Robot toys are everywhere right now, and many of them are aimed at toddlers and preschoolers, as well as older children. But which of them are really worth the money – offering play potential well beyond the initial thrill factor?
We've tested and rated a whole stack of robot toys and, with the help our child testers, selected the best bot friends, in a range of prices, for children of all ages, from 12 months to 12 years...
Here are the best robot toys, as tested by children and rated by parents
1. Zuru Robo Alive Fire Breathing Dragon, £25
What it is: A 30cm-tall robotic dragon that walks and moves its head, roars and breathes LED-light fire. Also available, as an Ice Blasting Dragon, in Blue. Requires 2 x AAA batteries (not included).
Why we love it: He's a good size and his movements are great. Obviously, his 'fire-breathing' are roaring were our child testers' favourite bit but we actually rather like the way his head moves as he stomps about. Great play value for the price.
2. Really R.A.D. Robots MiBro Radio Controlled Robot, £34.99
What it is: A compact 11cm-high remote-controlled rolling robot with an intercom feature. Comes with accessories including a tray, ball, goal and pointing foam hand. Requires 3 x AAA batteries for the robot (included) and 3 x AA batteries for the remote control (not included).
Why we love it: The continuous track wheels mean it can move easily over carpet, which is always a plus. Our child testers enjoyed making him score goals and bring them items on his tray but they all agreed that the hit feature is definitely his 'stealth mode' where you can make him sneak up on people and then surprise them by talking with your voice. Do be warned, though, that the batteries don’t last long.
3. Pet_bits, £19.99 each
What it is: An 18cm-high robotic pet that hears sounds and responds to clapping. It can record voices and can be coded, via the free linked app, to walk and do tricks. There are 4 to collect – bunny (pictured), cat, dog, panda – and each has its own personality and interacts with the others. Requires 2 x AAA batteries (included).
Why we love it: Our child testers had great fun teaching their little pets to do tricks. Alex, mum of child testers Esme, 4 and Imogen, 6, said; "My two loved getting them to talk to each other and respond to their input. Imogen particularly loved blowing on their noses so they spin around and make giggly noises." Worth noting that these little toys don't move very well on carpeted floors.
Available from: Amazon
4. Hexbug BattleBots Arena, £79.99
What is it: A thrill-packed alliance of bestselling mini-robot Hexbugs and the hugely popular TV show Robot Wars: your infra-red, remote-controlled BattleBots wield their hammers against each other, RW-style, in a 50cm x 25cm (moulded plastic) arena. Requires 6 x AAA and 4 x LR4 batteries (included).
Why we loved it: Once you've built the arena (about 10 minutes) and set up each remote to control its own BattleBot, it’s all just brilliant, silly, laugh-out-loud fun. Pieces of bot do fly about when they're hit but the bots are super-easy to put back together again post-battle. Our child tester Hal, age 8, said: "I love trying to get my robot to destroy the other robot."
Available from: Amazon
5. Disney Pixar Toy Story 4 Ultimate Walking Buzz Lightyear, £14.99
What it is: An 18cm-tall walking, talking Buzz Lightyear toy that has sound effects, facial expressions, walks backwards and forwards and has wings that click out. Requires 3x AAA batteries (not included).
Why we love it: This newest version of Buzz Lightyear still says the classic lines, like "Buzz Lightyear to the rescue!" but also some new phrases, like, "We're on a mission to find our friends!". But the big difference between this Buzz and the former Buzzes is that he can walk. Our child tester Benjamin, 4, said: "The best thing about this toy is that it walks and says, 'Has anyone seen sheriff Woody?' and his wings pop up. The thing I don't like is that his helmet does not go down."
Available from: Smyths Toys
6. Kids First Robot Factory, £25
What it is: A box filled with everything you need to make 8 different robots, each with motor, gears and moving parts. Includes stickers and an instruction book. Requires 2 x AA batteries (not included).
Why we love it: It's a good-quality kit at a great price. And we like that the instruction book doubles as a storybook. The chunky parts are easy to handle and the build isn't fiddly but may need some adult input. Our child tester Teddy, 5, needed help and was very happy with results of his builds.
Available at: Thames & Kosmos
7. Hexbug MoBots, from £8.99
What it is: 3 pocket-sized (20cm-tall) collectible robots, each with different hairstyles and different colours. Each robot has a unique trick - Ramblez dances, MiMix, pictured, disguises your voice, and Fetch carries objects. Requires AAA and LR44 batteries (included).
Why we love it: Our 6-year-old child tester Zac was very taken with Ramblez: "I like making him dance and think he has cool hair. The best bit is trying make it say silly words to annoy my brother!" Each of the MoBots can make short voice recordings, in fact. They'd make great little stocking fillers or party gifts.
Available at: Amazon
8. LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Toy Robot Building Kit – 31313, £250
What it is: A 601-piece set that builds into 5 different robots. Includes a programmable brick that forms the main part of each robot, 3 motors that enable movement, colour, touch and infrared sensors, and infrared remote control. Comes with building instructions (bonus instructions are available for free as downloadables from the LEGO site). Requires 2 AAA batteries.
Why we love it: It's certainly pricey but you do get to build and programme 5 very different robots – and, judging by our child testers, that's literally hours of concentration, experimentation and play. We like how each robot can be controlled in multiple ways – via remote control, the free app and wifi access through a USB port – and we've a special fondness for the scorpion-like one.
9. VEX Robotics by HEXBUG Robotic Arm, £39.99
What it is: A 350-piece, snap-to-connect kit for making a 6cm x 38cm x 25cm robotic arm with an articulated grabber hand and a base that rotates 360 degrees. Comes with an instruction booklet (it's a 4 to 6 hour build) that also details 2 alternative construction options.
Why we love it: This is a proper 'project' build that requires lots of patience and perseverance but the pay-off at the end is super-exciting: all our child judges loved playing with the robotic arm they built.
Available from: The Entertainer
10. John Lewis & Partners My First Robot, £8.50
Age: 12 months+
What it is: A decent-size (20cm high x 15cm wide) plastic robot that is safe for the youngest toddlers. Has moving arms, legs and eyes, plus flashing lights and sound effects. Requires 2 x AAA batteries (included).
Why we love it: This is one friendly robot who has plenty to entertain very little ones, including arms and legs that move, eyes that roll, lights that flash and a host of funny noises activated by pushing the 2 buttons on his chest. Our child tester's parents commented on how well-made, sturdy and safe this toy feels.
Available at: John Lewis
We've got more top-rated toys here...
Gabrielle Nathan has been a journalist for 20 years, writing lifestyle features for publications including Red, Women’s Health, Wildflower and Condé Nast Traveller. She has been writing about parenting since 2012, the year she became a mum.
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