Christmas 2015: ten toys for under £30
Remember: you should always look for vouchers, discounts and deals before you buy anything, and retailers are already offering bargains (especially Black Friday and Cyber Monday-related deals). For example, Argos is – at the time of writing – offering up to half price on Frozen toys and 25% off Star Wars toys.
Amazon offers free delivery, of course, if you sign up to its Prime service, but remember that if you sign up to the 30-day free trial, you should cancel if you don't want to pay £79 a year for the service.
Cute charms – Galt – £7.99
This set allows you to make cute animal jewellery with 10 coloured metal charms. Kids aged from about 5 will enjoy this creative playset, especially as threading elastic through the charms themselves is relatively easy for little hands and fingers.
Buy at: galttoys.com
Train Set in a Tin – Born Gifted – £9.99
We trialed this one at home and quickly realised what a good gift idea it is - a fantastic train set that children can take with them and set up wherever they go. If you have a little one who constantly needs entertaining, you could even fit this into a handbag and set it up in a coffee shop or anywhere with a small surface area. Remarkably, the entire set fits back in the box easily after opening the first time and offers enough entertainment to keep little ones occupied for an hour or so.
Buy at: borngifted.co.uk
Art jar – Galt – £14.99
This is a creative child's dream toy. A huge plastic jar packed with every conceivable craft item your child might want to use, from pompoms and wiggly eyes to plastic buttons, beads, straws and glitter glue. We emptied its contents and immediately set about making some fun Christmas cards and, somewhat randomly, a puppet show stage - with some oif the Moneywise team's children of course!
Buy at: galttoys.com
Robofish Jellyfish – £19.99
Zuru, the manufacturers of Robo Fish and Robo Mermaids have released a new battery-operated aquatic creature this year – the jellyfish. What’s innovative about this one, at least for the child we trialled it on, is that the charging point for the jellyfish operates as a night-light. So if you have a child or grandchild that likes to play with lifelike sea creatures in the bath – and will be fascinated rather than disturbed by a tentacled animal illuminating their room each night – this is the toy for you.
Worry Eaters – Coiled Spring Games – £12-£20
Children can write down their troubles and feed them into the zip mouth of these Worry Eater soft toys, which is why they come recommended by psychologists and teachers. They are particularly useful if you have more than one child to buy for, as there are many different Worry Eater types to choose from. Also, younger children who cannot write can still use the toys, by simply drawing a picture of what's worrying them and popping that into the Worry Eater's mouth instead.
Buy at: amazon.co.uk
Hexbugs – £4-£29.99
Hexbugs are insanely addictive. The battery-powered little critters really do look like bugs, and come in many shapes and sizes. We like the original £4 Nano bugs plus the £29.99 Launchpad that allows you to launch your Nano bug through the air and into one of three neon tubes. It's involves some trial and error, but when we tested it, it took a child of six less than 10 minutes to get the hang of.
Buy at: hexbug.com
Make Your Own Perfume – Galt – £10.99
Fancy mixing fruity and floral scents in pretty bottles? Then this kit is for you. Choose from five fragrances (Jasmine, Lily of the Valley, Apple, Strawberry and Vanilla) and go to town creating your own unique scents. This was a hit with one of the five-year-old girls who helped us test the toys in this list, who boldly stated: "I loved making perfume that I could put on myself and also give to my friends". High praise indeed!
Buy at: galttoys.com
Story Cubes – Coiled Spring Games – £4-£12
These are a great idea. The dice in these sets have pictures on each side. When children roll the set of dice, they must make up a story using all the pictures that land face-up. Simple, yet requiring children to use their imagination. We tested a set of 'Fright'-themed cubes and watched as four reception-aged children created a story about a monster or ghost (we forget!) who stole a family's television, changed it so it only showed pictures of clowns, then put it back in their living room. Remarkable and hilarious to watch.
Buy at: amazon.co.uk.
My Magical Seahorse – £19.99
This battery-operated creature is a seahorse with a cartoon face that swims realistically around its water tank. You can simply tap on the tank to ‘wake’ it up and watch it swim around, making its own bubbles it go. You can also place it in the bath and watch it go.
Marvin’s iMagic Interactive Box of Tricks – £24.99
This claims to be the world’s first magic set for smartphones, blurring the boundaries between contemporary conjuring and modern tech. Our little testers (aged 5 and 9) coped pretty well and became budding magicians using an iPhone.
Buy at: Argos.co.uk