10 Best Building Toys of 2020

best overall rating
  • Comes with zipping storage bag
  • Not a stepping hazard
  • Large, interlocking pieces
premium choice rating
  • Movable parts
  • Step-by-step guide for 70 creations
  • 702 pieces
great value rating
  • Not a stepping hazard
  • Idea booklet
  • 500+ pieces

In a world of floors strewn with painful surprise LEGOs, you might want to look into some new building toys for your kids. There are many LEGO-like toys, and some of the best building toys similar to LEGOs cost way less! Kids building sets come with a huge variety of shapes and creative possibilities. While not all the building toys for kids featured on our list are totally painless to step on, many of them offer fun new takes on construction toys.

There are pieces with suction cups, rotating and extendable parts, and even ones that have plastic nuts and bolts. To find the best of the best, we’ve searched through reviews by parents who have watched their children put these toys to the test. We’ve also researched how safe these products are (looking into the small parts and whether or not they’re free of BPA or other dangerous toxins).

Want something more challenging? Try a Meccano set.

Below are the top ten building toys for toddlers and kids that even parents are crazy for. You’ll find information on the basic age range, safety, shapes of the pieces, and the number of pieces for each toy.

View the Best Building Toys, Below.

Buyer’s Guide

Not all building sets for kids are created equal. Some are obviously meant for toddlers while others are for much older kids. Related to that, some sets simply aren’t safe for very young children who like to put things in their mouths. Those two are your most important concerns, but then you can consider the individual shapes and what they can create.

Last, there’s the number of pieces you’ll get. So below are our four factors: age range, safety, shapes, and number of pieces. We’ll go into detail on all of them to help you find the right toy for your child.

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Age Range

The first thing to look at, besides safety, would be age range. An eight-year-old will, in all likelihood, have no interest in simple building sets for toddlers that could otherwise thrill and challenge a smaller child. So consider your child before selecting a set. How old are they? Do they have the patience to put together hundreds of pieces according to a detailed instruction set?

You’ll also have to consider their fine-motor skills too. K’NEX are hard for very small children to snap together. On the other hand, the Squigz suction cup toys are easy to stick to almost anything. It just takes a little force to pull them apart from each other. Those stacking, non-interlocking blocks make great building for kids around three and under.

After all, little kids delight in knocking down their towers as much as they delight in building them. And again, their fine motor skills have to be considered. They probably don’t have the dexterity to take tiny pieces and press them together in a way that makes them stick. That’s why preschool building toys like Mega Bloks (basically giant LEGOs) will appeal to very young kids.

Construction toys for boys and girls like K’NEX, ZOOB Builderz, and even Squigz can be really fun for older kids, even adults. The advanced design capabilities of the first two are engaging enough for someone older. The last example, Squigz, are just plain fun with the pleasing popping sounds they make when you unstick them from things.

Safety

Once you’ve figured out what type of kid construction toy to buy, you can then find all the children’s building toys that are safe to use. Your main problem is that many construction toys for kids have very small pieces. As we all know, kids under three love to put things in their mouths, and these things can get swallowed or stuck. Even if you’re buying children’s building sets with small parts for an older kid, make sure they know to keep the pieces away from younger kids that may be in your home.

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Next, you’ll have to avoid harmful chemicals like BPA, PVCs, lead, heavy metals, and phthalates. Because BPA, found in many plastics since the 1960s, are still under review by the FDA, there are some toys that may contain trace elements of these. The only two toys that don’t say anything about being BPA-free are the ZOOB Builderz and the Marble Genius sets.  For the other eight toys listed, the manufacturers have said that they do not use BPA in their products.

However, if you’re ordering online, there’s a risk of receiving knock-off products made in foreign countries. These toys can be from places that don’t have federal regulations on harmful chemicals like BPA. Always inspect your packaging first. If the brand name or something else is misspelled, you have a counterfeit product that’s not durable or safe. Some brands, like ETI Toys with their Engineering Building Set, outline how to spot knock-offs right on their Amazon page.

This includes looking to see the exact size of the pieces (counterfeits have smaller pieces in this case). If you do find a counterfeit kids construction set, warn other buyers in your Amazon review! Informing them of this basic information will help them a lot.

Shapes

The shapes these various products take can be very telling. For example, they can tell you that a toddler won’t be able to connect a tiny K’NEX rod to another piece. Or they can tell you that they have too many small parts for a child under three. The shapes can tell you how complex a project could get. PicassoTiles are completely flat and connect via magnets on the edges.

This would make it difficult to build intricate designs. Kids can still have fun making buildings, but the tiles don’t really go beyond that possibility. The most exciting pieces are ones that can spin or extend. This is what happens with ZOOB BuilderZ toys. Likewise, K’NEX toys have moving parts.

Number of Pieces

This is pretty simple, but let’s talk about it for a minute. Some builder sets for kids have less than 100 pieces. Others have over 700 (like the K’NEX set). This is important when you consider that your young builder might want to make something very big. Or they might build more than one project at a time.

K’NEX sets obviously have the most pieces, and block toys for very small children have very few pieces. Brain Flakes come in jars of 500, and the PicassoTiles come with only 60 pieces per purchase.

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Conclusion

As you can see, you have many options when it comes to building sets for kids. There is a huge range in ages. From the simple Melissa and Doug blocks to the complexities of K’NEX sets, you’ll have to first assess what your child will be interested in. Then, individual shapes can form intricate designs. It helps if the set you buy has some sort of guide that teaches how to build these things step by step.

When a set has many diverse shapes (like K’NEX and ZOOB Builderz), that’s a good sign that there are very advanced designs to be built. On the same token, be sure that the set comes with a good number of pieces. There’s nothing more frustrating than having not quite enough pieces to finish a long project. This may cause a parent to have to buy an extra set!

So before that happens, check out how much you’re getting for your money first. Sometimes it’s a guessing game trying to figure out what your child will enjoy. We can only hope we’ve taken some of the guesswork out of your search for the best children’s toys. Happy building!

Expert Tip

BPA (bisphenol A) is a chemical found in plastics that can cause harm, according to the Mayo Clinic, to “the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.” That’s why it’s especially important to avoid cheap counterfeit toys that may bypass government standards.

Did you Know

K’NEX toys were created about 25 years ago after inventor Joel Glickman was playing with straws at a wedding reception.