The must-have toys for 2018 revealed

Calling Father Christmas! The must-have toys for 2018 revealed – from a mini robot on wheels to a £2 tub of ‘unicorn poo’

  • UK parenting site MadeforMums unveiled the results of its annual toy awards 
  • Dished out gongs for best doll, best soft toy, best robot and more
  • Must-haves range from a £79.99 robot on wheels to a £2 tub of ‘unicorn poo’ 

This Christmas, parents will be desperate to get their hands on farting robots, eco-friendly playhouses and rocking mammoths to stash under the tree for their little ones.

That’s according to parenting website MadeforMums, which has revealed the 2018 winners of its annual toy awards.

Chosen with the help of 500 child testers aged between 12 weeks and 15 years, the results read like a comprehensive guide to Christmas shopping for UK parents, with the crème de la crème of the toy aisles broken down into best doll, best soft toy, best activity centre, and more.   

Susie Boone, Editor MadeForMums, said: ‘The results of this year’s MadeForMums Toy Awards judging show clearly that children are loving toys they can collect – especially if they can unwrap, hatch or discover them in a pot of gunge.

‘That’s not to say classic toys have had their day: wooden toys scored highly this year, too, with a timber mud kitchen winning Best Toy for Pretend Play, and a train set wowing our child testers’ parents with its quality – for only £15.’ 

Each toy was scored for play potential and value for money, and the children’s scores were combined with the verdicts of expert (grown-up) judges from the MadeForMums editorial team, and specially invited influencer judges including teen YouTube stars Amazing Arabella and JD the Kid, Al Ferguson, founder of The Dad Network, Laura Hamilton, star of Dancing on Ice, parent-led campaign group Let Toys Be Toys, and the Editor of toy industry magazine and website Toy News. 

BEST SOFT TOY 

Best soft toy: Fingerlings Hugs cost £29.99 from Smyths Toys or Argos, and are suitable for children aged from two upwards to cuddle this Christmas 


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Fingerlings Hugs, £29.99

Age: 2+

What is it? A 38cm plush version of the bestselling interactive monkey with long arms and Velcro-tipped hands that you can wrap around you for a snuggly hug. It can kiss, giggle, whoop in delight, snore and (yup) fart. You can also record your own voice for it to play back in its own way. Choose from pink Bella, or blue Boris.

Why MadeforMums love it: They’re super cuddly and super funny. And will withstand a lot of active play. The farting feature, in particular, thrilled our child testers to bits. We can’t think why…

What child testers made of it: ‘We’ve all had fun discovering all this toy’s different features,’ says Kerry, mum to five-year-old Sienna. ‘Sienna’s favourite is the kissing; she thinks it’s very cute. You can also throw your Fingerlings Hugs up in the air and she’ll say “wheee”, and if you hang her upside down, she makes monkey noises. 

‘She’s soft enough for cosy cuddles and sturdy enough to be thrown about and played with. A firm favourite!’ 

Available at: Smyths Toys and Argos 

BEST STEM TOY 

Best STEM toy: The Gravitrax Starter set costs £49.99 from Amazon or Smyths Toys, and is suitable for children aged eight and up

Gravitrax Starter Set, £49.99

Age: 8+

What is it? A 120-piece construction set from which you (on your own or with others) can quickly build super-cool-looking multi-level tracks, set multiple ‘gravity spheres’ rolling and racing along them – and experiment with different heights and angles to change the speed of the spheres. Includes tasks and blueprint tracks to follow. And there’s a (free) GraviTrax app where you can design more complicated tracks, and view the track from the ball’s perspective.

Why Madeformums love it: This is the old-fashioned marble run taken by the neck and given a fantastic 21st century, sciencey twist. A seriously cool, standout toy: our child testers all loved it – and all our grown up judges wanted to take it home.

What child testers made of it: ‘Oliver says this is the coolest game ever and thinks all his friends should ask for it this Christmas,’ says Mary-Kate, mum to eight-year-old Oliver. ‘It’s great how you can take it apart and start again or build something small and add to it. He’s spent hours playing with it and, actually, we all really love it.’

Available from: Amazon and Smyths Toys 

BEST STOCKING FILLER

Best stocking filler: According to the parenting website MadeforMums, every child will be delighted to receive a tub of Unicorn Poo in their Christmas stocking this year 

Unicorn Poo, £1.99

Age: 3 +

What is it? A tub of incredibly rare unicorn poo. Well, OK, clear, stretchy, glittery goo in either pink, pale pink or purple. Also comes in larger tubs with a unicorn figure inside.

Why Madeformums love it: It’s a happy tub of silliness that’s guaranteed an excited giggle from unicorn-mad children everywhere.

What child testers made of it: ‘Jaime loves this,’ says Danielle, the four-year-old’s mum. ‘It’s silly and fun and she loves unicorn stuff. If your child loves slime, it’s a winner!’

Available at: Amazon 

BEST ART/CRAFT TOY

Dessineo ‘Painting by Stencils’ Animals, £9.99

Best art/craft toy: The ‘Painting by Stencils’ animals cost £9.99 from Amazon or Gifts for Little Hands, and are suitable for children aged four and older

Age: 4+

What is it? A learn-to-paint kit that lets you paint an octopus, elephant, crab and whale, using stencils in an easy-to-follow 3-step process. Includes 5 stencils, 5 paints, 4 sheets with coloured border, a roller, a brush and a palette.

Why MadeforMums love it: We really like how you paint the big areas with the roller, and then use the brush for the details – each time guided by a stencil. The finished results look fantastic – and would give any child a real sense of achievement.

What child testers made of it: Michelle, mum to four-year-old Nathan, says: ‘This keeps Nathan engaged from start to finish. 

‘He’s excited about using the roller and brush, and choosing the different colours to make his own pictures. Such a great activity with many variations to choose from. Easy to clean and great quality.’ 

Available at: Amazon and Gifts for Little Hands

BEST ROBOT TOY 

Best robot toy: The Boxer mini-robot on wheels costs £79.99 and is available from Argos, Smyths Toys, and Amazon. It’s suitable for children aged six and above

Boxer, £79.99

Age: 6+

What is it? A quirky mini robot on wheels who responds to hand movements with funny expressions and can read the 10 activity cards included with him, to play games like Bot Bowling, Paddle Bot or Go Kart. 

If you place a card down in front of him he’ll roll over it, scan it and start playing. 

It comes with a remote control, and you can download a free Boxer app to access more games. 

Full of personality, Boxer can express a full range of emotions, from happiness to sadness and grumpiness to sleepiness.

Why MadeforMums love it: Boxer is very cute, his tricks are cool and his facial expressions are wonderful – you really can tell if he’s happy, sad, grumpy sleepy. And, while he’s not cheap, he’s not as pricey as other robot friends out there…

What child testers made of it: ‘Noah’s absolutely delighted with Boxer,’ says the seven-year-old’s mum, Carly. ‘It’s a huge hit and he recommends it to all his friends. He loves doing tricks with it and learning how to do new things.’

Available from: Argos, Smyths Toys and Amazon

BEST DOLL  

Best doll: Cry Babies cost £29.99 from Argos, Amazon, or ASDA, and are suitable for children aged between three and five

Cry Babies, £29.99

Age: 3 to 5

What is it? A 31cm onesie-wearing doll with moveable arms and legs, who will cry real tears if you take away her dummy – and make makes cute gurgling noises when you soothe her. Choose from 6 different characters, including new additions Dotty, Nala, and Lady. Batteries included.

Why MadeforMums love it: OK, so hands up: we first thought these dolls, with their over-sized heads and enormous eyes, were a bit yuk. But then we saw our child testers collectively lose their hearts to these onesie-clad wailing wonders, and we changed our minds completely.

What child testers made of it:

Four-year-old Nancy says: ‘I really like her as she moves and cries. She cries proper water and I really like the noise she makes when I put her dummy in. I love that she’s a tiger too [Nancy tested Nala, the Cry Baby in a tiger onesie]. I can play lots of things with her… She’s really fun.’

Available from: Argos, Amazon, Asda

BEST TODDLER TOY 

Best toddler toy: Duplo Farm Adventures by LEGO costs £54.99 from John Lewis and Smyths Toys, and is suitable for little ones aged between two and five

LEGO Duplo Farm Adventures, £54.99

Age: 2 to 5

What is it? A farmyard-themed Duplo set with a mighty 104 pieces, including a farmer and 2 children, a sheep, cow, goat, rooster and a rabbit, plus a farmhouse with a bedroom, barn, tractor, picnic bench and slide.

Why MadeforMums love it: The working pulley on the side of the barn is a proper toddler magnet. And we also really rate the attention to detail in this chunky, small-finger-friendly set: accessories include a pitchfork and waffles for the farm kitchen – and there’s even a loo in the farmhouse!

What child testers made of it:

‘The quality is absolutely fantastic, the detail is amazing, and it’s not gender-specific so it appeals to all children,’ says Joanne, mum to two-year-old Heidi. 

‘Heidi loved playing with the pulley; it’s her favourite piece out of the box and she got very excited the first time she was able to successfully loosen it and then rewind it.’

Available from: John Lewis and Smyths Toys 

BEST BABY SLEEP-AID TOY

 Best Baby Sleep-aid toy: The SweetDreamers Ewan Deluxe, £39.99, promises to soothe little ones; suitable for from newborns

SweetDreamers Ewan Deluxe, £39.99

Age: From birth

What it is: A fleecy sheep with light and sound sensors that plays 4 soothing sounds (womb noises, vacuum cleaner, harp music, rainfall), all with a resting-heartbeat sound in the background, volume control and automatic shut-off after 20 minutes. This new Deluxe model also features a MoonMode smartCRY sensor that automatically activates if you baby stirs in the night.

Why MadeforMums love it: Ewan’s cute design, calming sounds and soft-pink glow has already made it an iconic sleep-aid toy but we really rate the smartCRY upgrade. Oh, and the cry-sensor pod is now removable, so Ewan is machine- washable.

What child testers made of it:  

Says Aisha, mum to Habbibah, 4 months: ‘I think Ewan is great value for money. In fact, I’d be prepared to pay more for what it offers. I love the sounds it makes. Habbibah took a few days to get used to it but Ewan now knows how to soothe her.  

Available from: SweetDreamers and John Lewis 

EDITOR’S CHOICE 

Editor’s Choice: Rainbocorns cost £24.99 from Amazon, Argos and Smyths Toys, and are suitable for children aged between three and six 

Zuru Rainbocorns, £24.99

Age: 3 to 6

What is it? A large (28cm) cuddly creature with a unicorn and tufty rainbow hair. It comes in a brightly coloured egg and has sequin heart on its chest which reveals a secret message when swiped. 

Each Rainbocorn comes with a surprise Booboocorn; a miniature collectable baby Rainbocorn hidden inside another secret egg. There are 12 Rainbocorns to collect and unhatch.

Why MadeforMums love it: Well, this is a soft toy that combines unicorns, unhatching, secret messages, surprises and collecting – enough said.

What child testers made of it: ‘Eleanor is a great fan of unboxing things, so this toy delivers a lot of that thrill, with the added benefit of having a sturdy shell to keep putting it back into at night,’ says five-year-old Eleanor’s dad, Tim.

‘She’s a massive fan of the ‘hidden message’ that changes when stroked changes – and the toy is now a regular fixture amongst her soft toy family.’ 

Available at: Amazon, Argos and Smyths Toys

BEST BABY TOY (0-6 months)

Best young baby toy: Lamaze Flapping Fiona, £14.99 – mum of young tester Joshua said the four-month-old loved different textures this colourful flamingo has

Lamaze Flapping Fiona, £14.99 

Age: From birth

What it is: A multi-sensory soft flamingo with a velvety neck, extendable legs, silky beak, crinkly tail, and wings that whirr and flap when you pull down on the clip. Attaches easily to buggies, prams and nappy bags.

Why MadeforMums love it: Yes, flamingoes are very on-trend but what sold us on this bird are those flapping wings – what brilliant baby magnets! Fiona is also wonderful to touch, with all sorts of different textures to explore.

What child testers made of it: 

Jo, mum to Joshua 4 months, says: ‘My son is captivated by Fiona flapping her wings. He’s particularly drawn towards the colours and textures of Fiona’s beak, legs and feet. And her shape means there’s lots of bits that are easy for him to grab hold of.’

Available at: Amazon and JoJo Maman Bébé 

BEST BABY TOY (6-12 months)

Best baby toy: Skip Hop Explore & More Follow Bee Crawl Toy, £30 – this musical bee on a cloud whizzes around the room, playing ‘non irritating’ tunes

Skip Hop Explore & More Follow Bee Crawl Toy, £30

Age: 5 months +

What it is: A whizzy little cloud, with nestling bee rattle, that zooms around with rainbow lights flashing and (actually quite nice) music playing, encouraging your baby to crawl after it and grab the bee. It spins round in circles when the bee is removed. Batteries included.

Why MadeforMums love it:  We like its two whizz-around modes – a circular one for just-about-to-crawlers and a more random one for can-do-this-crawlers. It also has an in-built sensor to stop it bashing into furniture, and the bee rattle has moveable beads and teeth-friendly rubbery stripes for babies taking a crawling time out. 

What child testers made of it:

‘It’s a well-made toy and appears indestructible. High quality, cute design and nice (non irritating!) music. Teddy’s very drawn to the bee – which he finds fun to rattle and chew.’ Nicki, mum to Teddy, 10 months

‘It’s a cute toy and the twins are both very interested in catching the bee.’ Emma, mum to Freya and Joshua, both 6 months

Available at: John Lewis and Amazon 

BEST BALANCE BIKE

Best balance bike: Strider 14X Sport Balance /Pedal Bike, £180 – expensive it may be, but this first rider converts from a balance bike to a pedal bike making it great long-term value

Strider 14X Sport Balance /Pedal Bike, £180

Age: 3+

What it is: A lightweight balance bike that converts into a pedal bike (and back again) with 1-bolt assembly using the Easy Ride Pedal Kit (included). Features adjustable seat and handlebars, front and rear brakes, and footrests where the (half-width) pedals are added later, so that your child can learn to balance with their feet the correct position. Comes in blue or green, with Learn-to-Stride and Learn-to-Pedal guides.

Why MadeforMums love it:  We really rate this bike’s low centre of gravity and half-width pedals (making balancing and cornering easier), and also how easily it converts from balance bike to pedal bike. It looks dead stylish, too.

What our child testers made of it:

Matt, (bike-mad) dad to Elliot, 3, said: ‘Given this is a balance bike and first pedal bike-in-one, this is brilliant value for money. 

Elliott thinks it looks great, which has encouraged his desire to play on it and take it outside. The extra-long seat post ensures that he’ll can get years of use out of it.’

Available from: Striderbike  

BEST BATH TOY

Bloopies, £14.99

Bloopies, £14.99, ideal for three to five-year-olds, these clever toys squirt water when you squeeze their tummies – and come wearing their own flippers and eye masks

Age: 3 to 5

What is it: A 19cm bath-time doll kitted out in swimming costume, snorkel and flippers that squirts water from her or his mouth and snorkel when you press her or his tummy. Choose from 6 different characters (4 girls; 2 boys).

Why MadeforMums love it: We were overwhelmed by the hugely positive response from our child testers on this one. There’s obviously something slightly naughtily thrilling about a doll squirting water from its mouth…

What child testers made of it:

Maseline, 3, offered the following adorable verdict: ‘Oh wow, this is awesome. I love her – she’s going to be my best friend.’

Available from: Argos and Smyths Toys

BEST BOARD GAME

Best board game: Make ‘n’ Break, £24.99, requires the steadiest hand but promises hours of family fun

Make ‘n’ Break, £24.99

Age: 8+

What is it: A game where you race against time to replicate, with 10 colourful wooden blocks, the structure on the card you’ve drawn. Come with an extra dice and extreme challenge cards if you want to take things up a level. For 2 to 4 players.

Why MadeforMums love it: It sounds super-worthy but it’s actually huge fun – and requires steady nerves and fingers. We like the ways you can make it a teamwork challenge, too.

What child testers made of it: 

 Sarah, mum to Olivia, 9, says: ‘Olivia loves how this game makes you think. The race against the clock makes it more intense but she likes how you can work in teams, meaning that, as much as you are competitive, you must work together too. 

‘It’s the perfect game for us as we usually fall out because of competitiveness!’

Available from: John Lewis and Amazon

BEST EDUCATIONAL TOY 

Best educational toy:  Mysteries in Time, from £7.95 a month. Perfect for inquisitive young minds, this subscription toy offers a different element every month. Available in 1, 3 or 6-month supply

Mysteries in Time, from £7.95 a month

Age: 7 to 11

What it is: An historical-themed subscription box put together by primary-school teachers. Each month, you get a personalised Time Machine box packed with activities that introduce a new topic – range from the pharaohs to the Aztecs to ancient China to life as an evacuee in World War 2. Choose from a Classic or Bumper box.

Why MadeforMums love it: The activities are colourful, fun and really well thought through – and the packs include stickers, maps, bookmarks, puzzles, craft materials and a surprise gift. And no lock-in orders: you can order a 1, 3 or 6-month supply, and cancel at any time.

What child testers made of it: 

‘Overall, a great product: educational and high quality. Xander spent a long time looking through the contents and examining each item. He enjoyed reading the facts booklet and loved the activities,’ says Helen, mum to Xander, 8

Available from: Mysteries in Time 

BEST HEIRLOOM TOY

Le Toy Van Cherry Tree Hall Doll’s House, £190

BEST HEIRLOOM TOY: Le Toy Van Cherry Tree Hall Doll’s House, £190 – a gift you can see passed down through generations, this pretty doll’s house was praised for the craftmanship

Age: 3+

What is it: A grand (35cm x 92cm x 66cm) wooden doll’s house with 4 floors, an opening front door, staircases with bannisters, and windows with working shutters and window boxes. The front of the house opens in two panels for easy access and the roof lifts on a hinge to reveal the attic room. Requires some assembly.

Why MadeforMums love it: It looks beautiful, with subtle paint finishes (different in every room) and pretty decoration. The craftsmanship is excellent and it comes beautifully packed in tissue paper.

What child testers made of it:

· ‘It a lovely timeless design, and there’s plenty of room for more than 1 child to play at the same time. Claudia and her sister love playing with it, and I can see us getting a lot of use out of this.’ Christy, mum to Claudia, 5

· ‘There are so many details on this house: the windows and shutters both open and there’s a teeny tiny knob on the front door. It’s very sturdy and a good size. Definitely an investment purchase but a present they’ll always remember.’ Olivia, mum to twins Imogen & Jemima, 4

Available from: Amazon, Mulberry Bush and Cuckooland

BEST INTERACTIVE TOY

Myla the Magical Make-up Unicorn, £49.99

Best Interactive toy: Myla the Magical Make-up Unicorn, £49.99 comes with a (pretend) make-up palette that colours the unicorn

Age: 5+

What it is: A velvety-coated electronic unicorn who comes with her own (pretend) make-up palette and magic make-up brush: point the brush at the palette to choose a colour and then ‘paint’ the colour onto Myla’s wings, eyes and horn. 

Myla also moves her head, blinks, lights up, play games, sings and, if you touch her back, she’ll tell you your lucky colour for the day.

Why MadeforMums love it: Myla’s magical make-up brush is enchantingly clever (and blessedly mess-free) – but what makes this unicorn special is how much else she can do besides. Our testers particularly loved her the sing-with-me function. 

Available from: Argos and Amazon 

BEST OUTDOOR TOY

Best outdoor toy: Watch them zoom on this sit-and-glide ride-on Nighthawk cart, £169.99. Suitable for aged six plus

Nighthawk, £169.99

Age: 6+

What is it: A sit-and-glide ride-on for older kids that’s like a cross between a zoomy sledge and a futuristic go-kart. It nips along at a top speed of 12kph, and you steer by leaning, using the pedals to control how fast you go. Comes side handles, a safety flag. Comes with rechargeable 12V battery (needs overnight recharge) and has a run time of about 90 minutes.

Why MadeforMums love it: You should see how this turns kids’ heads in the park! This is one seriously cool piece of kit that every primary-school child will covet like crazy.

What child testers made of it:

Theo says it’s “shiny, epic and awesome” and he’d give it 100,000 stars as it’s best ride-on toy ever! It’s easy to steer and balance, and he feels really special riding it in the park because all his friends think it’s really cool.’ Chloe, mum to Theo, 8

· ‘This is brilliant! Georgie absolutely beams from ear to ear riding this – she screams with joy! It’s really quite nippy and speedy, so more suited to parks than streets. What an absolute joy of a toy!’ Danielle, mum to Georgie, 9

Available from: Hamleys and Smyths Toys  

BEST PORTABLE/TRAVEL TOY

Best portable travel/toy: Vtech Kidizoom Duo 5.0, £54.99 includes a digital camera with 4x zoom, voice recorder and a photo editor

Vtech Kidizoom Duo 5.0, £54.99

Age: 3 to 9

What is it?: A child-size dual-lens camera with a large screen that takes high-quality 5 megapixel photos and videos. You can switch between the two lenses, and apply fun effects, stamps and frames to your snaps and vids. Features include 4X digital zoom, age-appropriate games, a voice recorder, a wacky photo shaker and photo editor. Comes in pink and blue. Stores up to 128MB.

Why MadeforMums love it: It’s very robust (1 of our testers accidentally dropped it from quite a height) and produces nice visuals. And all the extras make it a toy that will keep them busy for quite a while…

What child testers made of it:

‘It’s so cool and I love the games. It’s fun to take selfies and videos of my family. I can’t wait to take it on holiday,’ Aaron, aged six

Available from: Amazon and Smyths Toys

BEST PUZZLE

Best puzzle: Get them to brush up on their geography in no time at all with The World: Atlas & Jigsaw, £9.99

The World: Atlas & Jigsaw, £9.99

Age: 5 to 10

What is it? A beautifully illustrated, 300-piece jigsaw of the world map that comes with a 32-page picture atlas full of facts and famous sights. There are 100s of animals, landmarks and attractions to spot on the jigsaw and look up in the atlas.

Why MadeforMums love it: There are so many layers of enjoyment and learning here. There’s the actual piecing together of the puzzle, the learning about the geography of the world, what animals live where and what famous landmarks you’ll find around the globe and then the enriching experience of referencing the Atlas once you have pieced together all the different countries.

What child testers made of it: 

Abbey, age 8, enthused: ‘I really liked putting this jigsaw together. I was very interested to learn where all the countries are around the world. I liked the colours. It took me nearly 2 days to complete it because I had to stop and start a few times but I wanted to finish it.’

Available from: WHSmith 

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