By Katherine Handcock, A Mighty Girl Communications Specialist
It starts the first moment an infant or toddler realizes that one block can balance on another block. Before you know it, building a tower to the sky (and making it crash down!) has become a favorite activity. For many kids, building toys remain favorites throughout childhood, with structures becoming more complex as kids' building skills advance. And once they can incorporate moving parts, budding engineers get to really explore all the incredible things they can put together!
If you have an amateur architect or engineer on your hands, some intriguing new building toys make a great gift idea! By expanding the materials available for building, you can help kids develop useful skills like fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, planning, and spatial perception — and, of course, let them have a great time doing it!
With that in mind, in this post, we’re sharing our 40 favorite building toys for kids from toddlers to teens. In addition to these recommendations, you can find more great building toys in our full selection of over 150 Building Toys.
Classic Building Toys: Blocks, Rods, and Connectors
As soon as kids learn to stack, they can start having building fun! These toys start out with simple options, but rapidly incorporate more complex forms of building capable of building more elaborate things.
One Two Squeeze Blocks
The littlest builders don't just stack blocks: they also toss, squeeze, and even chew them! These squishy plastic blocks are soft enough to be safe even in the hands of overenthusiastic kids, and the BPA-, lead-, and phthalate-free material means you don't have to worry if they end up in someone's mouth. Each block also features a different animal and a number from 1 to 10, all hand-sculpted. This set comes in a recycled plastic bag for easy storage.
Classic Embossed Alphabet Blocks
Sets of wooden alphabet blocks have been a fixture in toy chests for generations: a simple toy with lots of potential is always a hit with kids. This block set includes a full set of 28 ABC blocks, each of which features a unique animal, a number or math symbol, two printed letters, and two embossed letters. Michigan-made Uncle Goose blocks are built like high-quality traditional block sets, with solid wood construction and embossed letters, but modern parents love them for the renewable wood and nontoxic inks used in their construction.
Fantasy Blocks Set
This cheerful set provides a unique twist on classic wood blocks by offering an intriguing collection of shapes and colors! The brightly patterned block shapes cry out to build creative new worlds; one block even incorporates a bell for a little musical touch to your child’s building play. This set, which is made of solid beech wood and finished with solvent-free dyes, is another great eco-friendly option for your gift list.
Mega Bloks First Builders Bag
80 oversized interlocking blocks provide the perfect introduction to the fun of brick building! Bright primary colors make these blocks appealing, and they easily slip together and apart so that toddlers don't get frustrated as they build. Plus, for fill-and-spill fun, the set comes in a sturdy reusable BPA- and PVC-free plastic bag.
DUPLO Creative Animals
The colorful animals in this set will provide hours of creative play! Each animal has its own distinctive color and pattern, which makes it easy for kids to assemble the animals in the set. Then, mix and match the pieces to create some wacky animal friends! And if vehicles are more her thing than animals, make sure you check out the DUPLO Creative Cars Set.
DUPLO Doc McStuffins Backyard Clinic
The Doc is in! Help Doc McStuffins and friends Lambie and Stuffy look after all her toys in the Backyard Clinic! Susie Sunshine is sick and needs Doc to make her feel better. Time for check-up with the medical tools to find out what the problem is. This 39-piece set includes Doc, Lambie, and Stuffie figures. And since DUPLO blocks are safe and easy to assemble for little hands, even toddlers and preschoolers can get in on the brick building fun!
Fantasia Blocks Train
This colorful toys combines the fun of block building and train play! These maple blocks and train cars are finished with bright colors and patterns that will let their imagination run wild. The cars can be linked together or separated for even more flexible play. Parents will appreciate that the non-toxic paints are super durable, refusing to chip or peel even with rough play, but kids will just see hours of fun in their future!
Periodic Table Building Blocks
Most wooden blocks feature the A, B, Cs — but why not Au, Be, and Cu? This beautiful set of solid-wood blocks from Uncle Goose features all the elements of the periodic table, complete with symbol, name, and atomic number These ethically-made and eco-friendly blocks would be a hit with an adult chemistry fan, too!
DUPLO My First Zoo
Have a fun day at the zoo with this zookeeper and her animal charges! DUPLO bricks are sized to be safe and easy to assemble for little hands, so toddlers can build with bricks just like the bigger kids. This set includes multiple animal figures, a zoo car, and other special blocks that inspire pretend play at the same time as building.
Build and Store Block and Activity Table
A dedicated builder doesn't just need building supplies: they need a space to work on their projects! This activity table comes with two base plates, compatible with DUPLO, LEGO, and Mega Bloks, that snap onto the surface, as well as with multiple storage bins and cubbies. Kids can build to their heart's content, knowing their creations won't have to get swept away before they're finished. Or, when craft time rolls around, take off the base plates and draw, paint, and color to your heart's content on the easily washable surface.
Kid K'Nex 131-Piece Set
For all the kids who gaze longingly at older kids' K'Nex toys, now there are Kid K'Nex designed for small hands and younger minds! The chunky soft pieces are easy for younger kids to use, and the 1:1 scale idea cards make it easier for them to duplicate the end result. This set includes fun eye and ear/wing piece to allow kids to make all kinds of crazy creatures; ideas for eight creatures are included and the rest are up to their imagination!
Standard Unit Blocks
Simple shapes provide plenty of fodder for the information with classic standard unit blocks! This set of 60 hardwood blocks includes planes, columns, arches, and more, all of which fit into the included crate. Because blocks are all based on multiples or fractions of the standard unit, kids start to learn concepts about parts and wholes as they build their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination — but all they know is that these blocks make it really fun to build a tower, city, bridge, and more!
Wood Castle Blocks
One of the first things most kids want to build with their blocks is a castle, so why not foster that imaginative play with a castle-themed block set? These beautiful blocks from Treehaus include printed features like arched windows and roof shingles carved details like turrets and archways, perfect for sparking the imagination. 60 durable wood blocks come with this set, perfect for building a dramatic castle setting for your next adventure.
Tinkertoy Super Building Set
If you remember loving Tinkertoys as a kid, you’ll be happy to hear that they’re back and better than ever! The new Tinkertoys include redesigned versions of all the rods, spools, connectors, and other pieces you experimented with as a kid. The new plastic rods are slightly flexible, allowing kids to try structures that weren’t possible with the rigid wood rods of the previous version. Best of all, the new set is compatible with older wood Tinkertoys so you can expand your childhood set as you pass it on to a new generation! This Super Building set comes with 200 pieces and instructions to build 30 different models.
LEGO Classic Medium Creative Brick Box
Is there anything more inspiring that a big batch of LEGO bricks in a variety of bright colors and unique shapes? This set provides 484 pieces, including bricks in 35 different colors, eyes, wheels, and windows, to encourage open-ended creative play. Most of the pieces are small, making them suitable for small models or for making LEGO mosaic patterns. For even more building opportunities, check out the Large Creative Brick Box which includes 790 pieces.
Domino Race Set
Building can also mean carefully setting up a run of dominoes just to watch the fantastic chain reaction when you push the first one over! But a domino race gets a lot more fun with some cool accessories. In this set, you get plenty of colorful dominoes, as well as starting and finish gates, pyramid ramps, a tunnel, and dowel ladder and bridge pieces. With 255 pieces, there's plenty to build truly amazing domino runs.
For another twist on block building, check out this unique building set! These precision cut pine planks are all the same size, which allows them to stack with surprising stability — no glue or connectors required! This set includes 200 of the planks, which provides a great foundation for your building, but since all Keva planks are identical, you can easily expand your building by getting additional sets. Because the planks don't lock together, kids will develop a better understanding of gravity and balance as they build.
Quadrilla Music Motion Marble Railway
Marble runs are another popular building toy; kids everywhere love the challenge of creating their own marble race track. But this set incorporates something new into marble run building: music! The Quadrilla Music Motion Marble Railway includes strategically-placed chimes in some of the runs and blocks; as the marble rolls, it sounds the chimes. Create a crazy sonic effect, or see if you can put the set together to play a tune as the marble makes its way from the top to the bottom!
Blocks and Marbles Super Set
This fun marble run kit may be a classic, but be careful — it's trickier than it looks! Stack and balance the blocks in a variety of ways to create tunnels, tracks, and drops for your marble to travel through. Kids will have to think creatively and plan ahead to get the longest and wildest run for their marbles to roll. The hardwood construction of this set makes it stand out, and parents will love that it's made in the USA and carefully quality checked, but kids will just enjoy the flexibility and challenge it provides.
LEGO Star Wars Rey's Speeder
Speed into action on Rey's Speeder! This 193-piece LEGO set lets fans build this cool landspeeder with everything Rey needs for scouting the surface of a desert planet, including dual stud shooters, opening storage hatch and side-mounted bag, blaster, buzzsaw and electrobinoculars. There's also a detachable sled with space for a minifigure when she must make a quick escape down the desert dunes!
LEGO Education Space and Airport Set
Get ready to head up, up, and away with this amazing set from Lego's Education line. With this 1,176 piece set, you can build space shuttles, jet places, satellites, and helicopters -- and, equally importantly, the support buildings that they need for their flights. An equal mix of male and female heads provides terrific representation of women in all the careers depicted here, from astronaut to air traffic controller. And for easy storage, the set comes in a container with a transparent lid.
K'Nex 375-Piece Building Set
K'Nex have encouraged budding builders for years! This set includes all the elements that people have loved about K’Nex for more than two decades. This starter set includes 375 pieces and guidelines for building 30 different models from elephants to helicopters — or, of course, you can just let your imagination run wild. And, when the building's done, everything packs away into the included storage tub.
LEGO Minecraft: The Nether Fortress
There's no better pairing than LEGO and Minecraft for tons of building fun! In this set, you'll light the obsidian portal and venture into the mysterious Nether in search of rare components. Join Alex as she tackles Zombie Pigmen, a Blaze, and a Ghast on her quest. Just make sure you don't end up in a lava flow! The light-up and glow-in-the-dark elements in this set add extra excitement to this spectacular set.
Around The House Tool Set
Encourage your budding do-it-yourselfer with this high quality 31-piece tool set! These tools are made with slender handles to be more comfortable in smaller hands, but they're just as tough as regular tools. The set includes a hammer, a wrench, a level, a multi-bit magnetic driver, and more, all tucked in a handy 18 pocket tool bag for easy storage. Add a tool belt and she'll have everything she needs to tackle projects of her own!
New Construction: Magnets, Wedges, Flakes, and More!
The classics are classics for a reason, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also enjoy some unique and different building toy concepts! These toys take building in new and interesting directions, whether they’re providing new materials for creative building play or replicating real-life building.
Build A Bouquet Floral Arrangement Playset
Instead of building a tower, why not build a floral arrangement? This unique building set from Green Toys provides 44 vibrantly colored pieces that you can use to build your very own flowers! Stack the flower components on the stems and play with color, size, and shape, until it looks just right. And like all Green Toys products, you’ll feel good knowing they’re made of 100% post-consumer recycled plastic with no BPA or phthalates.
Building can get more intriguing with the addition of magnets, which allow you to create complex 3D shapes with ease. These plastic shapes with enclosed magnets on the edges allow you to build flat shapes or three-dimensional structures. Because the magnets always attract, they’re never frustrating for kids to use, and they’ll be intrigued at how they can “stick” the components together. This is a great base kit to begin your collection, and includes a selection of triangles, squares, and pentagons for diverse building potential; for even more options, the Magformers 144-piece set includes rectangles, hexagons, and other shapes.
Take Apart Airplane
Budding mechanics might prefer to build a plane! Battat’s Take Apart Airplane comes with 21 vehicle parts and a power “screwdriver” with three different bits. Kids will love getting to build a real toy and pulling it apart so they can do it all over again! As they learn the process, they’ll also develop their ability to plan out an efficient building process — just like a real mechanic does. Kids who like this set can also get Battat's Take Apart Crane.
If your kids love music, why not let them build their own wacky musical instrument? This set from Quercetti allows you to assemble your very own instrument out of ABS plastic parts. The set includes two mouthpieces and two trumpet-style bells, so you can even make a pair of instruments to play with a friend. By joining the variously shaped pieces, you can make an instrument like nothing the world has ever seen — and find out what it sounds like when you play it!
Design and Drill Activity Center
Combine power tools and bright colors with this set from Educational Insights! Kids can follow one of the 20 included pattern cards or come up with their own patterns. With 120 bolts in 5 colors, they've got plenty of inspiration in the box. Three different bits fit both the screwdriver and the drill, and then the included wrench helps them get all the pieces out to start all over again.
Real Projects Workshop
To encourage your future carpenter or contractor, check out this set from Step2. Realistic “wood” foam building pieces can be assembled with screws and nuts to build projects, then disassembled for more play later. The work bench is modeled after real carpentry benches, so she’ll feel like she’s using the real thing! And for even more realistic tools to use with the work bench, add Kidoozie's Little Builder Tool Belt (age 1 - 5) for play tools that look just like the real thing!
Wedgits Deluxe Set
Who says blocks need to be square? Wedgits are a series of progressively-sized interlocking shapes that nest, stack, and wedge together for a wide variety of fascinating building possibilities! Because of their unique shapes, Wedgits allow kids to build everything from futuristic towers to mechanically-levered creatures — yes, you can build a frog that really hops! The deluxe set comes with 30 pieces, plus clear plastic storage stands and a booklet to prompt some creative building ideas.
Gears! Gears! Gears! Super Set
With these clever gears, you can build 3D creations that you can then set spinning! Because all the gears are the same size, it's easy to put together the interlocking bases, the connectors, and the gears themselves. Then, attach a crank and see what happens when you turn it! Kids who enjoy this set can also check out themed ones like Movin' Monkeys and Wacky Wigglers, but for free building play, it's hard to beat the 150 pieces in this Super Set.
These building toys are fun little suckers! These flexible, suction-cup-tipped building components are easy to squish together and pop apart; they also stick solidly to most flat surfaces, including tabletops, windows, and even the bathtub. Because they're bendy, kids can experiment with shape easily as they build vehicles, robots, jewelry, and more. This deluxe set includes 50 Squigz to get you started. For the littlest builders, you can get pipSquigz for age 6 months to 2 years, a set of three large, textured Squigz toys that are good for building but also make a great teething toy.
There are so many possibilities in these clever little flakes! Brain Flakes discs can click together in a wide variety of angles, so you can build up, sideways, and out. They're easy to put together or separate, so even kids who are just developing fine motor skills can get in on the fun! This set includes 500 flakes that come in a variety of bright, fun colors, all in a reusable storage jar.
Build It Yourself Woodworking Kit
This 80-piece set is the perfect way to introduce kids to woodworking! Unlike in other woodworking sets for kids, there are no pre-drilled holes, meaning kids will really master nailing skills when the build the projects in this kit. Smooth pine pieces in a variety of shapes allow you to complete a wide selection of projects, and the set also includes a lightweight hammer, nails, and a storage box.
Magna Tiles are another magnetic building toy that provides great play potential. These solid tiles are great for simulating bricks, windows, and plating on the outside of vehicles. They’re great for playing with pattern and shape, either in two or three dimensions This 32-piece set with clear colors will get you started, or you can get the 100-piece Clear Colors Magna Tiles Set, which includes a variety of sizes and shapes of tiles, including large and small squares and isoceles, equilateral, and right-angle triangles, all in a translucent plastic that's sure to spark the imagination.
GoldieBlox Craft-Struction Kit
What is crafting but a form of building play? With this kit that combines model building with arts and crafts, kids can build several models that do fun things, like a spring car that really moves and an Extend-o-Flower that's built to bloom! The guide includes plans for a variety of creations, as well as a poster you can use to celebrate everything you've built. The mix of GoldieBlox construction pieces and craft supplies like pipe cleaners, string, and patterned paper is sure to get the creative juices flowing.
Q-Ba-Maze Big Box
This is a new take on the traditional marble run! Q-Ba-Maze blocks can be interlocked in incredibly complex shapes — instead of lines and curves, think diamonds, pyramids, and even animals! Since many blocks offer multiple exit points, the paths are more unpredictable too, meaning every run is exciting. This big box of Q-Ba-Maze blocks includes 72 cubes in five different colors, as well as 20 steel balls. Combine as many sets as you want for truly spectacular results!
Making It Work: Engineering Toys
Some young builders aren't satisfied with building static things; they want to make things that move! These engineering toys allow kids to build working objects — everything from simple machines to remote control animals — while learning key principles about physics and engineering.
DUPLO Simple Machines Set
Behind the most complicated machines are a set of very simple ones! This set lets kids explore pulleys, levers, gears, and wheels and axles, all designed with the same construction as DUPLO bricks: chunky and easy to assemble, even for little fingers. Full-color activity cards show kids how the simple machines work to make models like a seesaw, a spinning top, and more. Two to three kids can use this set at a time, so it's perfect to get kids exploring engineering together.
Amusement Park Engineer
Imagine getting to build your very own amusement park! This kit lets kids do just that. By following along with the illustrated storybook, kids use the 97 pieces to build amusement park attractions, including a roller coaster and a Ferris wheel, and learn how they work along the way. You can build 20 models with this kit, or experiment with the pieces to see what other rides you can come up with! Fans of this kit can also get an Automobile Engineer kit to build 10 different vehicles.
For a truly unique building experience, she can design structures and furniture with real electrical parts with the Roominate sets! The Chateau includes 131 pieces for creating your dream house: build structures and furniture, then add working lights, fans, carousels, and other battery-powered machines. Use it alone, or combine it with more sets for tremendous building possibilities! Roominate was designed by two female engineers and is designed to inspire kids to think about technology and innovation.
Smart Machines 4-in-1 Robot Kits
Combine brick-building fun with robotics with this fun kit! Snap interlocking bricks and wheels together, then add a motor and get things moving. Build a six-legged bug, a racing car, a tank, and a knight, all controllable with the included remote control. The models increase in complexity, so kids can start simple but get more sophisticated as they build their understanding and skills. Kids can also use the 237 pieces to experiment with their own designs.
Engino Inventor Pro
Play to invent with this impressive set that lets you build 80 different models! The large, elaborate models you build with this 277 piece kit actually move: kids will learn how to incorporate the dual output motor and wired remote control to bring their creations to life. Models increase in complexity, so kids can start simple and build up to great things — from cranes and motorcycles to a walking T-Rex!
Even objects that don't move require a lot of engineering know-how! In this set from K'Nex Education, kids learn about seven different bridge types and the physical forces — like tension, load, force stress, and more — that affect whether a bridge can hold up to the weight it carries. By building these model bridges and testing how they work, kids will get a new appreciation to the engineering behind the infrastructure we take for granted.
Remote Control Machines: Animals
Combine engineering and biology with this fun set that lets you figure out the biomechanics of how animals move! An elephant that walks, a scorpion that crawls along, a rabbit that hops, a crab that scurries sideways, and a Tyrannosaurus rex that walks on two legs: each animal needs to use similar principals to get very different kinds of movement. Kids will love the colorful plastic "skins" they get to put on each animal model — as well as experimenting with different movement styles of their own.
K'Nex: Levers and Pulleys
Older kids are ready for a more sophisticated understanding of the simple machines that are the foundation of nearly every piece of technology. In the Levers and Pulleys kit from K'Nex, kids will learn about 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class levers, as well as fixed, movable, and combination pulley systems. Eight different models show a variety of applications of these principals. Add the Gears and Wheels, Axles, and Inclined Planes sets to complete the picture.
Remote Control Machines: Space Explorers
As Curiosity and other rovers and satellites have shown, the future of space exploration is sure to involve plenty of robots! With this engineering set, kids will get an idea what it's like to build a machine designed to explore hostile terrain on new planets. Build a model rover, a space shuttle with working bay doors, a crosswing flyer, and more. Kids will particularly enjoy directing their rover over local terrain while imagining directing a robot a planet away in the future. For would-be astronauts or budding space explorers, it's sure to be a favorite.
LEGO Mindstorms EV3
Combining the versatility of the LEGO building system with the most advanced technology we've ever developed, the new LEGO Mindstorms EV3 set allows you to create and command robots that walk, talk, think and do anything you can imagine. Follow the building instructions to create TRACK3R, R3PTAR, SPIK3R, EV3RSTORM and GRIPP3R, or make your own creation, and bring them to life with an easy, intuitive and icon-based programming interface.
Additional Recommended Resources
- For more options, visit our extensive Building Toys Collection.
- For our top girl-empowering toy recommendations in all areas from pretend play to science toys to women's history, visit our 2015 Holiday Gift Guide.
- For our full selection of over 2,000 girl-empowering toys, visit our Toys Section.