Construction toys and Building blocks are classic toys that let children build developmental skills by stacking, building, and playing with blocks. While building blocks can be a solo activity, these can be a group activity and can also be played by the entire family.
Types of Building Blocks/Toys: Different Materials
Toy blocks, also commonly known as “building blocks,” are solid shapes that kids use for building various things and for construction play.
Toy blocks are available in a variety of different materials: Wood, Cardboard, Plastic, Foam, Magnet.
While these blocks can be made from various materials, plastic is the most common material used for building these blocks. Interlocking plastic bricks made by Lego and MegaBlox are among the more popular building block toys.
Related: Lego building sets.
However, with more consumers becoming aware about the need to save our environment, in recent years, more parents have been showing interest in wooden toys.
The advantage of cardboard is that it is light in weight and children can easily lift them to make much bigger sized structures. They are also environmentally friendly.
But even cardboard blocks are now making way to foam based blocks. Foam based blocks are more durable, they are safe to use (no choking hazards), and are also available in vibrant colors.
Both cardboard and foam building blocks are also excellent for introducing older kids to engineering and architectural concepts and it exercises spatial and methodical thinking.
Playing with magnets also help earn scientific principles in addition to improving fine motor development. These are versatile and can be used in block building activities or as part of science experiments for children.
Some toy makers are also using Silicone to make soft building blocks for babies; these are toxin-free, which means babies can chew on them safely.
Toddlers can use these blocks for: Stacking, Building, Learning Spelling. Using building blocks, children can stack the blocks to make towers, buildings and monuments; they can lay the blocks flat to make interesting patterns; these can also be used to teach alphabets and counting.
Types of Construction Toys
Construction toys for kids take concepts such as structural design, engineering, mechanics, physics, and math, and combine them in toys to turn them into useful learning adventures that also helps provide a solid foundation in STEM education.
With these toys, children are able to build structures that they see in world around them.
Construction toys come with basic components that can then be put together to form different are structures. These can easily be disassembled and reassembled into into something new.
Main types of construction toys:
- Bricks & blocks, also commonly known as building blocks: These toys include solid shapes, plastic interlocking bricks that can be used to build various things.
- Tinker toys: These construction set include small pieces that you put together to form shapes or objects. These include toys like train sets, architectural sets, educational sets, and others. These can be made up of wood, polymer, metal, others.
- You also get a range of construction vehicles & equipment (which are not necessarily building toys, but mimic vehicles and equipment that are commonly used in construction activities)
As is seen in other types of toys, more parents are now opting for eco-friendly and sustainable construction toys.
The top toy brands that make construction toys include Vtech, LEGO, Hasbro, Mattel, Mega Bloks, Bandai, Melissa & Doug, Knex, Marklin, Meccano, Tegu, Spin Master Ltd., PlayMonster, KnuckleStrutz, Magformers, Schylling, Nanoblock, Polydron, and Learning Resources.
Related: Volvo Construction Vehicles and Equipment Toys
How does playing with blocks help children?
Back in 1693, philosopher John Locke had suggested that play-things with the letters on them can make learning for children a more enjoyable experience. Over a century later, Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel (who pioneered kindergarten) started using geometric solids carved from wood (known as Froebel’s “gifts”) in order to support children’s learning; these soon led to alphabet blocks.
Related: Froebel Gifts (Spielgaben), toys for preschoolers
Playing with building block toys can help kids in many ways.
Building block toys have been around for a long time; they are easy to use and yet serve as powerful learning tools for the kids. These toys also serve as a great distraction for kids from screen time.
You can expect these building blocks to helps your kids with motor skills and hand-eye coordination, spatial reasoning, cognitive flexibility, and engineering skills.
By playing with building blocks, kids learn spatial skills which helps them better understand shapes, sizes, positions, directions which enables them to better visualize what should be placed ‘on top’, ‘under’, ‘next to’, and so on. Kids learn how to fit things together.
These help smaller kids (around 1 year) build basic hand-eye coordination. Children in preschool who play with blocks show better visual-spatial skills and problem-solving skills.
Also, children who spend more time using blocks and Lego bricks to practice complex building tend to do better in math in their high school years.
Best Construction Toys & Building Blocks
Recommended Building Blocks
- MEGA BLOKS Big Building set: Big and colorful building blocks, suitabe for ages 1 and up. Comes with 1 storage bag.
- Melissa & Doug Deluxe Alphabet Nesting and Stacking Blocks. 10-Pieces (showing letters and familiar pictures). Suitable for ages 2+ years.
- Infantino Squeeze and Stack Block Set: Colorful Textured Soft Blocks includes numbers, animals and shapes. For ages 6 Months.
- Intock Magnetic Blocks: 100 Pieces, colorful cubes, 3+ years.
- Blockaroo Magnetic Foam Building Blocks: 100 soft-foam blocks with Toy Chest
Make-A-Fort (for serious fort builders)
Take your kids fort building skills up a few notches with the Make-A-Fort cardboard building kit which allows children to make sturdy and magical forts, castles, and tunnels. Kids can also draw and color on these blocks, thereby extracting more fun from this kit.
Magnetic Building Set: Magna-Tiles
This is a must-have building set for ages 3 and above. These come as 2-D pieces but when put together, one can create a variety of 3-D shapes which makes this kit an excellent product to teach basic geometry. This is indeed a fun alternative to the traditional building blocks.
HABA Building Blocks
German toy maker Haba makes a range of building blocks. Most of these are wooden building blocks available in various sizes and number of pieces. These blocks come in a a nice sturdy fabric carrying tote that also makes it easy to keep all the pieces together. The measurements of the pieces are based on the European metric system. The symmetry of the wooden pieces makes it easy to combine them together while building.
Best Straws and Connectors Building / Construction Kits
These are made from simple straws but they are highly versatile as the open-ended design of these straws/ connector toys let children make simple as well as complex structures. Children can male a range of multi-dimensional shapes and forms using these interlocking, connecting pieces. Its great for toddlers and preschooler, but can also be used by adults as a pleasant diversion from their routine activities.
Dandanah. The Fairy Palace. Building Blocks
The prototype for a rare Bauhaus children’s game titled ‘Dandanah. The Fairy Palace. Building Blocks of Solid Glass’ which includes glass building blocks will be on offer at Bassenge in Berlin for a price tag of €22,000.
In 1920, architects and artists Blanche and Paul Mahlberg and Bruno Taut designed prototypes of children’s glass building blocks; however, the actual production of these building blocks never took off; bankruptcy of the financiers and the high inflation of the 1920s disrupted their ambitious plans.
Only eight prototypes of these building were ever made, one of which will be offered in Berlin.
Every prototype includes an octagonal 10 x 10in (26 x 26cm) wooden box that contains 61 red, green, yellow, blue and clear glass building blocks and six silkscreened patterns.
Lego is one of the most popular toys of all-time. these can be used to build literally anything – cities, bridges, towers, and more. The only limitation when it comes to constructing with these toys is how far your child can stretch their mind. You can find more instructions and inspiration here.
Related: Checkout the best Lego building sets here.
Did you know there are LEGO Professional builders in the world who earn a living from their hobby?
CAT Steel Excavator toy
This is heavy duty metal construction vehicle toy by CAT that kids can use to haul dirt. The Cat Steel Excavator moves 360 degrees, has excellent build quality, and looks exactly like the real one. The ergonomic handles make it easy to work the arm and bucket.
Suitable for ages 3 years and up. Great for imaginative role play.
Tonka – Steel Classics Front Loader
Made with real steel, the Steel Classics Front Loader features an ARTICULATED front bucket that you can move up and down to transport dirt, rocks, or sand.
Suited for ages 3 years and up.
A lot of parents however expressed their dissatisfaction that this toy has only about 25% metal and the rest is made of plastic (the basket, wheels and the handle).
Homemade DIY Toys
While there are several exciting and interesting construction and building toys, the fact is that some of these toys can be expensive.
Besides, kids also get bored playing with the old toys after some time, no matter how expensive they are.
So, encourage your children to make their own fun toys at home.
This is a good use of their time and also helps you save money.
Funtoyworld is a family-managed website with me (Ben), and my wife doing most of the work. We are proud parents of two wonderful kids and love reviewing toys. We have a firm but friendly “democratic parenting” style and offer several practical suggestions backed by extensive research. Our own experience with raising two children prompted us to share our knowledge. Read more.
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