The High Street Christmas countdown has well and truly begun. A godsend for busy parents who want to get organised and avoid last minute panic shopping. But most of us will find that the choice of children's toys is a little overwhelming. Retailers' gift lists can be at best confusing and at worst, a little biased, depending on who you listen to. Children are often swayed by exciting ads, or products their friends have asked for, but it's difficult to know which have real play value and won't be discarded and lost at the bottom of the toy box by January.
At the Good Toy Guide, we're here to help. We test products both with children themselves, and our team of independent experts and then rate them for you. Products can be either 'approved' if we've found that they are good buys, or recommended if they score really highly. Toys are also given age recommendations and can be broken down by the skills they develop, to make searching easy.
Our experts have also put together some handy gift guides for each age and for a range of different interests, so whether you're buying for baby's first Christmas, a STEM lover, or you are looking to buy an outdoor toy, we've got you covered. Of course, every child is unique - we have given some ideas for presents which a child at each age and with different interests might enjoy, but keep in mind that the child you are buying for could have different preferences.
Buying for boys and girls
Toys tend, somewhat controversially, to be divided into girls toys (dolls, kitchen sets, etc.) and boys toys (cars, guns, etc.). Nature studies suggest that this is partly a biological preference, however children are certainly influenced by their environment (the toys they are given and the reactions from others) too. In other words, it is absolutely fine to give a doll to a girl or a toy car to a boy, if that's what they'll enjoy.
But you needn't jump straight for the girly or boyish choice, and choosing toys that challenge stereotypes can actually help overcome gender differences. Boys are known to develop social skills slower than girls in general, for example, and giving them role-playing toys - such as small farm sets - can help with this development. There is also a push at the moment to get more girls into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, and giving them science kits to play with can nurture an interest from a young age.
Christmas toys for babies & toddlers
Although babies and toddlers won't always be able to tell you what they want, or indeed even understand the festivities, it can still be tricky to know what to buy them for Christmas. Our guides will help with buying choices based on the levels of development at particular ages.
Babies particularly enjoy products that stimulate their senses, e.g. those with lights and sounds, or brightly coloured and textured elements. Toddlers can be a little easier, as they will start to show interests, such as favourite characters from books or TV shows, or favourite colours, or their preferred way to play, with role play becoming a popular pastime around this age, so watch them while they play to find out what will best fit their needs and wants.
Christmas toys for pre-schoolers
By the time they are communicating and playing more independently, children are likely to have a much clearer idea of what they want and are likely to be quite happy to tell you about them! They will have favourite brands and characters, preferred things to do and will have a very clear personality by this point. Their skills will also have developed to a point where they are able to use and enjoy more complex toys such as puzzles and simple craft sets.
Their fine motor skills mean they will be able to handle smaller toys such as small world playsets. And gross motor skills mean they will likely be exploring the great outdoors a little more and getting much more active.
Christmas toys for young children
As children get older, they will begin to enjoy more challenging activities such as puzzles and arts & crafts. Board and card games are really popular and a great way to encourage families to communicate. Toys that help children to learn about different subjects can also be a fun addition at this age.
Christmas toys for older children and tweens
At this age children will love toys that have impressive results, and may be growing out of toys that they now deem uncool. Tech toys including robots or connected toys, are popular and children of this age will still enjoy board games. Big ticket items that can be shared with friends will be particularly popular at this age.
Christmas toys by type
Looking for a particular toy to entertain and educate a child this Christmas? Take a look at our dedicated guides for a series of toy types and themes, you'll surely find something of interest here!