When our family packed up all of our belongings and traveled the country last year, about 75% of our kids’ toys went bye-bye. And frankly, good riddance. The only toys we kept were open-ended toys that encouraged creativity and would hold the kids’ interest for many years.
The LEGO equation, basically.
I’m actually a big fan of buying experiences over things. But let’s face it—kids love to unwrap a gift that they can put their hands on right away. So it’s nice to give them toys you can feel good about, and that you know will last. These ten building toys fit that bill.
LEGO makes a lot of specific sets, which are really cool. But there’s something nostalgic and freeing about a box of various LEGO pieces with no predetermined purpose. This set is just that—a basic set of mixed colors and sizes of LEGOs. It makes a great starter set, or a supplement to an existing collection. (The first rule of LEGO: You Can Never Have Too Many LEGOs.)
We tried making structures with regular straws once, which was a little frustrating. The connector pieces that come with this kit (as well as the sturdier straws) are the key. There are larger sets on Amazon as well, but this is a good option if you’re looking for something a little cheaper. Great birthday present option, too.
Admittedly, I haven’t used these, but the description and awards and reviews were enough to make me want them. Plus, YOU CAN PUT THEM IN THE DISHWASHER. Perfect gift for the germaphobes in your life.
Remember Lincoln Logs? These are like those, but more colorful, more versatile, and more washable.
Fractiles are more of a 2-d building toy, but don’t let that fool you. Older kids especially love these. Playing with them is almost like doing mathematical meditation.
I bought a set of CitiBlocs at Costco some years ago, and they’ve been a big hit at our house. They’re ridiculously simple—just the exact same size and shape wooden blocks—but that’s kind of what makes them so cool. The booklet that comes with it shows all kinds of amazing things you can make with them.
These are the priciest item on the list, and for some reason the price isn’t showing up properly in the box (as of writing this the price is actually $91) but they’re still cheaper than Magnatiles, which are basically the same thing. And kids LOVE these things. We’ve spent many an hour at the children’s museum building with these tiles, and I’ve had many parents tell me they’re the best toy investment they’ve ever made. So, if you’re saving up for one big present, this might be a good one.
Don’t tell our kids, but we’re totally getting these during our gift-giving season. They’re not for the littlest ones because the parts are small and they take a little manual dexterity to snap the pieces together, but check out all the cool things you can make. It’s kind of nice having the rounded pieces to build with when you need a break from the boxier LEGOs.
Okay, this is more of an accessory than a toy, but HELLO. GENIUS! If your kids like to make things out of empty boxes (like every single kid I know), these are wheels you can attach to ANY BOX! I’m so in love with this idea, and totally jealous that I didn’t think of it before they did.
TINKERTOY. It’s a classic. And for good reason. I’ve seen my kids make all kinds of crazy, creative contraptions with TinkerToys.
Happy building, everyone!
(The links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. If you find better prices elsewhere, more power to you. I personally love Amazon Prime for the free two-day shipping and not-having-to-leave-the-house-to-shop thing. Saves time, gas, and precious energy.)