I always try to do a round-up of toys that are affordable for nephews and nieces, and friends’ children. The idea being, you want to give them something affordable, but fun, that is a substantial present. But it can be tricky to know what’s out there – especially if you want to buy something on the internet and don’t really know where to start among the sea of choices.
So I’ve had a chat with my children and a word with my contacts in the toy industry ( I’ve been going to trade toy fairs for years so I know lots of them) and here are some ideas from them and me.
In no particular order how about Rastamouse and his friends – ( Scratcher, Zoomer and Wensley Dale) these are 8 inch plush toys that also emit rasta catch phrases complete with Jamaican accent – although they are aimed at young children they are actually fun for any kids – or even adults who have an affinity with rastas and reggae. They are around £10 each.
On the subject of anthropomorphic animals, of course there are the Sylvanians – we are fond of them as you know – and I know many people feel they are expensive but actually the little creatures themselves are not – it’s more the buildings, cars and caravans that are also available. So how about Carlotta Basset ( puppy I think) and Gregory Cheshire – (a cat?) taking part in their school play – definitely a theme that will appeal to little people who have just done their own nativities. These are less than £8. But for the £15 challenge, you could get a set of four figures be it cats, pigs, penguins, or whatever is your child’s latest favourite animal.
For the craft lovers among you, Fuzzoodles allow you to make your own creatures out of fuzzy pipecleaners and very large eyes, Glamour girls or Goofy guys ( £10). Or there are Zubber balls (£10), where by mixing two kinds of putty you can make your own bouncy balls – a nice creative toy arguably aimed more at boys than some. Of course there are also Zubber kits that allow you to make bracelets ( £15 ) – making braclets seems to be a preoccupation among little girsl and craft toy manufacturers – I don’t know which came first!) and other variations. They are aimed at 7 and up, the kids love making them, but they will need supervision certainly to begin with – because if you don’t get the consistency right, the bracelets in particular can be too weak – and then there’s a danger they could break.
If you like jigsaws or want something a little more educational these “medical” jigsaws from Gibsons, My World, My Body, have some fascinating facts as well as being fun to put together. You get two in the box and the set is just £8.
Ravensburger’s puzzle globes are fabulous – my five year old made the one in the main picture almost entirely on his own ( it did take a while) and they have other designs like Hello Kitty or Dr Who. For globes like this with 108 pieces you will pay around £10 or £11. The bigger the globes the more expensive.
I still love Tip the Ship, also by Ravensburger, one of my favourite value for money toys of all time – and a year on since we got it the kids are still keen to play it. Basically you put together a few puzzle pieces to form a three dimensional ship, then each time you throw the dice you have to balance the relevant number of animals on the tippy ship without tipping them all off – you get the gist – it’s fun and very attractive and I love that it’s made out of cardboard not plastic – ideal for the greener parents among you. And you can get this on the net for £5 – it is a steal!
You can also get some lovely handpuppets from Fiesta Craft from £12 to about £!7 depending on the character – but for under £15 there are Robin Hood characters, a dragon, a ballerina, Horrid Henry, a mermaid, a knight, Wendy or Captain Hook. Or they have finger puppets for £2.75 each so for £15 you could have a collection of five and a lot of fun!
Tinkerbell and the Disney fairies are pure plastic I’m afraid – but….. I already love the type where their wings light up and change colour – a simple trick but quite magical when you turn the lights down and bound to appeal to little girls – and boys too in fact from about 3 to 8 ( maybe older thought they would never admit it!). They now also make “blossom surprise” fairies with scented, removable wings and clothes. These cost around £10.
For boys over four or five of course there’s Lego. It can be pricey – or too cheap! But take a look at the Lego City police boat and the Lego city Fire truck, both just under £15.
And last but not least there’s Etch A Sketch, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. You can write with it, draw with it, and you can do curves as well as straight lines. If you’re practiced enough – you can even create circles with it! Since its creation it has been immortalised in films and advertising and even has its own I-phone App. There’s been an Etch A Sketch in the shape of a Dalek and apparently Homer Simpson’s head. Personally, I prefer the traditional design.
My husband was rather scathing and said our children would have no interest as it was too old fashioned and they were now so used to computer and phone games this would leave them cold. Wrong! My daughter leapt on hers and thought it was great fun. As she put it ” I love all things to do with drawing”. To rub out you simply shake it and I’m hoping it will save me some office paper. But it’s main feature perhaps is it suits any age and it really does look like a fab present for £14.99.
Additional thoughts: you could look at the Dr Who mini tardis with two figures from Character Options (£9) and some lovely wooden beads you can make into jewellery – the Happy Hearts set from Melissa and Doug ( a company worth exploring) for less than £10
All of these things can be bought on the internet, but spare a thought for your local toyshop – they have knowledge and advice that is not available on Amazon and I’m sure will have some great ideas on top of those here. And of course you don’t have to pay postage and packing.
Some of these toys have been sent out for me to look at – some have been gifts- others I have found myself. Most but not all I have tried out. But as I’m often asked for ” toy” advice, the idea is simply to give you some ideas.
And if you have some good tips for toys or games under £15 – especially for teenagers – please do add them.