Building toys are an integral part of any childhood, as anyone who has fond memories of stacking blocks, clicking together LEGOs, or linking up Tinkertoys will tell you. The benefits of building toys include greater confidence, manipulation and motor skills, problem-solving, and, at higher levels, scientific and technical skills. Here are some of the best building toys to get your junior architect or roboticist started!

Our Top Picks

Melissa & Doug Wooden Building Blocks Set

Best Overall

Melissa & Doug Wooden Blocks Set

Wonderland Company Building Bricks

Upgrade Choice

Wonderland Company Building Bricks

Zoob BuilderZ 500 Piece Set

Best Budget Buy

ZOOB Builders 500 Piece Kit

How to Choose the Best Building Toys

1. Recommended Age

You can judge best whether your kid is up to the challenge of more complex building toys, but the manufacturer’s age range is still a useful guideline.

2. Composition

Most building toys are either plastic or wood. While there’s no inherent advantage to either kind, some parents do prefer the more organic feel of wooden toys.

3. Number of pieces

The more pieces in a building set, the more possibilities and replay value it has. But confronting a smaller child with a ton of pieces is also a recipe for confusion and frustration. Not to mention your own frustration when cleanup time rolls around!

4. Type of toy

Most building toys are either construction sets, where the kid is provided with step-by-step instructions on how to build various projects, or freeform, where the kid is just provided with the pieces and can come up with his or her own designs. When deciding here, consider if your kid will find guidance helpful or prefers to be self-directed. Of course, it’s also helpful to remind your kid that you don’t always have to follow the directions!

5. Storage included

Building toys often mean lots of little pieces that can end up everywhere. And many building sets come in plain cardboard boxes that aren’t much use for storage. However, some toys do provide more durable plastic or wooden containers that can be helpful for putting things away.

6. Supervision required

One of the attractions of building sets (for parents) is how they can absorb a kid’s attention for longer periods of time. That said, some building toys do require adult supervision, either because they’re challenging and a kid may need help, or because of small pieces that can wind up in smaller kids’ mouths. The need for supervision may be reduced as kids gain confidence in their own building skills.

The Winners

#1

Playmags Magnetic Tile Building Set

This colorful set includes 40 square magnetic tiles that can be stacked and formed into sheets, cubes, and other structures, as well as 40 “clickins” – plastic inserts with letters , numbers, and symbols that can be inserted in the tiles. This way, your kid can combine building fun with letter and number recognition, and some basic math and spelling.

 The Playmags’ Magnetic Tile Building Set tiles are solidly made and can stand up to serious playing, while the magnets make them easy for even the youngest to fit together. That’s why we call this our choice for Best Magnet Building Toy.

Age Range: 3+
Composition: Plastic
Type of Toy: Freeform
Pieces: 80
Storage included: No
Supervision Required: No

#2

Melissa & Doug Wooden Transportation

This Melissa & Doug Wooden Puzzles Transportation set includes three wooden puzzles, each with six to eight pieces, with scenes including cars, trucks, and construction equipment. The art is bright and colorful, and the pegged pieces are easy for even toddlers to grasp and manipulate. Kids who are too small for more complicated puzzles and building can still get a start by figuring out how to match each puzzle piece with the right space. Of course, the pieces can also be used as toys in their own right!

Age Range: 2-4
Composition: Wood
Type of Toy: Puzzle
Pieces: 22
Storage included: Not applicable
Supervision Required: No

#3

DUPLO My First Cars and Trucks

LEGO’s toddler-themed Duplo line is a natural introduction to the expensive plastic block addiction. The DUPLO My First Cars and Trucks set includes three wheeled vehicle bases and an assortment of other pieces, as well as instructions on how to build several types of vehicle. Your kid can build a family car, fire truck, crane, dump truck, or whatever else he or she can imagine. Great when combined with a carpet or sheet printed with roads.

Age Range: 18 mos.-5
Composition: Plastic
Type of Toy: Construction set
Pieces: 36
Storage Included: No
Supervision Required: Only for younger kids

#4

Melissa & Doug Wooden Blocks Set

Best Overall / Best wooden building blocks

This brightly colored set includes 100 wooden blocks in a variety of shapes that can be used to build as far and high as your kid wants. Or, possibly, for you to build and your kid to knock down. The blocks are small and light, and smoothly sanded and constructed to make them safe and fun for little kids to handle. The quality and inexpensive price make these our Best Wooden Building Blocks.

Age Range: 3-8
Composition: Wood
Type of Toy: Freeform
Pieces: 100
Storage Included: No
Supervision Required: No

#5

Click n' Play Wooden Domino Blocks Set

You can’t actually play dominoes with these, but you can do almost anything else you can with real dominoes: stacking, building, making patterns, and of course making chains for domino races. That said, the Click ‘n’ Play Wooden Domino Blocks Set is a bit small and lightweight compared to real dominoes, and younger kids may not be coordinated enough to make anything with them other than a mess. Includes a storage bag and wooden stand to help space dominoes for chains.

Age Range: 3-8
Composition: Wood
Type of Toy: Freeform
Pieces: 300
Storage Included: No
Supervision Required: No

#6

ZOOB BuilderZ 500 Piece Kit

Best plastic building toy

ZOOB BuilderZ 500 Piece Kit features small plastic pieces that link together in ball and socket connections, and which can be used to create surprisingly complex structures. Even better, the design of the connections means what your kids build can move and flex and be played with, instead of just being a static structure. Includes a builder’s guide with over 50 projects, or you can just dive in and see what you can make! The sheer potential in this set makes it an easy choice for our Best Plastic Building Toy.

Age Range: 6-10
Composition: Plastic
Type of Toy: Construction set/freeform
Pieces: 500
Storage Included: Yes
Supervision Required: Only for smaller kids

#7

Wonderland Company Building Bricks

Best LEGO alternative

Would you rather not sign your entire bank account over to the plasticmongers in Denmark? This 1000-piece bag delivers bricks that are completely compatible with LEGOs, without being flimsy or poorly fitted like some LEGO knockoffs. The Wonderland Company Building Bricks includes 10 colors and all the commonly used brick sizes and shapes. The sheer value for money makes it easy to crown this our Best LEGO Alternative.

Age Range: 3+
Composition: Plastic
Type of Toy: Freeform
Pieces: 1000
Storage Included: No
Supervision Required: No

#8

LEGO Juniors 10667 Construction

Best lego building blocks

The LEGO Juniors 10667 Construction set intended to get kids used to playing with LEGOs. The set includes pieces for a truck and a crane with a wrecking ball, as well as various construction-themed accessories (and even a wall to knock over with the crane!). Of course, your kid can just use the pieces for freeform building fun without having to follow the instructions. The pieces are completely compatible with other LEGO sets, although not Duplo. It’s hard to go wrong with LEGO, and the ease of entry into this set makes it our Best LEGO Building Blocks.

Age Range: 4-7
Composition: Plastic
Type of Toy: Construction set
Pieces: 160
Storage Included: Yes
Supervision Required: No

#9

Learning Resources Gears

This Learning Resources Gears set includes 46 plastic gears with bases, axles, and a crank handle. Kids will enjoy seeing how they can build chains of gears and set them all in motion by turning just one. Figuring out how a chain of gears will operate can help boost kids’ problem-solving and planning skills, and an included instruction set helps your kid get started with some simple gear designs.

Age Range: 3-6
Composition: Plastic
Type of Toy: Freeform
Pieces: 100
Storage Included: No
Supervision Required: Adult assistance might be required for more complicated builds

#10

Melissa & Doug Wooden Construction Set

If you’re old enough to remember Erector sets, this Melissa & Doug Wooden Construction Set  should look familiar – except in wood, and with nuts and bolts large enough for smaller kids to handle. Kids can build a plane, a motorcycle, a race car, and whatever else their imaginations can come up with. The colorful nuts and bolts can give kids sorting and matching fun along with building.

Age Range: 4-6
Composition: Wood
Type of Toy: Freeform
Pieces: 48
Storage Included: Yes
Supervision required: No

#11

Viahart Brain Flakes  Interlocking Disc Set

Continuing with the classic toy theme, the Viahart Brain Flakes  Interlocking Disc Set will look familiar to anyone who played with Rig-a-Jig back in the day. The multicolored discs can be linked together to form remarkably complex shapes, either following the instruction booklet included or using your kid’s imagination. The solid locking action ensures stability, no matter how far out your kid builds.

Age Range: 3+
Composition: Plastic
Type of Toy: Freeform
Pieces: 500
Included: Yes
Supervision Required: Possibly for younger kids, to keep pieces out of mouths.

#12

Melissa & Doug Cutting Food

The Melissa & Doug Cutting Food is more of a pretend-play toy, but it can also provide the same fun that building toys do, including sorting, matching, and fitting things together. With the included wooden “knife” and cutting board, kids can pretend to slice food items apart, assemble and eat sandwiches, and then reassemble the food using Velcro tabs. A wide variety of food is included, and it can be combined easily with other Melissa & Doug cooking play sets.

Age Range: 3-5
Composition: Wood
Type of Toy: Freeform
Pieces: 28
Storage Included: Yes
Supervision Required: No

#13

Melissa & Doug Wooden Railway Set

One of the most popular train sets for smaller kids, the Melissa & Doug Wooden Railway Set can also be used for building fun as kids learn how to lay out and combine track sections and design their own perfect railroad. Includes 100 track sections plus accessories including train cars, other vehicles, signs, people, and more. Check online for alternative track setup possibilities, or just show your kid how to put the track segments together and stand back!

Age Range: 3+
Composition: Wood
Type of Toy: Construction set
Pieces: Approx. 130
Storage Included: No
Supervision Required: No

#14

Goldie Blox Invention Mansion

Best building toy for 6 year olds

The Goldie Blox line of toys is aimed at drawing girls into building, science, and engineering. This Invention-Mansion dollhouse variant includes punch-out chipboard walls and floors, along with plastic accessories. Kids can design their own mansions and, with the instructions included, build in cool stuff like ziplines, trapdoors and secret rooms, bridges and ramps, and more. The amount of play time an imaginative kid can get out of this makes this our Best Building Toy for a 6-Year-Old.

Age Range: 6+
Composition: Plastic, chipboard
Type of Toy: Construction set
Pieces: 350
Storage Included: No

#15

Thames Kosmos Geckobot

The window-climbing Geckobot is actually only one of seven devices you can build using this set, which includes a motorized air pump, tubing, and suction cups that your kid can use to experiment with suction and hydraulics. This set is much more complicated than a lot of the other toys in this list, and requires patience, steady hands, and a willingness to accept trial and error to put together properly. But scientifically-minded kids will enjoy the new areas of learning it opens up for them.

Age Range: 8+
Composition: Plastic
Type of Toy: Construction set
Pieces: 176
Storage Included: No

#16

Lego Friends Amusement Park Set

This huge LEGO Friends Amusement Park  Set includes pieces and instructions for building a roller coaster, a Ferris wheel, and a drop tower, plus a ton of amusement-park-themed accessories. While it’s not motorized, the rides do work — you can turn the Ferris wheel, roll the coaster along the track, etc. — and the coaster includes battery-powered light-up bricks. Also includes four doll mini-figures so your amusement park can have patrons.

Age Range: 8-12
Composition: Plastic
Type of Toy: Construction set
Pieces: 1124
Storage Included: No

#17

LEGO Mindstorms EV3

The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 includes pieces for building five robot models, including motors, sensors, and a computer core, as well as a remote control for piloting the robot. You can also download an app that enables your kid to write programs for the robot on a smartphone, desktop, or tablet. The EV3 is a great way for older LEGO kids to take their building skills to the next level, and our Best Building Toy for Older Kids.

Age Range: 10-15
Composition: Plastic
Type of Toy: Construction set
Pieces: 601
Storage Included: No

Quick Decision

Melissa & Doug Wooden Blocks Set – Best Wooden Building Blocks
Every toddler deserves a really good set of blocks.

Wonderland Company Building Bricks – Best LEGO Alternative
Seriously, if your kid can’t have fun with a bag of 1000 LEGO-esque bricks, you’re not trying hard enough.

ZOOB Builders 500 Piece Kit – Best Plastic Building Toy
Leads kids naturally from simple links to complex building projects.

best LEGO City Building Sets

LEGO building bricks are the favorite of millions of kids. Here’s the complete guide to help you find the right LEGO City Building Sets for your little collector.
Gary B.

Gary B.

Gary is a father of two, self-identified RC fanboy, and part-time guitar plucker. When he's not racing his collection of remote-controlled vehicles or strumming away, we bend his arm and get him to write with precision and expertise on a range of mechanical and electrical toys.

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