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Updated November 2022
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Buying guide for Best mini claw machines

With a mini claw machine, you can bring the excitement of the arcade into your own home and allow your children to not only develop better hand-eye coordination but be rewarded for it.

The best mini claw machines are durable and accommodate a variety of prizes from toys to candy. You may also want a fun design with flashing lights and sound for a stimulating and immersive experience. Additionally, a mini claw machine that accepts tokens or real coins is often the most fun for kids because it most closely mimics an arcade claw machine.

For all you need to know before you purchase a mini claw machine, our guide has you covered – including tips on how to actually win that prize you have your eye on.

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Claw machines can be traced back to the 1890s when consumers paid a penny to operate a hand-cranked machine to get candy.

Key considerations

Mini claw machines can be a hit with the kids (and the adults), but only if you pay attention to what you are buying and get a model that includes all the features that make this game so much fun.

Age range

Mini claw machines are designed for children. However, many come with small parts. Be sure to check the recommended age range before purchasing if you intend to let a young child play with the machine.


The best mini claw machines are about 13 inches tall and have a base that’s roughly eight inches by 10 inches. This is a good sturdy size that doesn’t take up too much room in the toy closet. However, some of the lower-end models might be considerably smaller. Always check the dimensions before purchasing because it can be impossible to judge a mini claw machine’s actual size from a photograph.


Mini claw machines are the most fun to play with when they are battery-powered. Powered models are just like the big claw machines in stores and arcades. That’s not to say children won’t be momentarily amused by a manually powered mini claw machine, but chances are their interest will fade more quickly.


There are two types of controls generally found on battery-powered mini claw machines. The first is a single joystick, which moves the claw to the right, left, front, or back. This type of machine also features a button that drops the claw into the prizes. Other mini claw machines have three joysticks. One joystick moves the claw right or left, a second moves it forward or backward, and the third moves it up or down.

Single-joystick mini claw machines more closely resemble arcade play, while three-joystick models offer players a little more precision.


Easy refill

If it’s unnecessarily complicated to refill the mini claw machine, parents might be put off adding more toys and other prizes. Eventually, the unit will be placed on a shelf and forgotten. However, if it’s too easy to open the mini claw machine, a frustrated child might be tempted to pop open the casing to snatch a prize. The best mini claw machines are easy to refill but not obviously easy to open.

Included toys

If you want convenience, purchase a mini claw machine that comes with a set of prizes. That said, it’s often wiser to purchase the machine and the prizes separately so the quality of each can be better assured.


Mini claw machines that allow you to deposit tokens or coins add a little more excitement to the gameplay. If the machine takes both, it’s usually best to use real coins because plastic tokens can sometimes get stuck.


Whether you want a mini claw machine that looks like it came straight out of Pizza Planet, one with hungry sharks instead of claws, or one with a red-and-white striped design that looks like it would fit right in at a carnival, the choice is yours. It’s best to look for a machine that appeals to your child in some way.


To add even more excitement, look for a mini claw machine with flashing lights.

Music and sound effects

The most engaging mini claw machines feature music that plays during gameplay. The best machines also feature sound effects. If you want a crowd of people to cheer whenever you successfully snatch up a prize, look for a model that can do exactly that.

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Did you know?
For a fun spin on the game, instead of prizes you can fill the container of a mini claw machine with fortunes, affirmations, quotes, math problems, word puzzles, or other creative items.

Mini claw machine prices

Mini claw machines are easily divided into three main price categories.


If you want to spend less than $20, you’ll get a plastic mechanical toy that may not be very durable and can only pick up very small or specific items.


In the $25 to $40 range, you will find smaller battery-powered novelty units that might also function as clocks. These mini claw machines might accept plastic tokens or real coins to simulate arcade-style playing.


As you move into the $45 and up range, you’ll find more durable play and more bells and whistles, such as lights and music, and a wider variety of prizes that the claw is capable of picking up.

"Since mini claw machines have a consistent claw strength and do not frequently drop prizes, they are much more fun and rewarding to play than arcade versions of the game."


After practicing on your home mini claw, your kids might be ready to take their game to the arcade. Here are some prize-winning tips for arcade play:

  • It’s harder to win if an arcade claw machine has plush toys that have been packed tightly inside.

  • Pay attention to other players. If a claw machine seems to drop all the prizes, there might not be enough tension in the claw to actually win.

  • When watching other players, also pay attention to machines that jiggle, have claws that open prematurely, or have any other kind of undesirable characteristics.

  • If the machine features a claw with only two prongs, it is almost impossible to win anything. Play the three-pronged claw machines.

  • Choose an obtainable prize. Don’t target the prize you most want. Instead, snatch the prize that is the easiest to get.

  • Take a test drive. Consider playing a round where you focus on how the controls on the claw machine work instead of getting the prize.

  • Sometimes winning might involve rearranging the playing field. Move the object that is giving you grief so you can get to the obtainable prize.

  • Smaller arcades may feature claw machines that are easier to win.

  • Play claw machines at the front of the arcade. Sometimes larger arcades put the easier machines up front to entice more players to enter.

  • If you’re frustrated, playing rounds in rapid succession, or just spending too much money, cut your losses and walk away from the claw machine.

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Mini claw machines are often designed for specific prizes. A machine that dispenses candy might not function well with small stuffed toys.


Q. How are mini claw machines powered?

A. The lower-end models are manual machines. Mini claw machines that feature push buttons or joystick operation use batteries. Because of the power needed to operate the claw and lift toys, most often a unit will use three D batteries. Machines that run on AA batteries may not be as enjoyable.

Q. What can I put in my mini claw machine as prizes?

A. Mini claw machines are extremely versatile. They are safe for wrapped candy and small toys. Be careful of using toys that can get caught or tangled with other toys or any of the machinery, however, as this might cause a jam that breaks the machine.

Q. Are there any concerns for younger children using mini claw machines?

A. The primary concern with a mini claw machine is choking. Many of the models only accommodate tiny toys that are one to three inches in size, so care must be taken to only allow children who are above the recommended age to play with the mini claw machine.

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