Ask the grumpies: good building toys

OMDG asks:

What are good toys for kids who like to build things in addition to blocks and legos?

You mentioned in addition to blocks, but our kids have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of less-mainstream blocks, so we are mentioning those as well.

We like pixel blocks for small stuff– these are like single unit legos that can be attached via the sides as well as the top and bottom.  (The somewhat lower than expected reviews are because, unlike lego, their quality control is not perfect and some of the blocks don’t fit perfectly.)

A very simple version of blocks are Kapla blocks.  I don’t know why these are so fun given that they come in just one size/shape, but they have provided hours of entertainment for all ages.

Tegu blocks, which are slightly magnetic, continue to be really awesome.

For little kids, HABA makes a lot of fun versions of blocks that are a bit different from ordinary blocks in different ways.

Train sets are also many hours of building fun.  Brio makes a good one that is interchangeable with some other sets.

Ozobot was great for like a week and then the kids completely lost interest.  Probably not worth the expense.  (Note:  this starter kit is 2x the cost of the one we got!)

Snap circuits had longer staying power but they ended up getting scattered all over the house and stopped being used.

Our favorite science kit so far has been the Magic School Bus chemistry version.  It’s fun!

A pack of playing cards and access to youtube videos on how to do card tricks has kept DC1 entertained for days on end.

The fun and healthy kids’ cookbook is a good one.

DH and DC2 are both hooked on pixelhobby.  (This is not a cheap hobby, but the output is nice enough to become Christmas presents for other people.)

These fascinations metal earth kits also result in really nice output (DC1 made the lighthouse one for MIL last year), but you do need needle nose pliers.

Binoculars are cool.


11 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: good building toys”

  1. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    Do Magnatiles count as blocks? All three of my kids (9.5, 7, 4) love them so much I’m buying them a second set for Hanukkah.

  2. Steph Says:

    If the building can be digital, I’ve heard Scratch is fun:

    I had a lot of fun with Brio trains when I was little, and then with a variety of older building toys that used to belong to my Dad and his brothers. I know the wooden Tinker Toys were out all the time, and I can remember building some epic Hot Wheels tracks down the stairs and through my grandmother’s basement.

    Our favorite thing was always Legos, though. I don’t think anything ever beat them, although a lot of the newer block sets linked here look awesome.

  3. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Thanks for all the links and ideas! We love building toys too.

  4. Allyson Says:

    I have a 4yo and almost 7yo, lots of building in the house. I second Magnatiles – we have the Discovery Science knockoffs and they work well for less money than the branded Magnatiles. Also second Tegu blocks. We also have marble mazes (I forget the brand but this looks right: I just got some Squigzs for a birthday party and they look great: ttps:// The Brio-type trains were very popular in my house but have fallen off.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DH and the DCs had a huge amount of fun making their own ball runs using cardboard and various tp and paper towel tubes.

      • accm Says:

        Also Q-ba-maze marble runs. Strawbees for connecting straws together.

        My son is currently in a phase of building all kinds of engineering marvels (pirate ships! cameras!) out of cereal boxes and paper tubes. Cheap but… voluminous.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        DC2 is also really into “found” art and engineering. We are not allowed to throw out anything. I blame artie the alien.

  5. NessieMonster Says:

    K’nex was one of my favourite building toys when I was in primary school. You can get motors and make moving models!
    Geomag is great too! Magnets and force fields ftw!
    Meccano is another. :-)

  6. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    People have already mentioned Lego (the best!), K’nex, and Geomag, but I haven’t seen the best for big builds: No Ends.

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