Wednesday , 23 April 2014

Building imagination: Our Top Ten Building Toys for this year’s holiday gifts


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Chances are, you’ve already heard how essential building play is to child development, and that material is very thoroughly covered elsewhere. So we’ll keep it simple: both boys and girls reap tremendous benefits from building play. The question is, what building toys will do the best job at getting their little brains humming and their creativity moving?

It’s not hard to find the right building toy for every kid at Magic Beans. We’ve got every kind of construction toy you can imagine: wooden blocks, magnetic blocks, magnetic wooden blocks, LEGOs and DUPLOs and Tegu Blocks, marble mazes and Magna-Tiles, motorized Erector sets and sleek, simple KEVA blocks, blocks for babies, blocks for toddlers, and blocks for big kids.

This list of construction toys does skew a bit towards building sets that allow kids to build something in particular: a marble maze, a fort, a car, a catapult, a LEGO Chima Temple, etc. All of these toys have tons of play value to ensure that you get plenty of bang for your buck – kids will build these items and then play with them, and then take them apart and build something else, and play with that. This doesn’t mean that your child won’t reap the same educational benefit and fun from a completely open-ended set of unit blocks, LEGO bricks, KEVA Blocks, or Magna-Tiles; it’s just that the toys on this list have a “wow” factor that really lends itself to holiday gift-giving.

So, start building your family’s collection with these fantastic holiday gifts, but don’t stop there! Every kind of building toy offers a different way to play, different problems to solve, and different ways to expand the imagination.

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Laser Pegs Bot with 6 Models, by Laser Pegs

Laser Pegs are building bricks that light up. That one sentence should be more than enough to convince your kid that he needs this set, right now, right? And Laser Pegs are compatible with other building bricks including LEGO, so after your kid has built a robot, an alien, and all the other nifty Laser Pegs models this kit suggests, he or she can start adding light-up bricks to LEGO bricks and come up with even more bright ideas. (Note: younger kids will want these, but if you get them for a younger child, you’ll probably need to do the building for them.)

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Crazy Forts Construction Kit, by Crazy Forts

Kids can and will turn anything into a fort (a table, a couch, their bed, your bed, a closet, a refrigerator box). With this building set, they can make their own custom playhouse, kicking off every kind of imaginative adventure – is it an igloo, a log cabin, a prehistoric cave, a pirate ship, a magical princess castle, a rocket to Mars, or just their own house to hang out with their plush pals? And building BIG is always more fun. Just add a bed sheet and let the fun begin!

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Q-Ba-Maze 2.0 – 50 Piece Starter Set by MindWare

These translucent marble maze cubes allow for endless sculptural creativity, letting kids make all kinds of gorgeous structures which then function as completely unpredictable marble mazes. Q-Ba-Maze pieces are among the most stable marble maze pieces you’ll find, too, so smaller builders are less likely to knock them over and get frustrated. And the clackita-clackita-clackita-clackita of marbles rolling downward never fails to delight – even kids who are too young to build will love dropping marbles down and watching them descend.

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Quadrilla Xcellerator Marble Run 136-Piece Set, by HaPe/Educo

Is your kid ready to start actually directing how the ball travels through marble mazes? Then Quadrilla Marble Mazes are the next step for little builders, adding elements of problem-solving and 3-dimensional thinking to the building process. The Xcellerator set uses assorted accessories to speed up marbles on their way down, adding an extra thrill to the finished result. Building, reconfiguring, and tweaking each marble maze design is a fun brainteaser – and they’re fun to knock down, too!

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KEVA Contraptions Catapult, by MindWare

It’s more fun when you build something that works, and if it launches a marshmallow across the room, all the better! Building the KEVA Catapult is a fun project, and once it’s ready to go, kids can experiment with launching every small item they can find and learning about physics on the fly.

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KEVA Contraptions 50 Plank Set, by MindWare

And there’s even more fun to be had with KEVA: this basic KEVA Contraptions building set directs kids to make Rube Goldberg-style devices that direct a ping-pong ball down a track. Once they’ve mastered the suggested projects, it’s time to start experimenting with their own Contraptions and learning about physics along the way. May we suggest that you get both KEVA sets and see if your little genius can figure out how to merge them? Now that would be cool…

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SmartMax Basic 25-Piece Magnetic Building Set, by Smart Toys & Games

Magnetic building is irresistibly attractive (see what we did there?) for kids of all ages, and SmartMax toys dial the age limits on magnetic building downwards with sonic-welded bars that keep magnets safely enclosed. The SmartMax Basic Building Set introduces kids to key concepts like attraction and repulsion, and allows for lots of building and experimentation. The SmartMax Basic Stunt Building Set takes the smart fun to the next level: with this set, kids build stunt cars, ramps, and towers that they can play with! And it’s always more fun when you build something that works, right?

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LEGO Chima Lion Chi Temple, by LEGO

Any LEGO set this size is going to thrill little builders, and if you’ve got a LEGO collector or Chima fan on your hands, it’s a slam-dunk of a gift! Building a set of this size is an absorbing challenge, and then there are endless pretend-play possibilities – moving parts include a usable trap, a rotating tower cannon, and multiple vehicles. And then there are the 7 LEGO minifigures, which are so cool that… I even added one of them to the growing toy collection on my desk. (Yes, everyone in this office has toys on their desk. Wouldn’t you?)

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Magna-Tiles Clear 100-Piece Set, by Magna-Tiles

Finally, no list of the best building toys – and, we would argue, no list of the best toys, period – would be complete without this modern classic toy. Magna-Tiles attract, and never repel, on every edge and surface, which allows for endless creative possibilities. And kids of all ages will love building with Magna-Tiles. Your preschooler might build an ice-cream cone and pretend to serve it to you. Your 7-year-old might build a house for her doll. Your 10-year-old might combine his Magna-Tiles with his KEVA building set to build a really epic contraption. In short: we love Magna-Tiles, and your kids will love them too.

If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, we’ve got plenty of other Top Ten holiday gift lists, divvied up by kids and by products. Our Top Ten Toys list and Top Ten Toys for Boys list have more options for construction toys. There are well over a hundred other construction toys on mbeans.com overall. And if you’re really stumped? Contact us! Our customer service reps are experts on toys and gear, and will be happy to make recommendations that will delight any kid!

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