20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

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20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

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If you’re going to buy one big investment toy this year, make it a building or construction set. From Legos to Lincoln Logs, building sets are the classic toys that have loads of longevity. Whether your kid is more mathematical or they are the type to get lost in imaginative play, building sets are the ultimate STEM and STEAM gift and are a great choice for any type of kid.

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There’s mounds of research that suggests that free-form block play helps with problem solving, spatial reasoning, and spatial awareness, while structured block play—like following the directions of a Lego set—helps kids as young as 3 develop in all areas, from pre-reading to math to social skills.

Here we share our picks for our favorite blocks, magnets, Legos, STEM building sets, and more. With features for everyone from toddlers to tweens, these sets are sure to inspire hours of play.

1. A magnetic origami building kit: Clixo

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: 4 and up

Deceptively simple, these reinforced synthetic paper building pieces go from 2-D to 3-D with a satisfying magnetic snap, making for endless building possibilities. These innovative open-play building kits are part magnetic origami and part building blocks. Their bendable design allows them to be manipulated into unexpected shapes and designs, encouraging improvisation, experimentation, and creative thinking.

We love that they can go from jewelry to helicopter to snake to mouse to daisy chain to wearable art—really only limited by your child’s imagination. The fact that they are so lightweight and compact makes them the perfect travel toy, whether it be on an airplane or the back seat of a car.

Shop Clixo sets at Amazon

2. Spaceships that hold up in intergalactic battles: SnapShips

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: 6 and up

SnapShips is a building kit that really understands how kids play. These kits not only build impressively cool space crafts (Some even look like space-age bugs!) but, once built, the toys solidly lock into place to stand up to just about any intergalactic battle your kid can dream up.

The manufacturer recommends these for ages 8 and up, most-likely because they can be tough for smaller hands to lock into place. If you don’t mind helping your kid build these, however, we found these particularly imagination-grabbing for kids as young as 6. By the time my son was 7 he was reconfiguring all of his sets to make new and even more formidable builds all on his own.

Shop SnapShips at Amazon

3. A set to electrify your building bricks: Snap Circuits

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: 8 and up

Snap Circuits are cool enough. Legos are cool. This set merges the two to energize building bricks with electricity by mounting circuits onto ordinary bricks!

This super educational toy is a fun and creative way to encourage STEM and problem-solving skills and it’s sure to invigorate the boxes of Legos or building bricks your child might already have. The kit includes 26 intricate projects to build and enough bricks to pull them off, but where it really shines is when you incorporate it into an existing Lego or building brick set you might already own—making for an electrifying play experience!

Get the Snap Circuits Bric: Structures Set at Amazon for $36.99

4. A building kit with big pieces for tiny builders: SmartMax

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: 1 to 5

If you’re looking to build STEM skills before they’re even fully walking, SmartMax has you covered. These jumbo-sized ball- and bar-style magnetic build toys are easy for small hands to grasp and work with; they are smooth in all the right places, and they are impossible to swallow, making them safe for curious and gnawing little mouths. Plus, they continue to be fun right through age 5.

We are partial to the SmartMax XL, which comes with 42 building pieces, a creativity guide, and a storage bin, but SmartMax makes numerous other fun and creative sets that will appeal to everyone from animal lovers to car aficionados.

Shop SmartMax sets at Amazon

5. A set that kids can really connect with: K’nex and Kid K’nex

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: K’nex: 5 and up; Kid K’nex: 3 and up

K’nex toys are the ultimate building sets for budding engineers. They have sets that are made for preschoolers, early elementary schoolers, master builders, and everyone in between. We like that the builds result in gratifying feats of engineering, but aren’t so complex that kids refuse to take them apart to start a new, more ambitious build. They also come with really robust build manuals that get kids thinking in new and innovative ways.

Shop K’nex building sets at Amazon

6. A must-have magnetic building set: Magna-Tiles

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: 3 and up

Architects-in-training love the endless possibilities of Magna-Tiles. If you’re not already a Magna-Tiles fan, they are a fun alternative to building blocks and the way they magnetically connect takes their STEM-inspiring possibilities to new levels. They start out 2-D but once pieced together make 3-D shapes and construction, making them an excellent entry-toy into basic geometry.

As a personal endorsement, we got our first set when our son was 2-years-old and mainly just stared in awe at how the magnets connected. Nearly six years later they are still a favorite and often-used toy that gets tons of play, and even his tween cousins enjoy diving in and creating with them.

Shop Magna-Tiles sets at Amazon

7. Add ons to make your magnets more magical: CreateOn

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: 3 and up

If your child’s Magna-Tiles set needs a little something to renew their interest in them, these gorgeous graphic sets with beautifully printed scenery and structures might be just what they need. Play with them on their own, or integrate them into whatever magnetic tile set you might already have to take magnet play to new levels.

Shop CreateOn sets at Amazon

8. A different sort of magnetic set: Magformers

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: 3 and up

Not to be confused with Magna-Tiles, Magformers are in a league all their own. The rounded edges of these pieces make them toddler-friendly while the supremely strong magnets make them great for older innovators.

The cutout-style shapes allows them to be built into mobile constructions like rolling spheres and cylinders, which is great for the physics-minded kid. These also come in wide assortment of shapes like squares, rectangles, arches, circles, octagons, hexagons, and more for boundary-pushing builds. We also like these shapes for building out creatures like dinosaurs, dragons, and any other sort of species your child can dream up.

Of note: Magna-Tiles and Magformers are not compatible, so think of these two brands as individual purchases rather than complimentary ones.

Shop Magformers at Amazon

9. A soft set of builders for the bath and beyond: Blockaroos

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: 18 months to 6

They’re magnets! They’re foam! They build and they float! These soft builders are more versatile than you might expect. Blockaroos can be played with like typical blocks on a solid surface and—because they are buoyant—they make for a fun toy that can also transition to any sort of water play.

Perfect for bath time, changing time, and playtime, these are both safe and dynamic. Thanks to the magnets that are safely concealed inside, Blockaroo builders easily connect together and they can even twist and spin with a satisfying click that makes them a fun fidget toy as well.

Shop Blockaroos at Amazon

10. A quality set of building blocks: Melissa & Doug

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: 3 to 8

A good set of building blocks will keep children engaged for years to come. Since even very young children will enjoy exploring the shape and feel of blocks long before they are able to successfully stack them, it’s good to spring for a set made of quality wood that is paint-free and built to last.

We love the quality construction of this set, the sturdy box they are stored in, the way they neatly fit together in a puzzle-like way for easy clean-up, and for some covert mathematical learning.

Get the Melissa and Doug building block set at Amazon for $51.73

11. A plank-building set that will even engage older kids: Brain Blox

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: 4 and up

If you think your kid is too old for blocks, think again. This plank-style set is recommended for kids ages 4 and older, but it really starts to show its worth from ages 8 and up.

Thinner, more narrow, and much more lightweight than standard wooden blocks. This makes for more challenging builds, but as kids get older that’s part of what makes them so appealing. They can be subtly stacked to make for interesting architectural elements and they can even open up for creative and artful wooden designs. They are also an excellent tool for class projects and for figuring out complex math problems.

The simplicity of this set belies how engaging it is. You just might see your 10-year-old get off their tablet for a few minutes to work out an idea with this set.

Shop Brain Blox at Amazon

12. A timeless set to tinker with: Tinker Toys

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: 3 and up

Remember Tinker Toys? There is a reason why this building set has been around for over 100 years. This classic engineering toy gives limitless options for creative construction. The wooden set you may remember as a kid has come and gone but, unlike many toys that have been “upgraded” over the years, the change to plastic has actually improved this classic toy. There are now flexible bendable rods as well frames that click into place, allowing for even more creativity than the original kit.

Shop Tinker Toys at Amazon

13. A legendary set that’s American-made: Lincoln Logs

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

If we are going to talk about classic building sets, none are more classic than Lincoln Logs. We could go into their storied history but suffice to say that these building sets never get old. The methodical stacking is so calming for kids and the structured block play allows kids to really work on their spatial reasoning. Plus, the fact that they were developed by the son of Frank Lloyd Wright and they are manufactured in Maine makes us love them all the more.

Shop Lincoln Logs at Amazon

14. A smart building set for the future carpenter: Brio

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: 4 and up

Brio is probably best known for their train sets, but we are fans of their building sets as well. Not only is the quality of these toys impressive, the gears, nails, screws, and movable functions make these one of our favorite options for open-ended building.

Each Brio building set is creatively compatible with each other, giving you the option to grow your child’s kit as their ideas expand.

Shop Brio Building Sets at Amazon

15. A new spin on puzzle pieces: Plus Plus

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: 4 to 12

Plus Plus are interlocking mini blocks that basically look like puzzle pieces that build up and out. From flat mosaics to 3-D models, these allow for a range of creative building options that easily go from art to engineering.

We love the basic set that gives loads of options for building, but they also have creative smaller sets that focus on everything from hot rods to jewelry-making, depending on your child’s interest, and their mini-tubes are perfectly stocking-stuffer-sized.

Shop Plus Plus Building Sets at Amazon

16. An iconic set of bricks: Legos

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: 4 and up

Nothing beats the classics. You absolutely can’t go wrong with a set of Legos. If you want to talk about their educational benefits, Legos are great for both structured and unstructured block play. Plus they are endlessly imagination-building.

Legos are timeless, and always on-trend. From Star Wars to Lego Friends, kids always love a great set of these iconic bricks and, for us, they are the go-to gift when we don’t know what to give that never steers us wrong.

Shop Lego Sets at Amazon

17. A fort-building set to put couch cushions to shame: Lakeshore Fort Builder

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: 4 to 11

If you’re tired of your couch being torn to pieces, it’s time to invest in a fort-building set. But not all fort-building sets are created equal. This one is easy for kids to assemble on their own and it holds up to even heavier blankets (because sitting in a pitch-dark fort with a flashlight is the whole reason for fort-building). They say this is best for ages 4 to 11, but we’ve seen older tweens hide out in this one to escape younger siblings—so the use may extend far beyond what you’d expect.

Get the Ultimate Fort Builder at Lakeshore.com for $49.99

18. A marble run that can build out for days: Hubelino Pi

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: 8 and up

​It’s a marble run like no other. The crazy tricks and designs kids can create with the Hubelino Pi marble run system inspires boundless creative STEM problem-solving ideas. Kids can create towering high-speed and action-packed runs for maximum entertainment. Best of all, this kit is fully compatible with other building brick sets so kids can build out and come up with some serious Rube-Goldberg-style ideas by incorporating this into their existing brick sets.

Get the Hubelino Pi Advanced Starter Set at Maisonette for $79.99

19. If they are too little for that last marble run: A big block building set

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: 4 to 8

Why should the big kids have all the fun? This marble run is compatible with Duplo and other bigger-sized blocks and gets little kids thinking creatively and critically. These pieces are sturdy and stable and, with 110 pieces, there are loads of options for creative buildouts. Also, since they are compatible with Duplo, this set brings new ideas to an already beloved toy.

Get the Couomoxa Marble Run Building Blocks Classic Big Blocks Bricks Set at Amazon for $39.99

20. A big box of smart blocks: LeapFrog and Blue’s Clues

20 awesome construction toys to add to your holiday list

Best for ages: 2 and up

Even little kids can get big developmental benefits from building sets. This collaboration between LeapFrog and Blue’s Clues makes a fun, stackable, creative, and colorful building set that little kids will delight in.

This set has 70, easy-to-hold, jumbo-sized building blocks and 13 double-sided learning blocks that feature letters and objects. The set comes with three double-sided building cards to give little builders creative ideas for creating animal friends for Blue, a pick-up truck she can ride on and more. You can also take advantage of this set’s “smart features” by combining them with other LeapBuilder sets to activate fun sounds, educational songs, and encouraging words of praise to enhance building play with learning content.

Get the LeapFrog LeapBuilders Blues Clues and You! building set at Amazon for $21.99

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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