While many blasters are made for children aged six years and up (or 14 and up for the Rival Range), being the youngest one in the house sucks when your older siblings can play with NERF guns but you can’t. However, there are several blasters that a small child can easily shoot and reload and you can teach them to play safely that little bit younger too.
Before going any further, we should address the safety side of things. While NERF guns are very safe and don’t hurt much even when fired from close range, they can be dangerous if they hit eyes. So make sure you teach your kids not to fire at their friend’s heads and wear safety glasses when playing NERF wars. I have written more on NERF safety here.
So if you want a NERF gun for your toddler, which ones make the best choices?
What Makes a Good NERF Blaster for a small child?
There are certain features that make NERFing more fun for small children. Essentially they need to be small, lightweight, and easy to fire and reload, so they spend less time looking for help and more time having fun.
To potentially make our list of best blasters for toddlers, a blaster must meet the following criteria:
It must be small
A small child is going to have problems holding a larger blaster. You want them to be able to play without struggling to hold their toy. A large, bulky blaster is going to mean they need two hands to hold it and make them more unbalanced and prone to falling over.
So for that reason, we are going to stick to pistols.
It must be light
This goes hand in hand with the size issue – small kids aren’t that strong, so they need something lightweight.
For this reason battery powered blasters, with the additional weight of the batteries, are being ruled out too.
Simple to load
Toddlers are generally less well co-ordinated so blasters that come need magazines, which are hard to refill, are going to be left out too.
Simple to prime
Most little kids do not have the grip strength or coordination to prime blasters with a slide. So we are going to narrow this down to only those that have an easy priming mechanism, preferably those with a loop or handle they can easily grip.
Not too powerful
Powerful blasters are great when you get older but they harder to prime and also less forgiving of accidents. So we will generally look for the less powerful ones.
So, those are the criteria for a NERF gun for children, the following are our picks for those that best meet them
Nerf Captain Cassian Andor Blaster from Star Wars Rogue One
This blaster is from the Star Wars line, which is probably enough for many kids to want it! Even without this, it is an ideal blaster for a toddler.
Firstly the Star Wars blasters are less powerful than the Elite range. These ones are advertised to fire up to 22m where the Elites are advertised at 30m – so considerably less powerful.
It is also easy to prime and load. To load you simply slide the dart into the barrel, then pull back the handle on the top to prime. The handle is easy to grab and pulls straight back, which is much easier for kids.
This blaster does use batteries, but only to light up and make noises (which my friend’s son thought was great when I gave it to him!) so it can still be used without any batteries.
The one down-side is that Rogue One is not in the multiplexes anymore, so this blaster is getting a little bit hard to find now, but it is a great blaster for little hands.
If you have problems finding this one, the Poe Dameron blaster is very similar, although I do not like the looks as much and my nephew (and guinea pig!) found it a little harder to prime.
You can read my picks of the best NERF Star Wars Blasters here >>
Nerf N-Strike BowStrike Blaster
The workings of the BowStrike are very similar to the GlowShot (below) although there are a few differences. Where the GlowShot has a gimmick of lighting up, the BowStrike has a sight and set of crossbow -like arms that pop out when you prime it.
These little gimmicks don’t actually do anything but look really cool and, unlike the GlowStrike, do not require batteries.
While the arms make this look like a crossbow it loads by simply putting the dart into the barrel. To prime it, you just pull back the lever at the rear, which has a nice loop making it very easy to grip so even small kids shouldn’t have too much trouble.
The BowStrike is part of the Elite range, but where the large Elite blasters fire at around 70-75 FPS (feet per second) this one averages around 55 FPS. So while more than the Star Wars blaster, it is much less powerful than the bigger Elite blasters. But do keep in mind the earlier warning about not firing at people’s faces…
Overall this is a fun blaster with a cool gimmick that should entertain the younger NERFer for many hours
Nerf N-Strike GlowShot Blaster
This blaster has a lot going for it as a blaster for kids, but its party piece is that it glows!
OK so we said about not using batteries, but this one only uses 2 AAA batteries, which are small and light, and these are not required to fire it, so can be taken out.
It is also very easy for small hands to prime and load. Slide your dart into the barrel, then pull back the loop at the back to prime. The loop is easy to grip and also pulls straight back, which requires less coordination.
This blaster is part of the Elite range, but it only manages velocities similar to the BowStrike. So while it fires a little harder than the Star Wars blaster, it is not so hard that it will cause any real problems.
So if your kids prefer their blasters to glow in the dark rather than the pop-out arms and sight of the BowStrike, this is the one to go for.
Nerf N-Strike Elite Triad EX-3 Blaster
The NERF Triad is a great little blaster. Closely related to the Jolt (see below) but is like having 3 Jolts in one and usually for about the same price too!
While not as ridiculously light as the Jolt, it still only weighs around 5.5 Ounces and is only marginally bigger than the Jolt at 7.1 x 6.8 x 2 inches. This makes it a great blaster for small hands.
Where it really scores over the competition is its 3 barrels, which will appeal to kids but are no harder to load – you just push a dart into each barrel and each time you prime, it will fire the next available dart.
To prime, you pull down on the lever at the bottom of the grip. This position did cause some problems with a toddler who could only prime it by holding the barrel, but most have no problem at all with this arrangement.
On the packaging it says that it is built to Elite specs and is capable of launching a dart around 30m. However, the reality is that the muzzle velocity of the Triad is quite a bit down on the bigger Elite blasters. The Triad is powerful enough to be fun and can make 30m shots with a bit of luck, it is not hard enough to hurt (with our usual warnings not to fire at faces) but is slightly harder than the Star Wars blaster.
The Triad is one of my favorite backup weapons in real NERF wars, so as a plaything for a toddler, it is excellent fun and highly recommended.
Nerf N-Strike Elite Jolt Blaster
The Jolt is the smallest blaster NERF make, barely weighing more than 1.5 Oz and measuring 1.3 x 5.4 x 5.4 inches. This makes it an ideal size for even the smallest of hands.
The Jolt loads easily too, you just push the dart into the barrel. It primes with a well-shaped pull handle on the bottom of the pistol grip.
This does not take too much force to prime, but one 4-year-old did find it hard to hold the grip and do this. They found it easier to hold the barrel and pull.
While the Jolt is small, it is part of the Elite line, so can theoretically fire darts over 30m. However, in reality, it cannot muster the 70+ FPS muzzle velocities of the bigger Elite blasters. But, for such a small package it does pack a surprising punch.
Otherwise it is an excellent blaster for those with the smallest hands and available in several colors
Nerf N-Strike Elite Firestrike
The Firestrike is a little larger than the other blasters here, weighing in at 12 ounces and about 10 inches long, but features the rear pull priming lever, which is why I have featured it. This seems to be easier to prime than some of the others with the priming lever on the grip, such as the Triad.
Loading is simply a matter of putting the dart in the barrel and you are ready to go. It also has a couple of holes for you to store 2 more darts in the front, under the barrel.
This blaster also features a red laser sight, which requires batteries and contributes to the weight. It will fire perfectly well without these, but I know at least one kid that thought this was the coolest thing on any of my NERF guns!
It is also a proper Elite blaster, so produced muzzle velocities nearer the 70FPS mark and reaches about 30m, which is further and harder than the others here. It is not so powerful it will cause harm (with our usual caveats) but this is a good intro to the larger Elite blasters.
Overall it is a really nice blaster, but possibly too big for smaller kids, but one that will grow with them.
While toddlers and little kids will find many of the NERF guns tough to use, these are our selection of the ones that make the most sense for them. They are light and small enough for them to play with and should be easy enough for them to prime so you will not be called into action each time they want to shoot.
So if your kids are wanting a NERF gun but you aren’t sure they are big enough, then these will make a good introduction.
- 1 What Makes a Good NERF Blaster for a small child?
- 2 Nerf Captain Cassian Andor Blaster from Star Wars Rogue One
- 3 Nerf N-Strike BowStrike Blaster
- 4 Nerf N-Strike GlowShot Blaster
- 5 Nerf N-Strike Elite Triad EX-3 Blaster
- 6 Nerf N-Strike Elite Jolt Blaster
- 7 Nerf N-Strike Elite Firestrike
- 8 Summary