When my son was three we visited his uncle’s house for the first time. A week later he was playing with his wooden block toys and recreated what the house looked like. What the?! I mean, I couldn’t have done that.
Since then I have been impressed over and over at how much these little minds are capable of seeing, understanding, and figuring out for themselves. Whether you are a deft hand with a hammer or a keyboard, your kids are little creators who are generally only held back by our own adult limitations.
As a former educator, and a parent, this is a matter that – most likely like you yourself – I’m rather passionate about. So I thought I would share some of our favorite building related toys, books, and even tools.
My kids are 4 and 5 years old, and I would say this list is pretty good from anywhere around 3 to maybe 8 or so…ish. I have a girl and a boy, and don’t create a distinction in what toys they play with because there’s just no reason for that.
(I’ve linked all of these to Amazon because, um, it’s Amazon. But I have included tips for alternate sources where applicable. As always, if you want to know more about the affiliate links I use in order to afford the Diet Coke that powers my life, you can check that out here.)
12 Toys to build your little builders
I bought my kids a set of these two years ago now, and they are still one of their most favorite toys and they never stay on the shelf for long. 2 years, guys. Ponder that for a moment. That’s about as close to a modern day miracle as I can imagine.
Long live Legos. They need no introduction. My memories of Legos as a kid were these big, general boxes of blocks.
I kind of thought the kit thing was a waste that just got parents spending more money. Okay, so that last part may be true. But having watched my kids put together these kits – carefully paging through the instructions and following them to a T – let me repeat that – following instructions! – I’m a believer. Take my money, Lego company. Take it all.
(The Lego City kits are a great place to start if your little one is just starting out.)
These truck toys are just awesome. Incredibly detailed, they will keep your little ones busy for long stretches of time. The crane truck is definitely a favorite around here, but there is everything from excavators to fire trucks. I will say that these can get pretty expensive, so watch them for deals. Home Goods had these in the last couple of Christmases, at a fraction of the Amazon cost. Sadly, I haven’t found them yet at my local store this year.
I asked my son what his favorite building toys are and he immediately responded, “my wooden blocks!” I made a set of these myself a couple years ago, and they are still popular. The tutorial is here if you would like to make them. If you just don’t have time for that stuff this close to Christmas this Melissa and Doug set is also great.
Toss the plastic junk and get them a real tool set. Far be it for me to tell you when is an appropriate age to let your kids use real tools. That’s up to you. When my son was one I discovered him undoing all of the strike plates on our doors with a full size drill. Again, they are capable.
This is a decently priced set on Amazon. Another way to go is to pick up some inexpensive tools at Harbor Freight. No sense in breaking out the Dewalt for them yet, right?!
I love that this one looks just like the adult version. It’s tough, extremely durable, and will last as long as it will fit around their waists.
Okay, technically these aren’t toys…but they are pretty great. We have two reading nooks in our home – one in their closet, and one in the playroom. These books celebrate creative thinking and action, and the courage to go for it and build big.
8. Marble Run
Caveat here: We don’t actually have this one. We have the Hape Quadrilla Wooden Marble Run, which is expensive and supposedly awesome…which it kind of is, except the pieces don’t fit together tightly so the entire thing is always a bump away from collapse. Still, my kids love it anyway. But if I had it to do over (it was a gift), we would go for this one.
My son conned me into this at a Scholastic book fair, and I’m glad he did. It’s a bit more complex, and challenges them in great ways.
Throwing it back to good old jigsaw puzzles. Still and always a great way to see how pieces fit into the whole and develop spatial awareness.
Now hear me out on this. I am what you would categorize as a bit of an anti-screen mom. My kids’ screen time has primarily been limited to Sunday night movies as a family and sick day cartoons. With two businesses to run we have been all too aware of the allure of the screen, and the easy rut it could get us into, so we have worked hard to not go down that path. No judgement at all for kids watching cartoons, and there have certainly been times we have done it. Rest assured my kids have a deep admiration for PJ Masks, Octonauts, and all things Frozen. I gave in and bought these tablets for Christmas so they could work on ABC Mouse stuff, which I just signed up for, and other learning activities. If it’s a complete bomb I’m openly admit it. Ask me in a few months.
Train tracks are classic toys that last for years. My kids love to put together intricate tracks that loop around chair legs and up over objects.
There you go, a dozen gift ideas to help build little builders. There are a lot of learning toys out there, and these are some of our favorites. Every toy on this list is kid approved, by which I mean 1. My kids still play with it, and 2. I haven’t gotten sick of it and donated it to a second hand store.
If you think I have missed a good one, be sure to put it in the comments and I’ll check it out. Happy holidays, and good luck with that gift shopping!