Last year I was invited to visit the headquarters of Playmobil in Germany to tour the factory and Playmobil Fun Park, and then meet the company’s founder, Horst Brandstatter.
What I remember most about our conversation was his passionate belief that children’s toys need to be simpler – not more sophisticated. That kids need time and space to invent their own stories, rather than playing with characters some adult has invented. I love that idea.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve been asked to review loads of Playmobil, and I also still buy the odd Playmobil set for Flea myself – this year we’re thinking of buying the Playmobil Grand Maison to go in Flea’s playroom.I thought it might be useful to round up some of my favourite Playmobil toys from the past couple of years, in case you’re looking for Christmas inspiration!
1. Playmobil 4070 Playground Set, around £35
This set includes a variety of playground equipment (slide, sandpit, swings) and eight Playmobil kids. Over the two years we’ve had this set, it’s probably one of the most consistently played with, which shouldn’t surprise me – younger kids love role-playing everyday situations with their toys, and this set is perfect for imaginary games set in the school playground. Do shop around though, because I’ve seen this retailing anywhere between £30 and £50.
2. Playmobil 3255 Noah’s Ark, around £40
This gorgeous Noah’s ark is simple to put together, robust – and floats! Like many kids of her age, Flea loves animals, and has endless fun playing with the giraffes, lions, monkeys, zebras and more than come with this set. And at the end of the game, everything gets tidied away into the boat and can be popped easily into a cupboard.
3. Playmobil 4290 Giant Pirate’s Ship, around £70
Flea and her cousin Harry both have this toy, and it’s one that’s regularly pulled out of the toy box two years after it was bought. It’s a bit tricky to put together (don’t buy this on Christmas Eve) but once it’s finished, it has lots of lovely features, including a hiding space for treasure and a captain’s cabin. For me, I think the sails fall off too easily, but that’s never bothered Flea. Will fit into a cupboard if you take down the mast.
4. Playmobil 5804 Take Along Pirate Island, around £25
I’m a big fan of this pirate island set which folds together into a really compact case in the shape of a skull. It is small but has loads of play value once opened up, including a little cannon that fires cannon balls, and some gruesome looking pirates and an escape boat. Oh, and treasure and a glow-in-the-dark skeleton. Come on. How cool is that? A great companion to the Pirate’s Ship.
5. Playmobil 4826 Safari Animal Care Station, around £45
One of the things that can be a problem with Playmobil sets is their size – we’ve passed on sets like the school and hospital because it’s impossible to put them away anywhere. But the animal care station, with its beds, cages and decking is small enough to pop on a shelf, while being flexible enough to be played with as a hospital, a den, a school, and a base for international spies. A great set for children who love animals, in particular.
6. Playmobil 4221 Ambulance, around £30
Every child loves a good medical emergency, and this is one of Flea’s oldest Playmobil sets – and probably the one that’s had the most use. I love it because it’s small and compact – all the accessories can go inside after Flea’s finished playing – and it doesn’t fall apart even during quite rough play. Totally recommended, and a great companion to the playground set.
7. Playmobil 4325 School Gym, around £30
You may be looking at investing in the school set from Playmobil, but at almost £100 less, I think this is a better buy – it’s a brilliant set that includes a standard gym with climbing bars, benches and a basketball hoop, with some children and a teacher. I find Flea is more likely to take this out when she’s playing schools, and combine it with the playground set – because the school set (which we also have) is cumbersome and impossible for her to move around the house.
Disclosure: We have been given a number of Playmobil sets to review by Playmobil over the past couple of years, but I’ve only recommending things I have bought or would buy with my own money!