Teacher Favorites: Building Toys

Today I wanted to share my favorite building toys. I wanted to create a few posts in case you are a parent or grown up in a child’s life and are looking for gift ideas. These lists are also great for teachers who are looking to add more play into their curriculum and day.

Sometimes I let my daughter choose her toys…we go to a store or check out a website and let her chose something she’s drawn to. I will say, though, most of the time she chooses toys she plays with for a few minutes or a few days. The toys she comes back to are the ones I researched, and found toys that are well loved by kids and parents.

Today I will be sharing Amazon affiliate links. That means I get a small stipend when someone purchases from my link. It is at no cost to you, and I use that income to keep this website up and running.

Building toys have been around forever so there are a LOT of choices. It can feel super overwhelming. I wanted to share my favorite building toys to save you some time, and hopefully find some your child or students will love.

What are the benefits of building toys?

Building toys offer so many benefits. If you watch your child or student play for more than a few minutes, you’ll likely see some learning happen! The benefits of building toys include:

  • they strengthen fine and gross motor skills
  • they support problem solving skills
  • they help children work through frustation
  • they encourage creativity and innovation
  • they are typically fun for grown ups too, so they are a great way to strengthen relationship and connection

Magnetic Blocks

I LOVE magnetic blocks. I think they started getting popular a few years ago, and my daughter was still too young for them. We bought a cheaper brand from Target, but we both got so frustrated with how easily they would get knocked over. Eventually, I found Connetix and we are obsessed. They are probably our most consistently used toy. Not only are they beautiful, but they are super engaging and fun to use.

I did want to add a disclaimer that the magnets inside these blocks are very dangerous when swallowed. It’s super important you check them regularly to make sure none of the magnets are lose and that you dispose of broken blocks immediately. In 2 years, I’ve never found a broken Connetix block, but I still check them constantly.

Duplos and Legos

My daughter is 3.5, and we are still using Duplos. I like that they are challenging for her, but not frustrating. There is absolutely a place for frustration in learning, but she experiences that in many other ways throughout the day.

She LOVES her character Duplo sets like Frozen, Minnie, Toy Story and Spiderman. Her favorite characters make them super engaging, and they lend themselves well to pretend play. We use them often, and I love the way they strengthen her hand and finger muscles. You might find that your child or students like to create their own masterpieces, or they might prefer looking at a model and recreating it. There’s no right or wrong way to play!

Wooden Blocks

In our house, Everly really loves the Lovevery wooden block set. I do wish it had more squares, and there were more rectangles. I do love all of the wooden “strips” and that it has other ways to play like threading, a shape sorter, and that she can pull the box around. I’m considering a Haba set so that we can build larger creations! We use them frequently to make “apartments” for her characters, and towers to knock over. I love to have her build tall towers, because bending over to get a block and standing up to stack it strengthens her core muscles. The Melissa and Doug set is also really popular.

Nugget Couch

Our nugget is the most used toy in our house, and we have a lot of toys, haha. I can’t say enough good things about the Nugget. We mostly use our nugget for crashing into, jumping from, and flipping on. BUT, it’s also great for building. I love building forts with her, slides for her to roll on, and anything else we can think of! They even have a blog post about using the box for play!

There are quite a few alternatives coming out now, but I really love the Nugget philosophy. They pay their employees a livable wage, and frequently support LGBTQ+ organizations, and anti-racism initiatives.

If you really want to purchase from Amazon, you can get the Foamnasium Blocksy there.

Wooden Rainbows and Semi Circles

I remember the first time I started seeing wooden rainbows pop up I was kind of confused. They were beautiful, but I didn’t understand what kids “did” with them. I ended up caving and got some for my daughter for Christmas when she was 1.5, and I’m so glad I did. They’re pricy, but there are cheaper options on Amazon. I will say that the more expensive ones seem to be easier to build with because the wood is thicker and they are “grippier.” The plastic ones are slick, so they don’t stack well. However, there are still lots of ways to play with them!

We uses these rainbows to make cages for her animals, apartments for her characters, structures to knock over, and more. I’m excited to build more things with her as she grows and we focus more on loose parts and innovation.

We have the Grimm’s rainbows and semi-circles, and you can often find them used on Marketplace or even on Mercari or Kidizen. I’ve heard they pop up at thrift stores too!

These are the favorite building toys in my house, but there are so many other types of toys! Here are a few more you might want to check out.

Bristle Blocks
Hollow Blocks
Tegu Magnetic Blocks
Stacking Stones

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