Christmas 2023: 12 toys with high play value to buy for boys and girls

Tired of spending money on presents that are used once then forgotten about? These gifts will entertain far beyond the festive season

From left, magnetic tiles, a drawing projector and a potion-making kit can all spark creativity and entertain for hours. Photo: Mideer; Leerfei; The Den Kit Co
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With Christmas just around the corner, parents will be kept busy looking for presents their little ones will love.

For those who like to shop strategically, the “want, need, wear, read” approach will help decide which gifts to buy. The idea is to organise gifts into the things children have said they want on their Christmas wishlist, along with something they need, an item to wear and reading material such as books, comics and annuals.

The strategy can also include experiences, such as a trip or visit somewhere, which can be looked forward to after the festive period.

Another approach to gift-buying is to look at play value. This is the value of a toy or game, measured by how much it will be used, how many different ways it can be played with, its engagement level and, most importantly, that the child can determine the toy’s play value rather than having to be directed by mum and dad.

According to child development experts, items such as building blocks, construction toys, Lego, clay and yo-yos are good examples of toys that have high play value.

Playability is another aspect to consider, which concerns toys that can appeal to a range of age groups, allowing the toy to grow with the child and for older or younger siblings to join in too. Board games, ball toss, Mr Potato Head and the classic teddy bear all fall under this category.

With all these factors in mind, here are 12 toys with high play value and playability, which can be used for years to come.


Created in 1967, this timeless toy comes in many variations, including original, electronic and themed, such as Pokemon, Scooby-Doo and Barbie.

Children can create different images by pushing coloured pegs into the holes on a board, while a light in the background illuminates the designs.

The creative possibilities are endless, and the small pegs help with concentration, and finger strength and dexterity.


Domino train set

Dominoes are a high value toy thanks to the many ways they can be used; however, they can be tricky for little ones to set up.

This is where the Beauenty Kid’s Domino Train Blocks Set comes in. Fill up the cartridge with dominoes, press the button and let the little train create patterns that children can enjoy knocking down as much as setting up.


Magnetic tiles

With endless possibilities to construct and create, these magnetic tiles from Mideer will be a toy box go-to for years.

With 100 pieces to play with, children can put together an array of 2D and 3D creations such as cars, houses and planes, while the different shapes provide plenty of science and maths-based learning opportunities.


Drawing projector

With arts and crafts toys high up on the play value scale, this projector by Leerfei will keep children engaged and encourage them to explore their artistic side.

The projector shows 32 different images, which little ones can draw around to copy and colour. It comes with 12 coloured brushes and is adjustable to recreate in a variety of image sizes.


Guinness World Records 2024

To tick off the “read” gift on the list, this book of record-breaking feats will entertain and intrigue.

This long-running book series continues to entertain younger generations by moving with the times to feature world records about robots, rollercoasters, movies, gaming, Pokemon and manga.


Mini arcade claw game

A staple in gaming arcades for decades, this mini version of the classic claw machine by PowerTRC can be used for years.

Fill the machine with mini toys and sweets and let the whole family take turns trying to win something. The machine lights up and makes sounds for that full arcade experience and can be used for birthdays parties and other celebrations throughout the year.


Melissa & Doug Suspend Game

Games that can be played with siblings or the whole family offer a great deal of play value and encourage family time.

Best for children aged eight and above, this 31-piece suspension game helps developmental skills, hand-eye co-ordination and cognitive reasoning skills as children try to avoid being the one who makes the whole thing tumble down.


Toomies Bubble & Bake Bathtime

These toys add fun and skill development to bath time.

This set is suitable for children aged 18 months and above and encourages little ones to have lots of fun cooking up pots of bubbles.

There are plenty of nozzles, buttons and pumps to twist, turn and push, including a hob that drips water through into the oven and a sink to wash everything up in, developing essential skills.


Stepping stones

These lightweight but hard-wearing plastic stepping stones by Meanhdag are perfect for indoor and outdoor play.

Encouraging problem solving, creativity, co-ordination and balance, the stepping stones can be arranged in any way children like, whether between pieces of furniture at home, or across the garden as an obstacle course.

Plus, they stack away to save space.


Crazy Aaron's Hide Inside Arcade Adventure Thinking Putty

With many variations of this popular putty available, this option – filled with hundreds of tiny pieces to identify – is ideal for older children.

Finding the correct pieces takes time and concentration, helping to develop patience and hand-eye co-ordination. Plus, it’s easy to slip into a pocket or bag to take out to dinner for a screen-free entertainment option.


Play camping set

Ideal for outdoors in the cooler winter weather and easy to set up inside during the summer months, this camping kit offers plenty of different ways to play.

It comes with 21 pieces of equipment, including a pop-up tent, toy stove and light, cooking utensils and food. Toddlers and older children will love setting up camp with this toy – encouraging creativity, role play and independence.


Potion-making kit

This gift is ideal for both young and older children and ticks plenty of play value boxes.

It comes with bags and pots filled with natural herbs and coloured powders, along with sieves, bottles and funnels for mini-scientists to get creative.

The rest is up to the potion-maker, and children are encouraged to head out into nature to collect things such as leaves, twigs, feathers and flowers to mix into their natural potions for hours of messy, creative play.


Updated: December 07, 2023, 8:56 AM