These Open-Ended Building Toys Up the Ante on Creative Play
When the holiday season rolls around, my kids’ holiday wish lists are filled with the trendiest toys – this year it’s Hatchimals, hoverboards, and fidget-everything. But the novelty lasts for about an hour, and they’re back to playing with their well-loved Legos and Marble Runs.
Open-ended building toys are classics for a reason: They promote creativity and imaginative play – today you’re building a castle, tomorrow, a spaceship – so there’s no limit to what you can do.
But they also provide a ton of benefits, such as honing fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination; encouraging critical-thinking skills, problem-solving, and cooperative play; and they’re a great intro to STEM and how things work.
Whether you’ve got a budding architect/engineer at home, or just want a toy with longevity (RIP. Furby), building toys make for great gifts any time of the year. Here are some of our favorites:
While we love our Batman and Ninjago LEGO playsets, the gigantic instruction manuals can be really intimidating. (If you used the wrong blue block on page 2, it will bite you in the butt by the time you’re on page 4,538 and you’ll have to break everything down…)
LEGO Architecture Studio isn’t like your typical colorful LEGO playset. It’s composed of only clear and white bricks – perfect for exploring form and light while building. It does comes with an inspiration booklet, which you can totally throw out once the anxiety starts creeping in...and let your kid’s imagination loose.
David Baron and Ryan Cocca were onto something when they created The Nugget. As a parent whose kids pull off the couch cushions all day long to make bear caves and stepping stones when the floor turns to lava, they truly get that furniture = the best toys!
The Nugget is a couch/toy – made out four foam pieces: A folding, sturdy base, a soft, folding seat cushion, and 2 supportive pillows. Unlike most building toys, this one’s perfect for those gross motor skills – your kids will be jumping and rolling around in foamy goodness. What can you build? Well for basics you can start with a slide, a trampoline, a lounger, a bed, a tent, a horse, a hammock, a ninja training ground, a fort, a dance floor, an obstacle course…
There are no sharp corners, and the foam is CertiPUR-US certified (mercury, lead, and formaldehyde-free) with no flame retardants. The best part? Machine. Washable.
Magna-Tiles are colorful tiles with magnets running along the edges. The pieces snap together easily to make flat patterns and 3D shapes. Start off with cubes and pyramids, and next thing you know you’re making intricate dollhouses and replicas of the world’s most famous towers.
We love how the tiles are translucent, making them perfect for light play. Build by the window, use sunlight to cast color reflections, or have fun with them on an overhead projector!
We love building forts at home. But while there’s no shortage of blankets for draping… the actual structures leave a lot to be desired.
Fort Magic Kit is the solution to your weak fort problems. This modular building kit uses high quality materials – from straight to curved sticks, various connector shapes, and clips for fabric and accessories. Forts aside, you can pretty much ANYTHING: tunnels, castles, teepees, playhouses, cars, rocketships, planes, submarines, pirate ships… It even comes with a nifty full-color building manual to help you out.
Similar to the Fort Magic Kit but on a much smaller scale, Joinks is an innovative construction kit featuring wooden dowels and flexible silicone connectors. Build fun forms, geometric shapes, molecular structures – any structure you can come up with! It even comes with suction cups for securing your creations.
EverBlocks are like LEGOs, but better in every single way: First of all, they’re huge, which means less time looking for pieces, and they can’t hide in the carpet and accidentally impale you later on. Second, they’re made from durable recycled cardboard, which is totally eco-friendly, and again, more forgiving than plastic when you step on them. Third, you have to build the blocks before you build with them – so that’s a double whammy building project. More bang for your buck!
Brixo Electric Bricks are Bluetooth-enabled bricks that move, spin, light up, and more. Using a tablet/smartphone, you can program your creations to do just about anything. You can make a robot dog, a helicopter, a cannon, a little fan, a remote-controlled lighthouse… You don’t need prior programming knowledge – the set is simple and straightforward.
Brixo bricks include Trigger Blocks (which respond to sound, proximity and light), Connector Blocks (which conduct electricity without wires), Power Blocks (Bluetooth-powered blocks you can program), Light Blocks, Magnet Blocks and Motor Blocks.
The best way to learn about electrical circuits… is by actually building them!
Spyntex is a versatile piece of furniture + home decor + toy, that easily transform by sliding a few bars together. It’s so simple, the kids will jump right into the fun of building. The bars are made with a 100% recyclable composite material that’s waterproof and extremely durable – it can hold practically any weight. Build a simple chair, bench, lounger… a seesaw, a racecar… Sky’s the limit!
Which of these open-ended building toys would your kids love as a gift? Share your favorites with us!
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