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Ever since I was a little girl, I have been a fan of building toys. As a child I played with Lincoln Logs, LEGOs, and other building toys. My goal is to pass my love of building and constructing on to my children. I believe that playing with building toys teaches kids so many valuable skills. And after all, who doesn’t love hands-on learning?
Naturally, I enjoy giving my kids building toys for them to tinker with and explore.
Note: For more great gift ideas for kids of all ages and interests, see my gift guides page.
Below I have complied a list of 15 of the best building toys for kids who love to construct things. On this list are ideas that would make awesome holiday gifts for the young tinkerers and young engineers in your life, whether they are 3 or 13.
Magna-Tiles® Clear Colors 100 Piece Set: Magna-Tiles are probably my all-time favorite building toy for kids. We first purchased these when QBoy was 2. And now, three years later, my kids still play with Magna-Tiles on a regular basis. Magna-Tiles are awesome for teaching shapes, geometry, spatial relationships, engineering skills, and so much more. The magnets are strong enough to build all sorts of wonderful designs. We own both the Magna-Tiles® Clear Colors 100 Piece Set, which includes just basic shapes, as well as the Magna-Tiles® Clear Colors 48 Piece DX Set, which includes a base with wheels and additional shapes with holes for building vehicles, houses, etc. Magna-Tiles are expensive, but they are have been well worth the investment given how much use my kids have gotten out of them.
Keva Brain Builders Deluxe: We do not own this toy, although we have had multiple opportunities to play with it at various museums. At first glance this toy may seem rather plain and boring, since it consists solely of rectangle planks of wood. But don’t be fooled by this toy’s simplicity, because I have seen absolutely amazing creations built entirely from these simple wooden plants. Keva Brain Builders Deluxe are great for kids ages 3 and older, and require no glue, snaps, magnets or other connectors to build.
Straws & Connectors – 705 Piece Set: Straws & connectors is just what it says: a box full of colorful plastic straws with pieces to connect the straws at right angles. However, given the straws’ flexibility, it is possible to create structures with bends and curves as well. And unlike most building toys, with straws and connectors kids can easily create a structure large enough for them to fit inside! If you aren’t sure how much your children will use this toy, you might want to start with the 230 piece set. But if you have multiple kids or your kids like to get really creative, you’ll be glad to have the 705 piece set.
SmartMax Set – BASIC 42: Despite their generic and non-descript name, SmartMax also make a very fun building toy. (See a post where I featured our SmartMax toys here.) The pieces connect using magnets, and kids can use the balls as joint connectors to build all manner of towers, sculptures, and more. The fact that some of the magnets connect and some do not gives kids a lesson in magnet polarity as well.
Popular Playthings Playstix: We own the 150 piece set of Playstix (although given the very large structures QBoy likes to build with them, I often wish we owned the Popular Playthings Playstix Deluxe Set with 211 pieces instead). The best way to describe these is as a modern version of Lincoln Logs (which was a toy I loved when I was growing up). I love how these toys require fine motor control as well as some sophisticated engineering thinking in order to build the structures. QBoy started with these when he was 4, and he caught on quickly, but a lot of kids (including XGirl) might do better with these when they are 5 or older.
Melissa & Doug 60-Piece Standard Unit Blocks: Wooden blocks are a classic toy that all kids should have the opportunity to play with when they are little. Despite their simplicity – or perhaps because of it? – wooden blocks have tremendous educational value. Playing with blocks builds fine motor skills, an understanding of spatial relationship, and creativity, among other skills. With this 60 piece set from Melissa & Doug, kids can spend hours building towers, towns, and homes for their dolls and animals.
Foam Building Blocks: I like the heft of wooden blocks, but foam blocks also have a lot of good qualities to recommend them. For starters, they are less expensive than wooden blocks. Plus, their lighter weight means less noise and fewer injured toes when towers come crashing down. This set of foam blocks from comes in a variety of shapes and colors that kids will enjoy.
Mega Bloks First Builders Big Building Bag, 80-Piece (Classic): These toys are like gigantic LEGO blocks, and are a perfect first building block for kids ages 1 and up. Their large size makes them easily manipulated by small hands, and kids will enjoy building towers and other creations with this classic toy. My kids got a lot of use out of their Mega Bloks when they were smaller.
ZOOB: The Moving Mind-Building Modeling System, 125-Pieces: I have this tucked away in a secret spot, as my kids will be getting this ZOOB set for Christmas this year. What excites me about ZOOB is the way the pieces connect like joints, which allows structures to rotate, spin, and bend rather than having to remain static.
Learning Resources Gears! Gears! Gears! Super Set: I used to have this set in my classroom when I taught an after school program many years ago. The kids loved putting the gears together so that the whole set would move together when the crank was turned. This set includes 150 pieces, which will keep kids busy for quite some time.
Hape – Quadrilla – Round About Marble Railway in Wood: There is a museum near our house with a huge, maybe 20 feet high, ball run that my kids will spend a very long time observing when we pass by. This marble railway set from Hape allows kids to create a variety of marble runs of their own design. I love the engineering involved in using this toy, which supports playful learning about gravity and physics.
Lauri Tall-Stacker Pegs Building Set: This is a fun toy for preschoolers. In fact, I bought this set for my nephews a couple of years ago. Kids can build fun structures while developing fine motor and problem solving skills.
Looking for more great gift ideas? Check out my other gift guides:
- Best gifts for kids who love science
- Best gifts for developing kids’ fine motor skills
- Best gifts for active kids
- Best gifts for kids who love arts & crafts
- Best gifts for encouraging sensory play
- Best gifts for developing math concepts
- Best gifts for teaching letters
- Best gifts for teaching shapes
- Best gifts for kids who love LEGO