When a reader recently asked the Childhood 101 Facebook community for building and construction set suggestions for a child transitioning away from nap time, the responses were too fabulous not to share. So I have combined my top building and construction toy set suggestions with those popular with readers to bring you this list of 15 awesome building sets for kids.
This post contains affiliate links.
My girls (aged 2 and 6) received a large set of Magna-Tiles for Christmas a year ago and I can honestly say that they have been played with every single day! They really are an investment (as are many good quality construction sets) but they are easy for children of all ages to use and they are fabulous to build with. Place them alongside a window with sunlight streaming through or use them with short strings of LED Christmas lights or on a light table for a fabulous burst of colourful construction fun.
Featuring a similar building style Magformers are also worth a look.
2. Duplo & Lego
We can’t have a fabulous construction toy list and not feature Duplo for smaller fingers (but it’s also great for learning activities with bigger kids) and its big brother Lego for bigger kids (though even big brother has a younger sidekick thanks to the Lego Junior sets). Invented more than 40 years ago, I think part of the enduring appeal of Lego is the fact that it has been played with by parents and grandparents who love sharing a passion for building and creativity with their own children and grandchildren.
3. Tree Blocks
Tree blocks are particularly fabulous as a building set for children who love imaginative play. Teamed with a set of small figurines – animals or fantasy characters, and a collection of natural materials such as shells or stones, my children will play for hours, building wonderful imaginary worlds.
4. Marble Run
If you are looking for an awesome way to encourage the development of a range of problem solving skills, then you can’t go past a marble run. With a vast range of marble run sets available, both wooden and plastic, most sets include a combination of straight and curved tracks, inclines, support pieces and accessories (both functional and decorative). The pieces can be arranged in many different ways, each sending the marbles down through the system on a new route, and it is this flexibility and open-endedness that promotes both problem solving and creative thinking.
5. Wooden Block Sets
You can’t go past a wooden block set for great constructive play for little people. From around 6 months of age, sitting babies can help to stack (or rather, knock down!) small wooden blocks. The addition of a set of fabulous architecturally inspired shaped blocks continues to challenge older children to play with blocks.
6. Wooden Train Set
We often think of train sets being merely for preschoolers but for many children it is not until they are in kindergarten or early primary/elementary school that they can independently construct complicated track configurations. My two year old loves playing with our train set but it is Immy (at almost seven) who actually plans and constructs the interesting track combinations.
I cannot tell you how many classes of children I have taught, aged anywhere from 5 to 8 years of age, that have loved building with Mobilo, especially those interesting in creating vehicles for use in imaginative play.
8. TinkerToy sets
Another new find for me, I love the look of the TinkerToy sets. Sets include a whole range of interestingly shaped pieces including spools, rods, flags, washers and end caps that snap together and stay together, allowing children the flexibility and creativity of both constructive and imaginative play.
Another great set for primary/elementary aged children, K’Nex sets include collections of rods, connectors and bricks for children to use in construction.With a range of more open ended sets and single construction projects, K’Nex sets remind me a little of Lego but with a whole different world of possibilities thanks to the shapes of the pieces.
A reader suggestion, the manufacturer says, “SmartMax is the magnetic discovery system that enables children to experience both the wonders of magnetism and the fascinating world of construction in a safe way. The extra-large pieces make it easy for small children to manipulate them. Outstanding, colorfully-illustrated guides in each set demonstrate the basics of magnetic phenomena, ways to strengthen structures, steps in building towers and bridges, and much more.” I must say I was impressed by the size of the pieces anf think this is a great set for children who like to build BIG and TALL!
11. Lincoln Logs
Now I must confess I have never, ever heard of Lincoln Logs but they were probably the favourite choice with Facebook friends, I am thinking that these must be friends located in the US and Canada??? They certainly look like a lot of fun and are clearly a cross-generational classic, a bit like Lego.
12. Snap Circuits
Combining building with science, Snap Circuits are top of my list for Christmas presents for Immy next year. The manufacturer says, “With its easy-to-follow instructions, Snap Circuits give your child a hands-on education in how electrical circuits work to run the everyday devices that they’re familiar with. They’ll also gain valuable lessons in building and in following instructions. The project manuals include large color illustrations and simple directions for each project.”
A reader suggestion, these look fabulous for older children. From the manufacturer, “ZOOB pieces snap, click and pop together to form joints that rotate, limbs that extend, axles that spin and lots more. Kids can create simple models in minutes or get absorbed and spend hours at a time. There’s no limit to what they can build: from animals to aliens, from dinosaurs to DNA. The pieces can be moved after being put together, so kids can play with their ZOOB creations, instead of just looking at them.”
Another reader suggestion, the manufacturer of these wooden magnetic blocks says, “Tegu has reinvented the wooden block in a way that brings new life to a favored classic. By safely embedding magnets into each piece, Tegu Blocks become curiously attractive for both kids and kids at heart. Defy gravity and push your imagination in ways never before possible. No instruction manuals or electronics; just toys that demand imagination and inspire limitless creativity across all ages.”
15. Hammering Shapes Set
The classic tap tap sound of children making pictures form wooden shapes is one I remember fondly from my days in the classroom. A more 2 dimensional take on constructive play, these really are worth a look for children well past the age of mouthing toys.