A stocking bulging with goodies on Christmas morning is what kicks the big day off for children.
While stockings are one of Christmas’s most loved traditions, their origins are hazy and there are many variations on the same theme.
Some believe the custom began with a nobleman born in 280AD from Asia Minor (an ancient area covering what is now Italy to Lebanon). A Christian, he used his wealth to help those less fortunate than himself – but would only deliver his presents at night, once people were asleep, so no one would discover who their benefactor was.
There is another story, about a man with three daughters and no money to give them a dowry. This meant the girls were facing an impoverished future as without money no one would marry them. St Nicholas travelled to the village and, because the father would not accept charity, St Nick popped three bags of gold coins down the chimney, and they landed inside the girls’ stockings which had, with happy coincidence, been drying by the fire.
We think the best presents for stockings should be mini but mighty: small in size, low in price and plenty of fun.
Our round-up consists of presents which in all cases but one cost less than £10 and won’t take up much space in any given stocking – or too much wrapping paper for that matter.
From Slurpees to Squeezamals these are universally pleasing stocking fillers.
One more thing: don’t forget the tangerine.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Orchard Toys landmark lotto: £5, Orchard Toys
Introduce little ones to the wonders of the world including the Great Wall of China and the Egyptian pyramids without getting up from your seats through this awesome little game. It’s small in size, and low in price – making excellent stocking filler fodder. However, it’s also incredibly clever, well designed and above all engaging. Each player has their own individual passport with destinations included. Taking turns to overturn destination cards and match them to those in the passport (the person who “fills” their passport first wins) encourages healthy competition and sparks curiosity for the world not to mention honing memory skills. Our testers (one of whom was three, slightly younger than the recommended age but absolutely thrilled none-the-less) loved the facts about the different places included on each passport.
Rex London fuzzy face magnet Game: £2.95, Rex London
This is a classic stocking filler – with such a simple premise. Iron filings manipulated by a magnetic pen to produce hair, beards and moustaches onto an otherwise entirely bald head. We watched as a group of four-year-olds squabbled over whose turn it was next, which is a ringing endorsement, surely. Compact, entertaining and cheap as chips.
Roald Dahl Top Trumps: £4.99, Waterstones
An oldie but a goodie – Top Trumps has been going since 1978. There are a host of different themes including Frozen and The Lion King but we think the Roald Dahl versions are the best, replete with Quentin Blake’s inimitable illustrations. Little bookworms can reacquaint themselves with some of the most iconic heroes and villains of Dahl’s stories including Willy Wonka and Matilda – and play to work out who is the kindest, most cunning or brainiest. The eight- and nine-year-old testers were engrossed for over an hour.
Bandai slurpee snot suckers: £5.98, Amazon
Totally gross and completely compelling, these vivid creatures simply suck slime up and squirt it back out again. So wrong, yet so popular. Our testers, girls and boys aged three to nine years old, were absolutely rapt with glee. They are bigger than they look, too.
Smart car mini: £5.99, Smart Games
There is much more to this little truck than first meets the eye. It consists of wheels attached to a platform on which children aged around six or older must build the main body of the “car” out of different coloured bricks. This is trickier than it looks – there are a whole load of different challenges to tackle in a little booklet that comes in the box – and we admit to scratching our heads a bit at some of them. A clever little car for clever little kids (and some adults).
Infantino glowing jellyfish light bath toy: £4.99, Amazon
Suitable for babies aged six months and older, these little jellyfish light up automatically in water and float – making bath time even more fun. This is an exciting sensory experience for babies and smaller kids especially given the different textures. Our nine-month-old tester was enchanted with his jellyfish – so much so we’re worried that anything without a light will now not do.
Make sure to dry bath toys after use rather than just slinging them back into the basket – we’ve learned the hard (and mouldy) way.
Fisher Price classic pocket camera: £8, Kidly
Just looking at this retro toy camera will bring a wave of nostalgia to parents, while little ones will be thrilled with their new machine. There’s a loud click and some 27 different “pictures” to enjoy. We love how compact and light it is, not to mention having a loop handle which keeps the camera secure and safe. As first cameras go, this has got to be the best.
Play in Choc chocolate toy box: £3, Kidly
Chocolate and a toy in one little box? This is an ideal stocking filler, with a cardboard elf to assemble and delicious organic, dairy-free chocolate to munch. If the elf proves to be a hit, bear in mind there are 17 other toys to collect.
Learning Resources playfoam pluffle, red and blue: £12, Amazon
This stuff is so weird. It’s just foamy fluff that asks for nothing more than to be poured, touched and squeezed. Even watching it move is pleasing. That it essentially all you need to know – and kids absolutely love it.
The best thing about pluffle is that it doesn’t dry out – meaning it’s not a one hit wonder and even more of a bargain. It is also non-toxic.
Rex London set of 10 animal colouring pencils: £6.95, Rex London
These coloured pencils are so stylish with gorgeous individual designs – including lions and rabbits on each pencil and a sturdy casing. Excellent quality and easy to sharpen.
Squeezamals series 3, medium assortment: £5.99, Smyths Toys
These little critters are cute and tactile. Children can squeeze them right down before releasing them to watch them “grow” back into shape. They don’t do much else other than look cute and compel people to squidge them but there’s a whole menagerie to collect, including hedgehogs and seals, and they all come with their own distinctive sweet scent.
The verdict: Christmas stocking fillers for kids
The Landmark Lotto game wins for how much it offers at such a low price point. Small, compact, but bursting with engagement, interest and facts. A brilliant stocking filler.