whatmomslove | May 12, 2016 | 2
Gift Guide: The Best Building Toys For Kids (From Blocks To Robots)
The best toys for kids who love to build
Greetings! We’re so glad you’ve landed on one of our incredible 2017 What Moms Love Gift Guides for Kids. If you’re in the midst of frantically searching for the perfect toy for your child (or niece, or nephew, or friend’s kid, or…well, you get the picture) you can breathe a sigh of relief, because this is where you’ll find it. The gift that will not only get gasps of excitement when opening, but one that won’t be relegated to the bottom of a deep, dark storage bin.
In case you’re not familiar with our guides, we work year-round testing toys with kids of all ages and stages, and feature only the ones that repeatedly knock their socks off. We arrange these gems in our different guides based on a child’s interests because we asked parents how they typically shop, and the overwhelming response was that they search for what their child is currently obsessing over – you know, that one “category” they just can’t get enough of.
This guide is one of our favorites, and covers all the best building toys on the market. If your child is one that loves to put things together, and take them apart, then you’ve just hit the gift-giving jackpot! Here we cover our top picks for blocks, Legos, STEM building sets, robots, games and more – for kids aged 6 months to tweens and teens.
We find building toys to be some of the most-used toys, as most of them are open-ended and leave tons of room for creative and imaginative play. And better yet, kids don’t seem to outgrow them quite as quickly, rather they just start to use them in a different way. Take a set of blocks for example, while a 1-year old might work hard on stacking a few blocks on top of each other (and get the most enjoyment from knocking them down!), a 5-year can use the same blocks to create an army base, princess castle or elaborate maze.
For this reason, building toys are a great investment, and if you’re going to shell out your hard earned cash on one toy this year, these will give you the most bang (or in this case, play-time) for your buck.
We’ve arranged our top picks by age so you can easily scroll to the section that best fits your child. We have listed the manufacturer’s recommended age, but would note that many times your child will be ready for these toys before that age (and often they bump up the age due to potential small pieces/choking hazards which should of course not be taken lightly). Ultimately you know your child best.
But one last thing before we get to the toys — if you’d like to be alerted to any sales or special deals we receive on any of these gifts, make sure you subscribe to our newsletter. We’ll also let you know when new guides launch (and we’re always working on more!), and hook you up with our other exclusive content like our popular report: 10 Screen-Free Toys for Guaranteed Quiet Time That Will Let You Relax, Recharge, Or Put The Laundry Away.
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*recommended ages are from manufacturers; prices may vary from what is listed
Best For Babies, Toddlers + Pre-Schoolers
B. Elemenosqueeze (age 6 months+)
These B. Elemenosqueeze blocks are the perfect set of starter blocks for your baby, and will be well loved into toddlerhood and beyond. The set comes with 26 colorful blocks in various shapes (cubes, wedges, pillars and arches), each featuring a different letter of the alphabet with corresponding animal.
They are easy for little hands to grasp and stack beautifully, but are so light-weight that they won’t cause any injuries on the inevitable knock down (nor will they cause bodily harm or break anything if thrown by an older sibling!) When you squish them they do make a slight squeak, but this adds to their appeal, and we promise it won’t drive you batty.
Besides building some pretty neat structures, B. Elemenosqueeze blocks make great soft chew toys (they are BPA Free), can be used as a teaching tool for learning letters and animals, and we found them to be a great fun to use with playdoh to make relief animal “sculptures”!
Fat Brain Toys Spin Again (age 1+)
You may take one look at the Spin Again and dismiss it for its simple appearance, but we urge you to reconsider, because simply put, this toy is completely mesmerizing. It adds a twirling aspect to your ordinary stacker, so when your child places one of the colorful discs on the corkscrew pole, it spins and spins its way down to the base. Then when the stacking is complete, you can lift up the pole and the discs spin off the bottom.
Take a peek at this video to see what we’re talkin’ about:
Our kid testers were totally enthralled by this toy – from 12 months to 7 years old. And heck, we were too! There is just something so soothing about the way the discs spin that completely grabs your attention and makes you want to do it over and over again. And bonus – it’s great for practicing hand-eye coordination, learning colors and comparing sizes. This is a wonderfully simple toy that your child won’t be able to resist.
Mega Bloks 80-Piece Big Building Bag (age 1+)
Mega Bloks are the ultimate first interlocking block for toddlers – they’re just the right size for them to handle (and not ingest!), they fit together easily, and are a breeze for them to take apart. We recommend starting your Mega Bloks collection with the First Builders Big Building Bag which gives them more than enough pieces to spark their imagination (and make towers bigger than them!).
Our kids started building 2–3 block “structures” with these around 12 months, and have continued to consistently play with them over the last 5 years – they have been made into cities, bridges, boat docks, animals and much more. And we must say, the way these blocks slip together is oddly satisfying for parents too. And something else parents will like: the set comes in a great storage bag so they can be tidied up quickly when playtime is over.
When we discovered this small mom ‘n’ pop company which strives to make toys that help kids to discover, love and care for nature, we were instantly intrigued. Their hand-crafted Pebbles are truly beautiful – minimal simplicity at its best, and allow for pure imaginative play. Each pebble can be stacked on any side, allowing kids to create hundreds of different tower or structure combinations. The Sticks & Stones set adds in 2 thoughtfully crafted “sticks” which can be stacked horizontally or vertically depending on their skill!
Water and Lightning uses all earth-friendly materials – from sustainable wood to non-toxic paints and finishes – making them safe enough to act as a mouthing toy for the littlest babes (which is exactly where they went with our young testers!), and incredible open-ended building materials for the older kids.
Boon Water Pipes Bath Toy (age 1+)
Building doesn’t have to be limited to the playroom floor – why not boost the fun factor and move it to the bathtub? With Boon’s Water Pipes Bath Toy, kids can arrange the 5 suction-mounted pipes to create a chain of water that flows through fun gears, spinners, twists and turns. They have to use their cognitive and reasoning skills to test how the water functions in each pipe to determine the best path for the water.
Our tester’s loved playing with these, and developed a fun game to see who could catch the most water at the end of their pipe system. Getting them out of the bath, well, that was not quite as fun.
Add-on the Boon COGS (age 1+) suction gears that spin and turn with a stream of water, for even more building discovery.
We must admit, we were a little unsure how this Build-a-Bouquet Playset would be received by our kid-testers, but because it’s from one of our favorite companies, Green Toys, we decided to put it into the mix and give it a shot. And boy, are we glad we did, because it was one of the most-loved (and fought-over!) toys we tested.
The idea is simple: stack together the 40 pieces (stems, leaves and flower parts) to create stunning arrangements on a grass base. Or try stacking them all on top of one another to create a massive flower tower. Easily dismantle and start again.
The pieces are high-quality and made from recycled plastic milk jugs and soy inks, so no icky chemicals to worry about if these venture into little one’s mouths.
And psst – this is a great one to stash in a large plastic baggie and bring with you to restaurants, doctor’s offices or car rides (that means it’s pretty much a present for yourself too, and who doesn’t love that?!).
Melissa & Doug Stacking Train (age 2+)
This expertly-designed classic Stacking Train toy combines the best of 2 worlds: building blocks and things that go. The wooden blocks can be assembled on each train cars’ dowels in numerous variations, and the cars themselves can be unhooked to further increase variations of play. There is also a puzzle aspect as some of the blocks can only fit in certain spots – promoting their problem-solving skills and working their fine-motor movement.
We had kids ranging from 18 months to 5 years old playing with the Stacking Train, and although it was enjoyed by all, we’d say the sweet spot is age 2–3 where the stacking is still challenging, but not frustrating. We had several 3 year olds play with this for long chunks of time, arranging and re-arranging the pieces, and giving their stuffed animals rides in between. A simple toy, but one that can spark great imagination!
B. Bristle Block Spinaroos (age 2+)
Do you remember playing with Bristle Blocks as a child? Well the B. Bristle Block Spinaroos have the same smart functionality, but have been given a fresh update with modern colors, twisty bases and spinning characters.
What we love most about these chunky, soft blocks is that they don’t have to be perfectly lined up to fit together, can be built in all different directions, and are easy to take apart – perfect for young toddlers learning how to construct.
This set comes with 75 pieces with some fun bendable bases and silly character faces that really upped the play for our testers – we had 3 year olds making “monsters” and their homes and a few 5 year olds discovered they could turn the spinning base into a helicopter – so fun!
There’s also a booklet with building ideas and a great sturdy storage bin to throw them into when they’re done.
If you were to ask us what our #1 toy recommendation would be for young children, this would be it. Every child should have a block set, and the 60-Piece Standard Unit Blocks from Melissa & Doug is the best we’ve encountered for limitless imaginative play.
These blocks are sanded smooth (no splinters or sharp edges), and are extremely hard-wearing (editor’s note: we’ve had a set of these blocks for over 6 years and they still look new…and they get played with on a daily basis). They’re the perfect size for young builders to stack, balance and create.
One day these blocks were made into a gymnastics obstacle course for dolls, the next they were part of a construction site, and another they formed animal cages at a Zoo – they are easy to incorporate into almost any aspect of your child’s play.
And they come in an indestructible wooden storage box that not only serves as a place to pack them away at the end of the day, but can also be incorporated into their building.
A must, must, must buy!
Mayka Toy Block Tape (age 3+)
This incredible Building Block Tape went viral when it launched on Indiegogo earlier this year, and for good reason. Simply cut, peel, stick and bend the tape to turn any surface into a building block base (yes, we’re talking Legos, Mega Blocks, and more!) – opening up a whole new world of building possibilities for Lego-loving kids.
Made of non-toxic silicone, this Mayka Toy Block Tape is non-marking, flexible and can be removed and re-used numerous times. We had kids creating cool vertical roads, bridges and roller coasters, and transforming their possessions like water bottles and binders into opportunities to create.
Take a look at this video to get an idea of what your kids can do with this incredible tape!
Pair a fun rotating power drill with colorful screws and fun designs, and you’ve got a toy with massive play power. Kids can follow the designs on the included Activity Cards, or make their own, using the drill (with 3 drill bits), screwdriver or wrench to secure the pieces on the board.
The Design and Drill is great for building hand-eye coordination, pattern recognition and creative design skills. Kids love this one!
Battat Take-Apart Toys (age 3+)
Speaking of fun power tools, the Battat Take-Apart Toys combine the novelty of a power drill with the fun of creating a playable vehicle. Each set includes 18–30 vehicle parts and oversized fasteners that can be screwed together with the drill. The drill comes with 3 interchangeable bits and a reverse switch for easy disassembly.
These toys were a big hit (particularly with our boy testers) and we marveled at how they enjoyed the process of taking them apart, just as much as they did putting them together. The pieces are well-sized for their small fingers and are great for fine-motor training, and an introduction to mechanical skills.
Melissa & Doug Cutting Food (age 3+)
Although this Melissa & Doug Cutting Food set may not classify as your typical building blocks, it certainly satisfies kids’ natural desire to put things together and take them apart. The 8 pieces of wooden food have Velcro tabs that hold them together, but can then be sliced apart with the accompanying knife. Kids love the crunch sound it makes when they cut through!
This set was universally loved by boys and girls, from toddlers to tweens. It makes a great addition to a play kitchen (our testers used it for restaurant play, making smoothies and stews), and can be used for learning about wholes and fractions, sorting, colors, and counting (getting the cucumber back together straight is also quite a fun puzzle!).
Also check out the Cutting Fruit set which is just as fun.
Fat Brain Toys Squigz Starter Set (age 3+)
We love everything about these heavy duty silicone Squigz – from the name, to the mess they don’t leave behind. These fun little suckers easily connect with each other via their suction cups, and can also take hold of any solid, non-porous surface (think counter tops, windows, and bathtubs). Give them a little tug and POP! — the sound as they release from one another is even cute.
The kids we had playing with these were in love at first POP! They started with building some pretty neat looking structures (a 4-year old made an awesome “octopus”), and then moved onto making chains that hung from windows (one girl turned hers into a necklace), and then discovered that they can even be suctioned onto their faces to transform into Shrek-like monsters (you should have heard the giggling!).
Add on the Squigz Benders for even more variations in play.
We’ll definitely be bring a baggie of these Squigz to entertain the kids the next time we go to a restaurant – they make the perfect fidget-busters!
Magnetic Tiles are one of our favorite open-ended building toys, and a highly-recommended investment because they will get so much play time over the course of many, many years. These tiles easily connect thanks to integrated magnets on the edges of each piece, and can be used to make both 2D designs and 3D structures.
The brand you’ve probably heard of is MagnaTile, but these tend to be extremely pricey and guess what – we’ve found another well-respected brand that offers the exact same product, for a much more reasonable price. We tested the Playmags Magnetic Building Blocks alongside MagnaTiles and found them to be totally comparable – both have well-constructed pieces to withstand heavy play (and tower tumbles!), and can build a tower taller than your average 4 year old.
The Playmags 100-Piece Clear Colors is $50 cheaper, and comes with a car base (which our kids loooooved) and bonus storage bag. Even the 150-Piece Set is $20 cheaper and comes with 2 car bases, fun fence and half-sized pieces, and the storage bag. Kinda makes it a no brainer, right?
Kids can build all kinds of fun stuff with these – we had a land of tiny Fairy houses, an enormous rocket ship, an animal hospital with different “patient” rooms and a Demolition Derby course built by various groups of kids over the course of an afternoon. The creativity that comes out of these blocks is incredible – prepare to be blown away by what your children create!
Areaware Blockitecture Garden City (age 3+)
We are completely obsessed with this brilliantly designed Blockitecture set, and so were our child testers who ranged in age from 3 to 18. This 20-piece Garden City set is made from New Zealand pine and comes with everything you need to create stunning architectural buildings, including hexagonal window blocks which nest together, and cool pavilions and terraces. Because of their uniqueness, we found these blocks really captivated our testers, and they came back to play with them over and over again. Even we couldn’t keep our hands off of them!
Magformers 62 Piece Standard Set (age 3+)
Another magnetic tile we absolutely adore and kids think is just so-so cool, are Magformers. Connect these tiles together to make 2D patterns, and then pull them up into 3D creations that will make your jaw drop.
If you’ve never seen these in action, we suggest you click on the video on the left-hand side of this Amazon listing. Easy to see why kids love these, right?
The Deluxe Wooden Railway Set from Melissa & Doug is a fantastic starter set for any wannabe engineer, and a fantastic value for the quality of the solid wood tracks and accessories that are included.
The 100+ track pieces are compatible with all other wooden track systems, so you can easily mix and match sets, and comes with trains, magnetic cranes, bridges and an awesome engine house with 5-way turnaround. The included visual instructions help kids build the set in numerous different configurations, or they can free-build and let their creativity soar.
We always suggest purchasing some of the small Male-Male/Female-Female Wooden Train Track Adapter pieces that will help link-up their free-form tracks. For under $7 these will keep frustration at bay and come in mighty handy.
We also suggest getting a box of these amazing Suretrack Clips that can firmly secure track pieces together – great for using on more unstable sections like ramps, or just for keeping the peace with younger Godzilla siblings around.
RELATED: To see our recommendation for a convertible train table, see our popular post: 10 Multi-Functional Baby Products That Grow With Your Child And Last For Years.
Hape Dynamo Dominoes (age 3+)
If your kids have ever watched any of those insane domino set-ups on YouTube, they will love building their own races with the Hape Dynamo Dominoes. This beautifully made set of 100 wooden dominoes would be a little ho-hum if it wasn’t for the 7 trick pieces that really turn it into an exciting and engaging building toy. These special pieces can be integrated into their set-ups (favorites were the ball run and stepped bridge) to add some pizazz and help them develop cause and effect skills.
We do think the recommended age on this one is a little young – while a 3-year old can certainly dabble at standing up the pieces, the hand-eye coordination needed to successfully create a chain (without knocking it down every 5 seconds) is much better suited to 5 and 6 year olds.
And we must admit, we had a blast helping create some awesome “races” with these – so if you’re looking for a toy to play with your kids that won’t drive you into complete boredom, this is a great one!
best for grade schoolers
GoldieBlox Invention Mansion (age 6+)
We’re big fans of GoldieBlox and their unique invention kits which feature a fearless female engineer role model for girls.
The GoldieBlox Invention Mansion was the biggest hit of all the sets we tested (although we’d certainly also recommend The Dunk Tank and The Movie Machine). This set gave our 5–8 year old girls a chance to tinker with building materials and integrate fun ziplines, balconies, bridges and secret hiding spots. And once they were finished with the construction, they could then continue to use their imagination playing with their doll house (which we must say, they were darn proud about building themselves…and rightly so!).
GoldieBlox was the winner of the 2016 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum award for Best Toy and comes with 350 pieces, 2 mini-figures, and a full-color idea book to spark your child’s creativity. This set is a worthy investment and allows your child to reconfigure their play house over and over again for endless fun.
RELATED: For more doll houses recommendations, see our Gift Guide: The Best Doll Houses & Accessories For Your Doll-Obsessed Girl (or Boy!)
ZOOB (age 6+)
Meet ZOOB – building pieces with axels and joints that snap together to create incredible creatures and structures that can do more than just sit there and look pretty. With parts that rotate, spin and extend, kids are designing things they can actually play with, and never has this been truer than with the introduction of the ZOOB Mover.
The ZOOB Mover will take your ZOOB creations to the next level, with a remote control activated “body” that can be built on and maneuvered in all directions. We tested out the ZOOM Mover with several different groups of kids, ranging from 4–8 years old, and it got rave reviews all around. I mean, you couple fun connecting pieces with a video-game-like controller, and you’re bound to have some happy campers.
We added the ZOOB Car Designer set into the mix, and these kids were bouncing off the walls to get their hands on them. The excitement factor was definitely there (they’ll get giddy just looking at the box) and they can independently use the easy-to-follow instructions to build 3 cars at the same time. Our testers couldn’t stop gushing about their creations and kept adding on extra pieces to see if it would “make it go faster”.
K’NEX 52 Model Building Set (age 7+)
If you have a Lego lover on your hands, we whole-heartedly encourage you to try K’NEX. Although the K’NEX rods and connectors don’t stack like Legos’ standard blocks, you will marvel over the life-like creations your children can build with them.
We recommend starting with a set like the K’NEX 52 Model which offers over 600 assorted pieces and 52 building ideas from a simple giraffe to a more complex firetruck with extending ladder. There are more than enough pieces for several kids to be working at once (great for siblings and play dates), and the pieces can be dumped into the included plastic bin for easy storage.
If you already have a K’NEX lover, then you gotta get them one of their super cool Roller Coaster sets. They also have a K’NEX Mighty Makers line which is geared towards girls (à la Lego Friends) and includes some fun sets like Deep Sea Dive and Fun On The Ferris Wheel.
Klutz LEGO Crazy Action Contraption (age 7+)
Speaking of Legos, we had a group of Lego fanatics test out the Klutz LEGO Crazy Action Contraption book and they were completely enthralled with the 16 different projects they could create. The book comes with Lego’s famous easy-to-follow instructions, and over 100 bricks, gears and axles necessary to make unique creations like a Squeezeclaw Grabber, a LEGO Launcher, and a Wall Rocket Racer.
The kids (aged 5–8) had a hard time deciding which one to build first, but once they settled on one, it was full steam ahead and the fun didn’t stop for hours. No joke. Hours. They built and re-built (you do have to take apart each one in order to use the pieces for the next), playing with each project before moving onto the next.
This makes a stellar gift!
We also tested the Klutz Chain Reactions book (age 8+) which was equally loved, its downfall however, is that it does not come with all of the necessary pieces to build each of its 10 “machines”. You have to search through the blocks you already own to find the specific pieces outlined in the instructions – they are fairly common ones, but it still breaks up the play enough for kids to hesitate before starting the next project.
MindWare Keva Brain Builders Game (age 7+)
When we tested the Keva blocks for potential inclusion in this Best Building Toys Gift Guide, we found them to be very hit or miss with our kid testers. Some kids really liked the idea that they could turn the simple wood planks into whatever they could imagine, but others didn’t latch onto them at all, and craved more variation and direction. For that reason, we didn’t include them here.
However, the Keva Brain Builders Game was a totally different animal – the brain-teaser cards challenge them to turn a 2D diagram into a real 3D structure using the included KEVA planks. The cards show the design from the front, side and bird’s eye views and range from beginner to expert. They’ll end up building some pretty neat things like a rowboat or swan, while learning about balance and spatial relations.
The planks and 30 challenge cards come in a nice zippered case, making it easy to take on-the-go.
There’s also a Keva Brain Builder Junior version for ages 4+.
RELATED: For more top game recommendations, head over to: The Best Board Games For Kids & Families (That Aren’t Candy Land or Monopoly)
Lego Boost (age 7–12+)
Yes, Lego, yes! They completely hit it out of the park with the launch of the new LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox building and coding kit – so much so that it’s on our must-have list for the holidays. It combines the Lego building we know and love, with robotics and programming – but in a way that is fun and feasible for younger builders.
We’ll tell you more about why we love it so much, but nothing can quite do it justice better than watching it in action, so first take a peek at this short video:
Pretty incredible, right? You can build 5 completely different models from this one set: Vernie the Robot, a cool Rover (which includes the popular spring-loaded shooter!), a Guitar, the interactive pet Frankie the Cat (our personal favorite) or the Auto Builder (which builds mini Lego models!). You can then bring these creations to life using the free app’s easy-to-learn coding blocks.
Because it is a 5-in-1 build with all the additional code and play features, this one toy got hours upon hours of play time with our testers. And at $159.99, it’s an incredible price for a LEGO set which has so much functionality and brains to boot!
Thames & Kosmos Geckobot (age 8+)
Here’s all you really need to know about this gift: it’s a wall-climbing robot-Gecko! I mean, you had me at wall-climbing. But wait, that’s not all — this incredible robot building kit comes with step-by-step instructions to build not just this suction-loving little fella, but 6 other models including a crawling inch worm, a robotic arm that can lift, a tow truck that can pull a small car, and a suction gun that can pick up objects.
Take a look at the video on the Amazon listing which shows you each creation and you’ll see firsthand why we’re so excited about this one.
But it’s not just us – the kids we had building these robotic models (aged 8–12) were so in awe of their creations, they were literally screaming with excitement.
If you’re looking to get your child excited about physics and robotics, or just want a fun alternative to sitting on an iPad, then this is the gift you’ve been searching for. Geckobot for the win.
RELATED: For a few more Engineering Set recommendations, see our Non-Toy Gift Guide: Gifts For Learning & Expanding Horizons
Mindware Dino Dig (age 8+)
The Dino Dig kits from Mindware were an overwhelming success with the kids who tested them (ranging from ages 4–10). The discovery of breaking through the plaster to extract pieces of the dinosaur skeleton was super exciting, and with each new chunk that was broken off, the squeals got louder and louder.
They took turns using the included tools – one person using the hammer and chisel, another brushing off the resulting dust, and another sponging clean the uncovered bones. It was total teamwork, and a project that lasted over the course of several days (the plaster is hard and definitely requires an older child to make a good start chipping away…it is a slow process so those that may need immediate gratification might want to pass).
Once all the bones were excavated, they snapped them together to form a realistic looking T-Rex skeleton (it also comes in a Triceratops version).
If your child likes digging and building, this is the perfect gift!
Lego Friends Amusement Park Roller Coaster (age 8–12) & Lego Friends Snow Resort Collection (age 6–12)
A list of the best building toys would not be complete without a Lego set or two now would it? And while we think it’s important to find a set that matches your child’s specific interest (whether that be Super Heroes, Star Wars, or Minecraft), we have found that the Legos that give you the most longevity are the ones that have tons of playing power after the building is done.
That’s why we have a major crush on these amazing Lego Friends sets because they have so many fun features that can inspire play long after they’ve been constructed.
The Amusement Park Roller Coaster features a push-along roller coaster that glides smoothly and can take your child’s favorite mini-figures for a fun ride (and has an awesome functioning light brick on the front car). The spinning Ferris Wheel and Drop Tower rides are equally enchanting, and the smaller components like the entrance turnstiles, ticket counter and popcorn stand add additional opportunities for little imaginations to really bring this amusement park to life.
The Snow Resort Collection also has tons of playability in sets like the Ski Lift which includes a super fun winch that moves the ski lift up and down, plus a cool ski slope with slide function and the Hot Chocolate Van which features a double sledding tube!
RELATED: Got a Princess lover? Check out our recommendations for everything Princess (including the best Legos) in our Gift Guide: The Best Princess-Themed Gifts For Your Little Princess
Lego 3-in-1 Vacation Getaways (age 9–14)
Lego 3-in-1 sets are some of our favorites because you get 3 times the building and play-power. And the Vacation Getaways set has us doing an excited little mom dance because it is the best 3-in-1 set they’ve made to date. Some 3-in-1s transform into models that are somewhat similar to each other, but this one has 3 radically different creations: a Camper (complete with extendable awning, motorboat, camp fire and grizzly bear!), a Summer home, and an incredible yacht. What a value! (editor’s note: this set will definitely be under our Christmas tree this year for my Lego obsessed son!)
RELATED: For more Lego recommendations (including our favorite of ALL time, and our favorite DUPLO set), get our free report: 10 Screen-Free Quiet Time Toys For Guaranteed Quiet Time Play That Will Let You Relax, Recharge or Put The Laundry Away.
Best For Tweens/Teens
There comes a time when kids get older and start to gravitate away from imaginary/pretend play, and instead crave their toys to have real functionality, and actually do things. Robotics construction kits are the perfect STEM toy to satisfy this desire, and we’ve recommended 2 of the very best sets below:
Vex IQ Robotics Construction Kit (age 8+)
The VEX IQ Robotics Construction Kit comes with everything needed to build and program some amazing little machines like the walking dinosaur V-Rex, the gripping hand Clawbot IQ or the super cute IKE. All are controlled with an X-Box style controller which is of course a big hit with this age group.
The 750+ included pieces snap together easily and kids can follow the building instructions to start constructing their first bot right out of the box. There’s also some pretty neat sensors that can make the robots react to color, movement, or touch. Once they have the basics of building and programming these intelligent creations, the skies the limit of what they can build.
Lego Mindstorms EV3 (age 10+)
If you think your child has outgrown their Legos, think again! The Lego Mindstorms EV3 elevates their bricks to a whole new level: allowing them to create and control amazing robots using sensors, remote control, or a smart device.
Building instructions are included for 5 different robots, plus 12 extra models can be downloaded online. The favorites by far were the GRIPP3R which you can control to grasp and move items, and the EV3RSTORM which can shoot small balls at a target – tons of fun!
Take a look at the video on the Amazon listing here to see them all in action.
The learning curve on The Mindstorms EV3 is somewhat steep (it is trickier than the VEX IQ system above) and may require some adult assistance to get up and running. We do suggest The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book: A Beginner’s Guide to Building and Programming Robots which includes very clear, detailed instructions to get kids started. Because once they do, they will be totally hooked!
For even more building toy recommendations, we’ll send you our list of 10 magical toys that will give you 30–60 minutes each day of quiet time play. It includes our favorite Marble Run brand, more uber-playable Lego sets, and a building set that introduces the power of circuits!
Get the Free Report: 10 Toys For Guaranteed Quiet Time
We’ll send the full report with all the details of these magical toys straight to your inbox! Just let us know where to send the instant download:
So that’s it friends, some pretty incredible ideas that will get your little builder’s creative juices flowing.
But don’t head off just yet, make sure you check out the other guides from our 2017 What Moms Love Gift Guides For Kids:
- The Best Vehicle Toys For Car, Truck and Construction Junkies
- The Best Gross Motor Indoor Toys For Active Kids (To Get That Energy Out!)
- The Very Best Babies, Dolls & Doll Accessories For All Ages & Stages
- The Best Doll Houses & Accessories For Your Doll-Obsessed Girl (or Boy!)
- The Best Princess-Themed Gifts For Your Little Princess
- NOW LIVE! The Best Gift Ideas For Super Hero & Star Wars Lovers
- 200+ Unique Stocking Stuffers For Babies To Teens (That Aren’t Junk!)
And we’re currently working on even more guides, including:
- The Best Personalized Gifts for Kids
- NOW LIVE! The Best Board Games For Kids & Families (That Aren’t Candy Land or Monopoly)
Make sure you don’t miss them by subscribing to our newsletter and we’ll let you know the moment they launch. We’ll also let you know of any exclusive discounts or special deals on any of the toys included on our list:
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And if that’s not enough, if you’d prefer to gift something that isn’t a toy but rather an experience that will stay with them for a lifetime, an educational present that can expand their horizons, a fun practical item that can be used every day, or a sentimental treasure with deeper meaning, head over to our Unrivaled Guide To Non-Toy Gifts. 200+ Presents For Kids Of All Ages (That Aren’t Toys!)
This ultimate guide includes 6 parts:
- Non-Toy Gifts For Learning & Expanding Horizons
- Non-Toy Gifts To Spark Creativity, Imagination & Special Interests
- Non-Toy Gifts That Are Practical (But Far From Boring)
- Non-Toy Gifts For Making Memories
- Non-Toy Gifts To Receive In The Mailbox
- The Best Board Games For Kids & Families (That Aren’t Candy Land or Monopoly)
BONUS! FREE PRINTABLE COUPON BOOK
If you haven’t made it to our Making Memories guide yet, we don’t want you to miss out on our free printable coupon book. This includes 12 super fun coupons in Christmas, Hanukkah and Birthday designs that your kids will go gaga over. Plus blank templates for you to personalize your own. These make a wonderful stocking stuffer! Get more details and get the link to download here.