12 Best Building Toys in 2017

Childhood just wouldn’t be the same without some good ole’ building toys in the toy bin.

There is so much you can do and so many different skills to be learned from them!

Whether you’re shopping for a birthday present or something new to offer the kids in your daycare center, you’re certain to find something your kids will like here in our list of the best building toys.

All kids have different interests and preferences, so it’s not always easy for us adults when we set out in search of a new toy.

We will guide you through the process quickly and easily: here, you will learn the basics of building toys and have a chance to read our detailed reviews of the top five products.

These toys are sure to win over the future engineers and mathematicians in your life!

Top 12 Building Toys Comparison Chart

Design Name What it Teaches Recommended Age Range Rating (1-5)
   1. VIAHART Brain Flakes 500 Piece Interlocking Plastic Disc Set  Spatial Thinking  5+  4.8
   2. PicassoTiles 60 Piece Set  Geometrical Shapes, Architecture  3+  4.8
   3. ZOOB BuilderZ 250 Piece Kit  Science, Technology, Engineering, Math  6+  4.8
   4. Mega Bloks 80-Piece Big Building Bag  Stacking, Colors  1-5  4.8
   5. K’NEX – Deluxe Building Set  Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math  7+  4.7
6. Learning Resources Gears  Science, Simples Mechanics  3+  4.5
7. Melissa & Doug Wooden Building Blocks Set  Early Math Skills  3+  4.5
8. Battat Bristle Blocks 112-Piece Basic Building Set Creativity, Motor Skills  2+  4.5
   9. LINCOLN LOGS – 100th Anniversary Tin – 111 All-Wood Pieces  Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math  3+  4.5
   10. Klutz LEGO Chain Reactions Craft Kit  Physics  8+  4.3
   11. Marbulous-Translucent Marble Run  Creativity, Reasoning  4+  4.3
   12. Schylling MKT Super Makit Classic Wood Construction Toy  Math  3+  4.2

Where to Begin

We know that it can be overwhelming to choose toys considering the millions of different choices you have out there, but when it comes to choosing the best building toys, here are a few things you can keep in mind to help you narrow down the choices.

  • Age Range – In our table, we listed the manufacturer’s recommended age range for each toy.

It’s important to get something age-appropriate because the last thing you want to do is leave kids feeling like they can’t accomplish something because it is too difficult, or have them fly through it because it is too easy.

Aim for something that is “just the right fit” when it comes to skills and capabilities, and when in doubt, opt for something a little more challenging that you or another adult can help them with.

Make sure that you don’t get a toy that for a child that is below the recommended manufacturer’s age since this can present a serious safety hazard.

  • Skills – You’ll also want to think about the skills that it teach and that it requires: does the child enjoy putting together projects that can move or function when completed or do they prefer stacking and creative building?

We’ll delve deeper into the skills next, so keep reading!

What are STEM and STEAM?

For those of you who didn’t already know, these acronyms help identify the types of skills that a toy is capable of teaching to children who play with it.

  • STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Math
  • STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math

Toys like Zoob BuilderZ, K’NEX Deluxe Building Set, and even our classic favorite Lincoln Logs are all very good examples of either STEM or STEAM toys.

While it is true that toys should always entertain, it is equally important that they be educational at the same time.

The best building toys are those that nurture a variety of skills and are super entertaining in the process.

Older Users

Building toys certainly aren’t just for kids: adults can benefit from them, too!

  • Relaxing – Some of you might just want to unwind at the end of a long day, and a good building project is just the ticket.
  • Nursing Homes – Building toys provide excellent entertainment for the elderly and not only that, but they also help with hand-eye coordination and allow them to use their critical thinking skills.

If you’re in need of something for adults, check out numbers 1, 2 and 5 in our review section.

Top 5 Best Building Toys Reviews

1. Viahart Brain Flakes 500 Pieces

Brain Flakes are still relatively new to the building toy scene (they were first released in 2010), but they sure made a splash entrance into the toy world thanks to their simplicity and affordability.

You’ll love to know right away that these little flakes are free of BPA, lead, phthalates and heavy metals, making them a safe choice for kids to play with. The pieces are small (slightly larger than a quarter), so you shouldn’t allow children under 3 years old to play with them, kids that are three and up will love them!

These little discs are packed with educational fun, helping kids explore the meaning in the shape and size of objects, their orientation, their location and their direction – in other words, spatial thinking: this is the fundamental of Geoscience.

In addition to this, kids are free to be creative while improving coordination, not to mention the engineering and building skills they’ll nurture.

Kids can build pretty much anything they want with 500 pieces in a jar; they’ll be busy for quite a while!

2. Picasso Tiles 60 Pieces

These magnetic tiles are loads of fun, and if you want a toy that both you and your child can enjoy together, this is a great choice.

In each box, you get a mixture of square and triangles in different colors. There are magnets on the inside edges that allow the user to attach other pieces easily; no tugging or assistance required. Naturally, the geometric shapes are a great way to enforce math skills, but kids also learn about magnetic polarities, architecture, color, counting, and 3D forms.

Parents love that these keep their kids entertained for hours at a time and that they’re easy to clean. These are even a great choice for adults (think of it as a therapeutic toy for use in the nursing home or even in a rehabilitation center for adults).

Picasso Tiles are equally as fun as Brain Flakes, but since they are slightly more expensive and you receive fewer pieces, some people lean toward more affordable toys.

3. Zoob BuilderZ 250 Pieces

If you need toys that are suitable for bigger kids (ages six and up), then check out Zoob.

Each set comes with a mixture of five different types of pieces that can snap together in 20 ways. We love the joints that allow you to rotate and spin pieces, which allows the builder to create moving inventions rather than immobile ones.

If you’re not sure what your kids can make, don’t worry: there are six instruction guides included with the set that tells you how to create over 30 different figures.

Parents find that the pieces are quite easy to connect and disconnect, so you won’t have to worry about younger users struggling with them as they build.

If you’ve never seen Zoob pieces in action, then we recommend you check out their video to determine whether or not it is the right type of toy for your child’s needs.

4. Mega Bloks Big Building Bag 80 Pieces

Younger builders will love having a set of king-sized blocks like these in the toy bin. While they do look like LEGOs, the LEGO brand did not create them (Fisher Price did).

Children ages 1-5 will love having these easy-to-handle blocks to build things with, and you’ll love that the pieces aren’t small enough to swallow.

The set comes with an attachable wheelbase so that kids can make vehicles to roll around the floor and the variety of shapes makes it easy to create tons of unique objects.

Obviously, since these are targeted for toddlers, older kids might not have much fun with them, but if you happen to have several children in the manufacturer’s recommended age range, then this would probably be a good choice for all of them to play with together.

5. K’NEX Deluxe Building Set 375 Pieces

The final set we looked at is K’NEX. If your kids have mastered the Big Bloks and perfected the Picasso Tiles, then the next level of their building challenge is a set like this.

You can build some pretty cool things with the K’NEX pieces: Ferris Wheel, Turtle, Race Car, Motorcycle, Helicopter and plenty more. The set includes basic instructions for 30 different projects, each one reinforcing the STEAM subjects we mentioned.

Since the instructions are quite vague, the projects can be too much of a challenge for some children.

Kids who are ready for this kind of challenge enjoy the fact that they get to figure out on their own how to assemble the objects, so if you have a little engineer who is dying to take his or her skills to the next level, this would be a great match!

They do make larger sets, too. This one has 705 pieces, and this one for a large Ferris Wheel has 744.

Final Thoughts

The manufacturer’s recommended age range is often correct. They spend hundreds of hours developing and testing their toys, so they know who the target audience is.

The problem for the shopper is when you’re looking for a toy that matches the “in between” user.

For older kids looking for more of a challenge, the K’NEX Deluxe Building Set – 375 Pieces and Klutz LEGO Chain Reactions Craft Kit are great choices.

We really thought that the Brain Flakes and Picasso Tiles – 60 Pieces were the best “in between” options on the list since they are not only safe for younger users but also appealing to older users. Even adults, in many situations, find both of them to be an excellent toy.

When shopping for building toys, make sure that you avoid purchasing duplicate toys or something that is similar to what the toy recipient already has.

Above is a well-rounded list of options, so if our top five didn’t match your needs check out the other seven options we included!