 6 hours | Size when built: H26cm x W21cm x D10cm (for the academy building); H8cm x L9cm x W15cm (for the shuttle)

This space exploration-themed set really impressed us with its authentic NASA features, including the robotic arm that extends from the shuttle to take your little astronaut on satellite-repair space walk, and its scientifically accurate detailing – even the equations on the classroom whiteboard are proper spaceflight equations.

We also really like the standalone multi-axis trainer (for simulating a spin in micro-gravity – see, we've been learning too!) and the little observatory with its roof telescope.

Our child tester Anya, 8 (pictured above) was wowed by the level of detail, too: "This is amazing," she said. "There are so many pieces and I like how everything works and I like the solar-system model and the way it spins. It's the best LEGO set I've had!"

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As a build, it's nicely challenging for an 8-year-old. "Anya found it really fun to build," said her mum Bina. "There were easy follow-along steps and, though it took a while, there was nothing she wasn't able to work out herself.

"We absolutely love how well thought out this set is – it has a lot of playability after it's built."

The set comes with 4 (nicely diverse) figures and an interactive guide that, if you download the (free) LEGO app, lets you rotate and zoom in on your model in 3-D..

Available from: LEGO and Argos

2. LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Courtyard: Sirius's Rescue, £44.99

– Best for magical role play

HP Hogwarts Courtyard Sirius's Rescue with 8 year old tester

Number of pieces: 345 | Age suitability: 8+| Build time: 4 hours | Size when built: H31cm x W22cm x D10cm

This set builds into a the classic scene from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where Harry and Hermione ride the hippogriff Buckbeak to free Sirius Black from where he's been held prisoner at the top of a Hogwarts tower.

It comes with Harry, Hermione and Sirius figures, an excellent Buckbeak figure with movable wings and space for a mini rider on top, and 2 collectible wizard tiles.

Compared to other sets for this age, there aren't masses of pieces but there are some fiddly bits in the build – especially when you're making the roof and the (wonderful) little spiral staircase. Our child tester Amelia, 8 (pictured above) said, "It was quite hard but fun and interesting to build. It looks like the real movie!"

Anna, Amelia's mum, picked out the set's detailing for particular praise. "I really liked how true to the films and books it seems – and the little details like the HP logo on the coins and magic wands. It looks really nice and almost too good to role play with. I also really liked the extras like the secret wizard cards – a nice addition."

Like the Space Shuttle set above, this set's (free) building instructions app lets you view, rotate and zoom in on your model in 3-D. It also connects with other sets in the LEGO Hogwarts series to create an entire Hogwarts castle.

Available from: LEGO and John Lewis

3. LEGO Dots Message Board, £34.99

– Best for creativity

LEGO DOTS Message Board with 8 year old tester

Number of pieces: 943 | Age suitability: 8+ | Build time: 30 minutes (each time) | Size when built: H14cm x W51cm (in biggest frame)

This is a LEGO set that's all about doing your own thing, using little LEGO tiles to design your own patterns and 'write' your own messages, rather than following step-by-step instructions (although there is a booklet with some starter ideas for inspiration).

You can then hang your finished creation up in a frame –and, when you fancy a change, take it down and create a different pattern or message. "I do really quite like this!" said our child tester Charlie, 8 (pictured above).

In the set, in addition to loads of tiles in 6 bright colours, you get 4 16cm x 16cm base plates to create your designs on, pieces of frame to slot together to make 3 different sized frames, and 2 hanger elements. There's also a special remover tool to help you prise the 'dot' tiles off when you're ready to make a new design.

Zoe, mum of our child tester Charlie, was impressed by the remover tool. "I liked that it came with a little blue key to pull the dots off – I could see it makes it so much easier to change your message on the board. I also liked how many dots you get in the box and how easy Charlie found it to connect the boards together."

Our only note of caution would be that the tiles are quite small, there are a lot of them and you'll definitely have lots over after finishing each design, so it's worth thinking before you buy about how you're going to store the extras – especially if your child wouldn't want to muddle up the different colours.

Available from: LEGO and Very

4. LEGO Minecraft The Ice Castle, £44.99

– Best for gaming-inspired play

Minecraft The Ice Castle with 8 year old tester

Number of pieces: 499 | Age suitability: 8+ | Build time: 2.5 hours | Size when built: H16cm x W23cm x D19cm

Now here's a playset that comes with real bragging rights. Or as our child tester Evelyn, 8 (pictured above, building the set with her brother) put it, "It's really cool. My friends would love it – but it's mine!"

The Minecraft-inspired set builds into just the sort of lovably clunky structures kids build online in the game. It can be configured in different ways, and really does transfer well from the digital world to the LEGO one: there's a cauldron to create potions, a stonecutter, an anvil, diamond sword and banner shield, crossbow, axe, a treasure chest with precious objects and – of course – a crafting table.

It also has a flick-fire arrow launcher and comes with a royal warrior figure, 2 skeletons, 2 zombies and a yeti.

It's not the longest build but there are 1 or 2 tricky bits and our child tester Evelyn did need some help from her dad. Her mum Lindsey said, "We liked how the instructions were available on the app, which meant if we lost the paper instructions, we wouldn't be stuck. It's a bit delicate in places when built but we love how current it is with children's interests – it gave her something to talk about at school, and it was great for her to play with after the build, and share with her siblings."

Available from: LEGO and B&M

5. LEGO Brick-Built Minions and their Lair, £44.99

– Best a hidden reveal

Brick-Built Minions and their Lair with 8 year old tester

Number of pieces: 876 | Age suitability: 8+| Build time: 4 hours | Size when built: H15cm x W9cm (Kevin), H14cm x W9cm (Stuart) and H12 cmx W9cm (Bob)

Just as much fun as the Minions: Rise of Gru movie that's inspired it, this set builds into models of Kevin and Stuart, complete with googly eyes, which each open up round the back to reveal a playset with smaller Minions mini figures inside. And then you can dismantle Kevin – and rebuild him as Bob!

Our child tester Scarlett, 8 (pictured above) said, "I like this because you get to build it and then play with the little Minions and I like the wheels that spin the eyes around – they're really cool."

The little playsets inside the models are intricately detailed and there are lots of accessories to help kick off some Minion-inspired imaginative play

Scarlett's mum Claire said her daughter found the instructions clear and easy to follow, and was impressed by how well she focused on the build. "The set was very appealing to Scarlett," she said, "as she loves Minions and, although it took her a while, she didn't get bored and give up as she could see the character emerging quickly and it kept her attention.

"And the finished characters are great to play with as they open to reveal the smaller Minions characters in them, like a den or lair."

Our only niggle? You can only make 2 of the 3 characters at the same time. This may not bother your child but Scarlett actually couldn't bear to dismantle Stuart once she'd built him, so Bob never made an appearance in her house!

Available from: LEGO and Argos

6. LEGO Friends Andrea's Theatre School, £89.99

– Best for clever accessories

LEGO Friends Andrea's Theatre School with 8 year old tester

Number of pieces: 1154 | Age suitability: 8+ | Build time: 5 hours | Size when built: H24cm x W39cm x D13cm

This impressive Victorian theatre set has an outside ticket office, show hoardings and street furniture, and then opens up to reveal balcony seating, an orchestra pit and a stage with curtains and 2 different backdrops (cityscape and medieval castle).

There's also a standalone dressing room, props room, lights rigging, 4 mini figures to act out the plays on the big stage and loads of great accessories, including wigs, hats, make up, a director's megaphone and even a tree costume. The level of detail is really, really astonishing. Our child tester Jacob, 8 (pictured above in mid-build), said. "This is really good because it's got lots of things to do. I especially like the ticket for pretending to pay entry."

Jacob's mum Caroline was knocked out by the details, too. "It's so incredibly detailed and beautifully thought through," she said. "I loved that the curtains worked on a mechanism and the fact it even had a toilet! And the way it all folds neatly away is really lovely. We were very impressed."

Jacob did find the build hard – he needed help from his older sister – so we'd say this is probably not a set your child could build entirely independently unless they're a veteran of a fair few 1000+ piece LEGO builds.

It comes with a free interactive digital guide, as well as paper instructions, so you can zoom in and see your theatre in 3-D if that floats your drama boat.

Available from: LEGO and Amazon

7. LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Magical Trunk, £54.99

– Best for reconfigurable wizardry

Hogwarts™ Magical Trunk with 8 year old tester

Number of pieces: 603 | Age suitability: 8+| Build time: 3.5 hours | Size when built: H6cm x W17cm x D7cm

This Harry Potter-inspired playset looks like a Hogwarts pupil's trunk but opens up to reveal a room set that can be configured and reconfigured – with a multitude of mini props (some of which reconfigure too) – into the scene for the Sorting Ceremony, a feast in the Great Hall or an evening in the Gryffindor common room/Harry's bedroom.

As well as accessories including the Marauder's Map, Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, a copy of The Quibbler, goblets, cookies, a chessboard and an owl, there is a large selection of minifigure parts that you can put together to create your favourite Harry Potter characters or even create new ones of your own.

The trunk itself can be colour-customised to represent your child's favourite Hogwarts house, and then personalised with stickers.

Our child tester and proud Gryffindor Aariv, 8 (pictured above) found the build fun and said, "I loved how realistic the items inside the trunk are. Putting on the stickers was loads of fun, too. As a huge Harry Potter and LEGO fan, this is a dream come true!"

Samantha, Aariv's mum added, "We loved the detailing, the bright and vibrant colours really brought the trunk to life once assembled. The trunk is robust and doesn't come apart easily once assembled and we thought it was really good that you can rebuild the set into different models. My son has lots of fun playing with it."

Available from: LEGO and Very

8. LEGO Sunflowers, £11.99

– Best for a pocket-money build

LEGO Sunflowers with 8 year old tester

Number of pieces: 191 | Age suitability: 8+| Build time: 3o minutes | Size when built: H25cm

The bright yellow flowers with adjustable green stems and leaves are quick to build, and make a great display for a bedroom shelf. We think they'd make a great pocket-money purchase or a sweet and quirky birthday party gift.

Our child tester Ayana, 8 (pictured above) was enchanted and said, "This was easy and fun. I would want to make more of them. The flowers look really pretty and I like holding them."

You can also get other LEGO flower sets, such as Tulips or Roses, at a similar price point, to display alongside or combined with your sunflowers in a little bouquet.

Available from: LEGO and Amazon

9. LEGO Friends Friendship Tree House, £69.99

– Best for feature-packed play

LEGO Friends Friendship Tree House

Number of pieces: 1114 | Age suitability: 8+| Build time: 5 hours | Size when built: H30cm x W30cm x D13cm

This LEGO Friends set stands out for its post-build playability and its lovely, inclusive, eco-friendly theme. The treehouse-with-slide playset you construct features a birdbox, a beehive and honey-making station, a wind turbine, a telescope, a rabbit hutch and a wheelchair-friendly swing and lift. All of these, along with accessories including a cargo bike, a carpentry bench, guitar, tool, play food and 4 mini figures, make a brilliant jumping off point for acting out loads of stories about friends working together to build a nature-loving community.

"It's amazing and I just love it!" said our child tester Shaznay, 8 (pictured above). " I love the slide, I love the figures, It's all very special. I love how big it is, too."

We were particularly taken by the extra heads that come with the mini figures – so you can have them changing expression. And the LEGO Friends superfans amongst our child testers were thrilled to discover you can use a QR code to discover some retro Heartlake City hidden treasures. You can also use the LEGO building instructions app to see and zoom in on your treehouse in 3-D.

Shaznay's mum Farwah said she found the build long ("she spent hours on it!") but not at all complicated. "And once it was complete," she said, "Shaznay absolutely loved playing it. It was her first activity as soon as she came back home from school. It's colourful and great quality and a very educational and has really boosted her confidence and imaginative play."

Available from: LEGO and John Lewis

10. LEGO Creator 3-in-1 Fish Tank, £24.99

– Best for a 3-in-1 build

3-in-1 Creator Fish Tank with 8 year old tester

Number of pieces: 352 | Age suitability: 8+ | Build time: 2 hours | Size when built: H13cm x L22cm x D11cm (fish tank)

This ingenious LEGO Creator set builds (separately) into a (glassless) fish tank, an open-and-close treasure chest with sword and a painter's easel with a parrot on the canvas.

The fish tank is the biggest of the 3 options and the clear winner, in our book, with its 5 colourful fish, submarine, coral and aquatic plant accessories.

Tanya, mum of our child tester Holly, 8 (pictured above), was impressed with what you get for the price: "It's really worth the money!"

And Holly's verdict? "I was very excited to find the LEGO set was 3-in-1. I was so happy as I enjoy building. I built the fish tank first – it was a bit tricky but I managed to get it sturdy. I then built all the fish and made the scenery. I was sometimes thinking I might need a bit of help but I managed to build it on my own.

"I built the treasure chest and easel much more quickly. It's all very pretty and colourful. I now want more 3-in-1 sets: they are exciting and really fun!"

Available from: LEGO and Asda

How did we choose our 10 of the Best?

To select the best LEGO sets for 8 year olds, we asked a whole load of 8-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 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 child.

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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