Kids are fascinating to watch when they build things. I love seeing how they respond to the challenge as they make something from scratch. Of course, nothing is more rewarding than that moment when they complete what they are building.
When someone hears "building toys," they often think of LEGO. Yes, LEGO offers some of the best building toys for kids out there. But there's so much more.
With so many different building toys, which ones are the best? Let me tell you a little about each, and I'm sure the best building toys for your child will become clear.
Here's the complete list of all the best building toys for kids.
3D Puzzles Make a Great Display Piece When Complete
3D puzzles are great building toys for kids for several reasons. They help with hand-eye coordination, problem-solving skills, and creative thinking. 3D puzzles are also a lot of fun to put together! Not to mention, the result is incredible when you have something cool that you can proudly display.
- Make sure the pieces fit together correctly. If they don't work, you might have the wrong piece or not have assembled it correctly.
- Take your time. 3D puzzles can be challenging, so it's essential to relax, take your time, and enjoy the experience.
- Be patient. 3D puzzles can be frustrating, but the key is to be patient and keep trying. You'll get it eventually!
- Be sure to choose a 3D puzzle that is age-appropriate.
There are a few different 3D puzzle brands out there, but the three that I think are the best are 4D Puzzles, Ravensburger, and Wrebbit. We recommend puzzles for ages eight and older.
Brick Sets Like LEGO Teach Great Engineering Principles
These construction toys are one of the best building toys for kids for many reasons. Construction toys are versatile, durable, and encourage creativity. They also teach children basic engineering principles.
- When building your collection, remember that all kids should have an age-appropriate building set.
- Construction toys have different themes, such as space, knights, and pirates, to name a few. Choose one that will invite interest.
- Brick sets come in a variety of sizes. It is crucial to consider the space you'll need and the piece count that will make you comfortable.
- Brick construction toys are a great way to teach basic engineering.
- They encourage creativity and imagination while encouraging development.
There are many brands available on the market that make brick sets construction toys. Some of the best-known brands include LEGO, LEGO Technic, Mega Construx, Cobi, Snap Circuits, and Nanoblocks. Depending on the brand, we recommend a minimum of four years old when buying construction toys.
Plastic Building Blocks like Mega Bloks Are a Great Introduction to Brick Sets
Construction toys like Mega Bloks for toddlers are great building toys that teach great engineering basics, are versatile, durable, and encourage creativity. They also come in various sizes, themes, and piece counts. With so many construction toys to choose from, you're sure to find the perfect plastic building blocks for your toddler.
- Brick sets are a great way to teach kids basic engineering principles.
- These building toys inspire creativity and imagination while developing a variety of skillsets.
- Block sets provide the best early form of block building so they can later expand into more complicated brick sets.
- Construction toys come in various sizes, themes, and piece counts. Be sure to choose one that is appropriate for the skill level.
Both Mega Bloks and LEGO DUPLO are popular construction toys for toddlers. They teach great engineering basics, are versatile, durable, and encourage creativity.
You'll find a variety of sizes, themes, and piece counts with brick sets. With so many construction toys to choose from, you're sure to find the perfect set for kids at least one year old.
Bristle Building Toys Provide an Innovative Way Towards Creativity
Bristle sets are great building toys for kids to have fun and be creative. These toys come in various shapes and sizes, so there is something for everyone.
- While there may be great shopping deals out there, be careful where and from who you buy these. Many generic brands that are shipping from third-party marketplaces are not safety tested for the United States.
- If you're looking for a unique building set, then we think you might enjoy trying a bristle building set.
- To inspire your kids, be sure to find an age-appropriate set.
Because of how these pieces fit together, you can get creative with your work.
The most popular brand that produces bristle toys is PicassoTiles, which we recommend above all for three-year-olds.
Cardboard Blocks Provide an Immersive Experience
It's no secret that children learn through play. But what may surprise you is how many different developmental opportunities they can develop by playing with cardboard blocks. These blocks provide various educational benefits, which can help children excel in the classroom and beyond. Children can learn about colors, shapes, sizes, counting, and more with cardboard blocks.
- Cardboard blocks are a great way to help children learn about colors, shapes, sizes, and counting.
- They can create various structures, which can help children learn about engineering and physics.
- Cardboard blocks are an excellent way for children to express their creativity.
- Because of their size, they can create an immersive experience that brings your child right into the creation.
- Consider adding another play aspect by getting your own boxes, letting your little one color and design them, and then allowing them to begin building.
The company that we recommend for cardboard blocks is Melissa & Doug. These are designed for ages two and up. But don't forget that you can also use spare boxes around the house, which won't cost you a thing!
Carpenter Building Sets Introduce Kids to Basic Building Techniques
Encourage budding carpenters to build creations while learning how to use essential tools. The sets come with various tools, materials, and instructions that will allow children to create simple projects. The learning opportunities from these toys will provide them with a lifetime of basic skills that will be incredibly useful.
- Carpenter building sets are great for developing ideas, cognitive growth, and physical motor skills.
- They will introduce young ones to basic building lessons they can use for years.
- These toys can come in a variety of skill levels and sizes. Be sure to choose one challenging enough to keep them engaged but not too challenging that they give up.
Popular companies that make carpenter building toys are Hape and Melissa & Doug, and kits start at age two.
Creatto Model Light Kits are Truly Unique
Creatto sets include flat flexible plastic pieces and an LED light kit. The components of each set fold and connect to make a variety of different animals, objects, and designs. When complete, you have a unique light fixture to display.
- Fun, creative, and unique
- Reasonably easy to use.
- Instructions include steps to make multiple creative ideas.
- If you really one to get creative, you can also try to make your own ideas.
- The LED light kit turns this into a beautiful display piece.
We recommend Creatto from Thames and Kosmos for anyone eight years and older looking for a creative and unique project.
Domino Sets Teach Cause and Effect
Domino sets have been around for centuries and are a popular toy for children and adults. Dominos are not only fun to play with, but they can also help children in their development. Domino-building sets can help with hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, and even math skills. Not to mention, they're a lot of fun.
- Great for improving hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, math, and fine motor skills.
- They teach the concept of cause and effect.
- If you buy the game version of dominos, you have a game you can play as well.
- You can come up with a variety of layout ideas that are limited only by your imagination.
- Dominos have stood the test of time and have been around for centuries.
- They're fun to design, build, and watch as they topple.
Leading brands include Domino Rally and Hape. We recommend Hape for ages four and up.
Engineering Sets Help Children Understand Design, Construction & Physics
Engineering kits are a great way to teach kids about the basics of engineering. These buildable kits come with different pieces and tools that allow children to build various objects, such as cars, bridges, and more. Kids can learn about other engineering aspects, such as design, construction, and physics, using these toys.
- These kits inspire children understand the basics of engineering such as construction.
- Engineering toys allow children to build various objects like cars, bridges, and more.
- Many of these construction toys include additional information to learn about from a scientific perspective.
- Kids will be able to come up with many great creative ideas.
- These building sets provide a hands-on understanding of how things work by building some cool and fun things.
Popular engineering toy brands include Hape, LEGO Technic, and Thames & Kosmos. Depending on the set or brand, these sets are available for kids as young as four.
Erector and Other Tool Building Toys Are Classic
Another classic toy for this list is Erector by Meccano. These building sets teach kids to use tools to build mechanical or non-mechanical items such as cars, structures, and more.
- Erector is a classic toy that has stood the test of time.
- You can use the set to come up with your own creative ideas.
- Great for teaching kids how to use basic tools.
- Great for developing fine motor skills.
- Fun for both kids and adults.
Spin Master owns Erector, and the age recommendation will depend on the specific set that you're considering. They come in a variety of difficulty levels.
Foam Blocks Are Safe for All Ages
You can use foam blocks in various ways, including building blocks, creating math challenges, and more.
- Foam blocks are soft and safe for children.
- You can use Foam blocks in a variety of different ways.
- Kids discover many ideas with foam blocks.
- Foam blocks are a great way to keep your children entertained.
A variety of brands offer foam blocks. Because they're soft, babies can play with them as long as they're not too small.
Fort-Building Kits Engage Imaginary Play
A fort-building kit is an excellent way for kids to have fun and get some exercise at the same time. The kits have everything needed to build various forts, including sturdy poles, connecting pieces, and sometimes colorful fabrics. Kids will enjoy playing inside their very own forts.
- Kids love building forts. These kits make it much easier for them to do so. Plus, they won't turn your house upside down.
- Ideas are only limited by your imagination.
- Forts provide a fun and exciting way for kids to engage in imaginary play.
- Building forts teaches children the essential functions of engineering.
For kids at least five years old, we recommend Crazy Forts from Everest Toys.
Gear Sets Teach Physics and Mechanics
Gear sets are collections of different gears you can use to create all sorts of machines and gadgets. There are two categories of gear toys; those for tiny fingers and those for older kids. They're perfect for hours of intellectual play and can help teach kids about mechanics and physics in a fun way.
- Gear toys help teach kids about mechanics and physics in a fun way.
- These building sets for toddlers help build fine motor skills and give them a basic understanding of cause and effect.
- Gear sets for older kids become mechanical, allowing them to do incredible things.
The best gear sets for toddlers are Learning Resources and Fisher-Price. If you're looking for older kids, I'd recommend Hape, LEGO Technic, or Thames & Kosmos.
Interlocking Plastic Discs Are Great for Making Unique Creations
Interlocking plastic disc sets include interconnecting discs to do countless projects. They're great for developing fine motor skills and logical thinking and are commonly found in Montessori schools, daycares, and classrooms.
- Allows children to explore their imagination to come up with unique creations and ideas.
- They easily click together for building simplicity.
- They make a great developmental toy.
You'll find many good shopping deals out there, but be careful where you get them, as many are not safety certified in the United States. They are recommended for ages five and up.
Lincoln Logs and Other Log Building Kits are Classic
Log building kits are an excellent way for kids to learn about log cabin construction. They come with all the pieces you need to build a log cabin, including logs, windows, and roofing. They're perfect for rainy days or days when you just want to stay inside.
- Log building sets are a great way to teach kids about construction and engineering.
- They will include all the pieces you need to build a structure, including logs and roofing.
- Kids love construction toys and the challenge of building something.
- Enjoy the nostalgia with a classic construction toy.
Lincoln Logs is the clear winner, and we recommend them for ages three and older. Despite the many copycats, this company has been around for years.
Magnetic Sets Attract All Kinds of Kids
There are a variety of magnetic set styles, but they all have one thing in common; the laws of attraction. All building sets include blocks, pieces, or balls connecting with magnets.
- Be very careful with magnetic toys and small children. We do not recommend having magnetic toys in homes with young children.
- It's fascinating to see the ideas that kids come up with.
- Magnetic toys offer a unique way to build some fun and exciting things.
- They're great for logical thinking, fine motor skills, and imaginary play.
There are a wide variety of brands to choose from here. The brands we tend to carry the most of Magna-Tiles, PicassoTiles, and Speks. Again, we recommend against having these in the house if you have young children. They can be very dangerous if swallowed.
Marble Runs Draw Us In Visually
Because visuals drive children, a marble run is incredibly addictive to build and see what happens. Creating a marble run gives us a little reward that pushes you to continue to make tweaks to your design or create entirely new marble run setups.
- A marble run provides a visually appealing and addictive way to build and observe.
- A marble run is great for building an understanding of engineering and physics.
- Many marble runs include additional features that do extra things. Great examples of this are with Gravitrax or Quadrilla sets.
- A marble run makes for great building toys for kids.
- I need to address something. Despite the shopping deals out there, be careful with buying a marble run. Too many non-certified marble runs end up in the U.S. market.
Hape Quadrilla is our top marble run pick for kids four years or older. For older kids at least eight years old or adults, we recommend Gravitrax from Ravensburger.
Metal Earth Kits Are Great for Older Kids and Adults
The most popular metal building kits in the United States are Metal Earth model kits. They come packaged as thin sheets. Using several essential tools, you bend them and connect them to finish with an incredible model to display.
- They are focused on older kids and adults.
- They make great day-long projects and give you something excellent to display proudly.
- They come in a variety of difficulty levels.
While there are many knockoff brands and competitors, the king in this realm is Metal Earth from Fascinations which is recommended for ages 14 years and older.
Model Kits Make a Great Hobby That Can Last a Lifetime
Model kits typically include a variety of plastic pieces you piece together either with glue or by clicking them together. When done, some also become a painting project as well. You can do some really neat things with models, including adding light kits or sound effects to them.
- Model kits are great for display.
- These are also great for collectors, as it's a hobby you can enjoy for years to come. Just pick a theme that you love.
- Great for precision fine motor skills and attention to detail.
The big names here are Carrera, Round2/AMT, and Revell. Ages vary by set.
Model Train Sets Teach Construction, Design Layout, and Crafting
While some would be confused why I would include model train sets here, remember that this is a hobby. It's not just the train. You have to build a track layout. Many will create an entire mini-community with topographical changes, trees, buildings, tunnels, and more.
- These are a great way to explore your imagination and create one-of-a-kind creations.
- You're designing, creating, painting, and more. The variety of tasks is great for those who like in-depth and detailed hobbies.
- It can be a fun thing to do together as a family.
The big names for model trains are Bachmann, Hornby, and Lionel. We recommend these trains for older kids or adults, as they include many small pieces.
Playing Cards Can Give You a House of Cards & Hours of Gaming Time
Okay, what? Playing cards? Of course! Have you not ever tried to build a house of cards? It can be a fun challenge, and you can also do it as a contest with others.
- When your house of cards is complete, you have plenty of games you can play as well.
- Great for concentration and fine motor skills.
- You have plenty that you can do if you have a deck of cards in your pocket.
Bicycle and Hoyle are the big players, but many other companies produce playing cards.
Plastic Train Sets Are a Great Introduction to Hobby Trains
We already talked about model train sets, but plastic sets are better for younger kiddos that are more focused on play and less on a hobby. An excellent example is Thomas & Friends Track Masters, where you build a set and play with trains.
- Great to inspire imaginary play with your favorite trains.
- Many sets are compatible with each other to increase your adventures.
- Plastic train sets are great to prepare you for model train sets.
Fisher-Price makes many great plastic train sets for kids three years and older.
Playmobil Provides Basic Building and Gets Right to the Play
While Playmobil may not be quite as popular in the United States, they are one of the largest toy makers in Europe. People often compare LEGO and Playmobil, but they are pretty different. While there is a fundamental building component to them, I always tell people that LEGO is focused more on the build, while Playmobil is more focused on the play.
- Playmobil comes in a variety of themes to suit a broad audience.
- Playmobil offers a line specifically focused on kids one to three years old.
- Playmobil is also great for collectors and hobbyists.
Playmobil 1.2.3 is recommended for ages 1-4, while regular Playmobil sets are for kids ages three and up. Check the specific product you're buying for an age recommendation.
Plus-Plus Is Great for Both 2D and 3D Builds
Plus-Plus is super cool. Despite its simplicity, you can do a lot with these. Each piece looks like two "plus" symbols connected. Because of their precise measurements, pieces hold together so that you can create various designs and objects.
- Plus-Plus can be used to make anything you can imagine.
- Great for learning a variety of skills.
- These are fun for both kids and adults.
Plus-Plus comes in two sizes. One is for toddlers, while the others are for children five years older.
Jigsaw Puzzles Are Great for All Ages
Puzzles allow you to develop various skills and strengthen the mind. You have to figure out what pieces connect properly to uncover a beautiful design, image, or piece of art.
- Basic wooden puzzles make great developmental toys for toddlers.
- You can find a variety of piece counts to suit any level. We even have access to a 40,000-piece puzzle if you're interested.
- Excellent for strengthening the mind.
Many great puzzle companies include Cardinal (Spin Master), Ceaco, Hape, Ravensburger, and White Mountain Puzzles. They range in age based on ability.
Slot Car Sets Provide a Gaming Element
Playing with slot cars is a lot of fun. But you'll need to build your race track before you can race. Slot cars also draw in hobbyists.
- It has multiple play components between building and racing in a game-like competitive nature.
- Great for kids that love to explore different types of cars.
- Slot cars provide an understanding of physics.
- Great for hobbyists that are building a collection of cars.
While multiple companies make slot cars, Carrera is one of our favorites. They also carry a variety of licenses. They make sets that range in age, so check the specific products.
Squigz and Other Suction Building Sets Also Make Great Fidget Toys
If you haven't heard of Squigz, then allow me to introduce you. Squigs are shaped pieces with suction functionality that can join them to other elements.
- They're great for young kids and help them improve various skills.
- Squigz encourage experimentation and creativity.
- With their many shapes and bright colors, they make great sensory toys.
- Many will find fidgeting with these soothing.
Squigz are made by Fat Brain Toys and are recommended for ages three and up.
STEM Kits Contain Building Aspects with a Focus on Education
Many STEM kits contain a building aspect to them. These are great because not only do many of the ability to build something really cool, but you're able to learn a lot about different subjects, depending on your chosen set.
- STEM kits provide a great deal of knowledge building focusing on education.
- Come in many themes and styles.
- STEM kits are a lot of fun to do with others.
One of our favorite STEM companies is Thames and Kosmos. They make some great stuff that includes building aspects. K'Nex also has some fabulous kits as well.
Stick Building Sets Are Great for Fine Motor Skills and Creativity
Stick building sets such as K'Nex, Flexistix, and Tinker Toys are designed to help children develop their dexterity, problem-solving skills, and hand-eye coordination. These unique toys can be connected, twisted, and turned into different shapes.
- They are great for developing fine motor skills.
- K'Nex and Tinker Toys are both classics.
- Flexistix are sustainably made.
- They improve dexterity, problem-solving skills, and hand-eye coordination
- You'll find endless possibilities for designing all kinds of structures.
- Flexistix, K'Nex, and TinkerToys are all portable and easy to store.
The most popular brands that make stick building kits are Hape with their Flexistix, Tinkertoys, and K'Nex. They are typically recommended for ages four and older. But that will depend on the difficulty.
Sticks Are The Most Played With Toy On Earth
Play doesn't necessarily mean you must go out and buy something.
Did you know that a simple stick is the most commonly used toy in the world? Think about it. Here are some fun things you can do with a stick:
- It can be a sword for your fight against an imaginary dragon.
- You can create balancing games and challenges.
- You can build structures with them.
- You can tie several sticks together to make figures.
- You can use them to create art.
These are just a few ideas for which you can use sticks. Who's the brand? Good ol' Mother Nature.
Straw Connector Building Sets Turn Straws Into Structures
You can similarly build some really cool structures with stick building sets. But instead of sticks, you're using straws. Many of these sets will include both colorful straws and connectors.
- Straw connectors are a creative way to make structures out of straws.
- It can be a lot of fun while you explore creativity.
- Are enjoyable for both kids and adults.
The big name here is Roylco, but many other companies also make these. We recommend ages four and older for straw connector building toy sets.
Nesting Blocks Are Great for Problem Solving
Nesting Blocks are blocks that "nest" within each other. You can also use them for stacking, building, and learning. They are often themed, which allows discovering new things within that theme.
- Great for toddlers to develop a variety of skills.
- It helps children improve their ability to solve problems.
- Nesting blocks provide young ones with hours of fun.
Many companies make nesting blocks. We recommend Hape or Melissa & Doug for kids at least 18 months old.
Waffle Blocks Are a Unique Way to Build Structures
No, I'm not talking about breakfast here. These blocks look just like waffles, hence the name. Similar to Plus-Plus, but a bit more complicated, waffle blocks allow you to build unique structures.
- Your creation is only limited by your imagination.
- Waffle blocks are another unique way to build structures.
- They provide hours of fun.
Made in the USA, Little Tikes makes these, and they recommend them for kids at least two years old.
Wooden Blocks are Classic Toys with Endless Possibilities
We've all played with wooden blocks before. It's a staple in any home with toddlers. Often coming in colorful shapes and sizes, your little ones can build all kinds of buildings and structures.
- Wooden blocks are a classic toy that has been around for about as long as humanity.
- Blocks make a great sensory toy, especially if they come in various colors.
- Teaches basic skills that are invaluable for life.
Hape is our favorite brand for wooden blocks. We recommend them for those that are at least one year old.
Wooden Planks Provide More Challenging Building Ideas
Similar to wooden blocks, wooden planks are long and flat, giving a different feel for building their creations. Many adults also enjoy building structures with these as they find them soothing.
- Similar to wooden blocks but provide a different experience.
- Wooden planks are another excellent opportunity for creatively building structures.
- Great for both kids and adults.
While multiple companies make wooden planks, we like KAPLA for kids three years or older.
Wooden Train Sets Allow You to Build and Play
To finish off our list, we have wooden train sets. I've talked about multiple train sets here, but this is for our youngest train enthusiasts. Little ones will be able to build their track creation and then enjoy tremendous play value with their trains when they're done. There are many big names in this category, including Brio, Fisher-Price, Hape, and Melissa & Doug, to name a few.
- Most wooden train sets are compatible.
- You can choose from a variety of high-quality brands.
- It's a truly classic toy that will inspire imagination and encourage building skills.
If you're looking specifically for Thomas and Friends, you'll get Fisher-Price.
While most wooden train set brands are excellent, Hape is one of our favorites. Wooden train sets are usually recommended for those at least three years old.
Building Toy Comparison Chart
To make things easy at a glance, I put together a comparison chart showing the type of building toy, recommended age, and the brand we recommend.
Please remember that age can vary by product. You should check specific products to ensure you're buying for the appropriate age. Also, brands are our recommendations. You should always do your research as well.
|Building Toy||Age||Recommended Brand(s)|
|3D Puzzles||8+||Ravensburger, Wrebbit|
|Brick Sets||Varies||LEGO, Mega Construx|
|Building Blocks||1+||LEGO, Mega Bloks|
|Bristle Sets||3+||Picasso Tiles|
|Cardboard Blocks||2+||Melissa & Doug, You|
|Carpenter Sets||2+||Hape, Melissa & Doug|
|Creatto||8+||Thames & Kosmos|
|Domino Sets||4+||Domino Rally, Hape|
|Engineering Sets||Varies||Hape, LEGO Technic, Thames & Kosmos|
|Foam Blocks||1+||No recommendation|
|Fort-Building Kits||5+||Crazy Forts|
|Gear Sets||Varies||Hape, LEGO Technic, Thames & Kosmos|
|Plastic Disc Sets||5+||Toysmith|
|Log Building Kits||3+||Lincoln Logs|
|Magnetic Sets||Varies||MagnaTiles, PicassoTiles, Speks|
|Marble Runs||Varies||Hape, Ravensburger|
|Metal Model Kits||14+||Metal Earth (Fascinations)|
|Model Kits||Varies||AMT, Carerra, Revell, Round2|
|Model Train Sets||14+||Bachmann, Hornby, Lionel|
|Playing Cards||2+||Bicycle, Hoyle|
|Plastic Train Sets||3+||Fisher-Price|
|Jigsaw Puzzles||Varies||Hape, Ravensburger, White Mountain|
|Slot Car Sets||Varies||Carrera|
|Squigz||3+||Fat Brain Toys|
|STEM Kits||Varies||Thames & Kosmos|
|Stick Building Sets||4+||Hape, Tinkertoy, K'Nex|
|Nesting Blocks||18 Mo+||Hape, Melissa & Doug|
|Tool Building Kits||Varies||Erector by Mecanno (Spin Master)|
|Waffle Blocks||2+||Little Tikes|
|Wooden Train Sets||3+||Fisher-Price, Hape, Brio|
I hope this list has helped you find building toys that will be perfect for you or your family. No matter what building toy you choose for your child, they will have hours of fun with it.
Building toys help children develop essential skills such as problem-solving, fine motor skills, and creativity. Some will also help them discover engineering, science, and other pieces of knowledge. So, it is worth investing in a good building toy set for your child.