Plastic toy army men are a must have element in any army toys collection. They encourage a variety of creative types of play, because they can be set up in so many different ways, depending upon the imagination.

Critics have accused army men toys of advocating violence and militarism, banning them from schools and daycares. However, it’s important to remember that these toys are just that: toys. They don’t pose a threat to anybody and are really just an inventive way for children to express themselves. Generations prior to ours have played with plastic army men toys and turned out just fine. Who are we to argue with that?

Although they are relatively cheap to buy, so are virtually disposable, you should still give some thought to which sets to buy. They range from small figures bought by the bucket load to 12″ GI Joe figures so here are some pointers to consider when browsing possible sets:

Quality v quantity

You will get a lot of fairly small and standard versions for not much money or one larger figure. Which will your child be happier with?


How tall do you want your army men toys to be? 2″ tall is a fairly standard size. Anything much larger than that is going to be harder to find other than in action figure form.


The molding on cheaper sets is pretty basic and you will not find much, if any, variety in the collection. Try and find sets where the detailing on the face and uniforms is at least varied to some extent.


Some cheaper collections contain soldiers all molded in the same pose. This does not make for a very realistic battle scene. Try and ensure whichever set you go for has a collection of army men in different poses.


Most toy army men sets are not going to include articulated figures. You will need action figures to enjoy this level of detailing.


Will your child want to get straight down to the battle or will they enjoy building their army through one of the many kits available?

Character based

Most plastic army soldiers are not branded in any way. The exception to this rule are the Toy Story green army men toys or the GI Joe figures. Which route you choose will depend on whether your child is an army toys fan or a movie fan.

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Enemy figures

Battles are not battles without enemies. As such you will really need to ensure that your army men toys are distinguishable somehow into at least two separate armies. Most sets have figures in varying colors to allow for this play battle experience.


Vehicles are a key part to any army and so sets that include a few will allow for more realistic play. Sometimes it can be better to buy a separate army vehicles set in addition to a soldier figures set – just make sure the scales are the same on each one.

Which war?

Most children will probably not be interested in which war their toy soldiers represent, but if you are after figures from the Civil War or WWII or you are even after medieval army toys, make sure you choose a relevant set.

Who would have thought there was so much to think about with such a cheap toy, but nobody wants to waste money so a little planning never goes amiss. Please read our other article for our top picks on plastic army men toys.

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