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10 of the best construction and building toys

From toddler-friendly stacking trains and simple building blocks to London skylines and scale-model cars, we've tested and rated the top construction sets and kits for children of all ages from under 1 to over 10

best construction toys

Building toys are a hit with girls and boys of all ages. And in amongst all the fun of the build, a good construction toy will develop fine-motor skills, imagination and logical thinking – and always reward with the sight of something cool you’ve built all by yourself.

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There are so many kits and sets out there – from simple toddler-friendly blocks and bars that click or stick (magnetically) together to more complicated structures that take time, care and older, nimbler fingers to build, piece by tiny piece.

We’ve pieced together loads of different construction kits and building sets and, with the help of our child testers, selected the very best, in a range of prices, for all ages from under 1 to over 10…

Here’s our pick of the best construction toys, as tested by children and rated by parents

1. SmartMax My First Totem Magnetic Set, £17.99

Age: 18 months+

What it is: A stacking totem pole with 8 large magnetic sensory pieces that can be stacked in any order. Comes with cards showing 24 different design challenges for your child to copy.

Why we love it: We really like that the colourful pieces all feel, look and sound different. “And they’re chunky pieces and easy for little hands to hold,” said Kelly Rae, mum to our 20-month-old child tester Sophie. “It got my daughter engaged instantly, and she loved stacking the bricks in different ways. You could see her thinking about other ways to stack the bricks when the way she had tried didn’t work. And of course it was fun knocking the towers down again!”

Available from: Bright Minds and RideonToys4u

2. Stickle Bricks Fun Tub, £19.99

Age: 18 months+

What it is: A starter set of Stickle Bricks in a variety of shapes and colours, all contained within a lidded storage box.

Why we love it: This is one of those classic toys that every child should own (loads of us did when we were little, didn’t we?). The bricks are colourful and tactile and lend themselves to creative construction: you can try to recreate builds on the box or just make your own thing. Sharley, mum to twin child testers Joe and Rose, 2, said:  I’m now a Stickle Bricks convert and would choose this over any other construction toy for younger toddlers, as it’s much easier for them to build with.”

Available from: Very, Amazon and Next

3. Modu Life Size Building Toy Curiosity Kit, £110

Age: From birth (but realistically 2+)

What is it: A 14-piece set containing 3 big (50cm x 30cm x 20cm) wipe-clean EVA foam blocks, 6 connector pegs, 4 wheels that builds into a ride-on toy or rocker – or something from your own imagination. Can be combined with other Modu sets. Comes with an ‘inspiration guide’.

Why we love it: The size of the tactile foam blocks in this set is what makes it stand out from the crowd. Our 4-year-old child testers had enormous fun following the build suggestions in the booklet and love that the finished results are large enough to ride around on. It is expensive but, for a construction-made child, there is a lot of scope to invent all sorts of different builds.

Available from: Kidly and Modu

4. City Engineering & Design Building Set, £24

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Age: 5+

What it is: A 100-piece kit, designed to help children develop real-life engineering skills by building bridges, cranes, buildings – and more – and then adapting them to solve a challenge. Comes with building challenge cards and an activity guide.

Why we love it: The kit itself is great but, for our child testers, it was the extra challenges that make this special. So, for example, you could ask your child to redesign the bridge they’ve built so a large boat can get under it. Emily, mum to child tester Maisy, 6, said: “I couldn’t believe how much this engaged Maisy in play and how imaginative she was. She rarely plays with anything for more than 5 minutes but was sat with this for over an hour.”

Available from: Learning Resources, Bright Minds and Amazon

5. Kid K’nex Wings and Wheels Building Set, £24.99

Age: 3+

What is it: A 65-piece construction set including wings, wheels, propellers, eyes and even a nose that all connect together to make wild and wonderful vehicles and creatures. Comes with an ideas sheet for 20 different builds, including a helicopter, an aeroplane and a bird.

Why we love it: K’nex is known for its clever, easy-snap-together construction kits and this one is specially targeted at toddlers and preschoolers, with bigger, softer-to-handle pieces.  The build ideas are fun and our child testers all rated the big eyes for the wow factor they add to your finished masterpiece.

Available from: John Lewis, Amazon and Booghe.

6. Meccano Formula 1 Ferrari, £75

Age: 10+

What it is: A 325-part kit from which you build your own scale model (5cm x 32cm x 19cm) of the iconic F1 Ferrari with working wheels and poseable steering. Comes with tools and instruction booklet.

Why we love it: This is a proper nuts-and-bolts build that requires nimble fingers and lots of concentration – and ends up looking pretty darn impressive. Construction time, according to our child testers, is a satisfyingly good 3 hours or so, and the instructions are clear and easy to follow. Their top tip: put the stickers on as you build, rather than waiting till the your car’s finished – or you might find you have to take some bits apart again to get the stickers on neatly.

Available from: Amazon

7. Magformers Creator Set, £69.99

Age: 3+

What it is: A 62-piece set of rainbow-coloured magnetised triangles, squares and pentagons that stick together to allow you to build 3D structures. Includes a step-by-step booklet showing how to turn 2D shapes into 3D models.

Why we love it: This is such a great toy for encouraging fine motor skills, logic and creativity – and the booklet has some great ideas to follow. Our child testers liked making the fish and the flower – and 1 parent was determined to crack the 26-sided ball! Fun and endlessly versatile.

Available fromMagformersJohn Lewis and Amazon

8. LEGO DUPLO Number Train, £12.99

Age: 18 months+

What it is: A 23-piece toddler-construction-brick set that builds into a locomotive with working wheels and 3 wagons. Comes with 2 passenger figures, a cat and bricks numbered 0 to 9.

Why we love it: This is a sweet and simple build with lovely chunky pieces. And the numbered bricks are a brilliant way to introduce, or reinforce, counting skills, as your child stacks the bricks onto the wagons. Our child testers loved pushing the train around and were very taken with the cute little cat. You can see what other toddlers – and their parents – thought of the LEGO Duplo Number Train in our MadeForMums product test feedback thread.

Available fromLEGO and Argos

9. LEGO Architecture 21034 London, £44.99

Age: 12+

What it is: A 468-piece set that builds a 15cm x 28cm x 8cm scale model of London’s most-famous sights, including the National Gallery, Nelson’s Column, London Eye, Big Ben and Tower Bridge. Comes with instruction booklet and facts about the architecture and history of each building.

Why we love it: The attention to detail in this model is excellent – and we love how Tower Bridge opens up just like the real one and even has a tiny boat underneath. It’s also a good, challenging build for a pre-teen, with the London Eye wheel, in particular, a fascinating lesson in symmetrical construction.

Available from: John Lewis, LEGO and Amazon

10. Geomag Mechanics Gravity Up and Down Set, £82

Age: 7+

What it is: A 330-piece construction set containing 21 magnetic rods, 39 steel spheres and 270 plastic mechanical elements. Once assembled, gravity makes the spheres fall through a system of magnetic gears and a parallel elevator system lifts them back up.

Why we love it: This is a serious build – with amazing rewards! It’s a clever and interesting way to see the laws of physics in action and kept our child testers enthralled. Mary, mum to our child tester Freddie, 8, said: “Freddie loves the build and play aspect of this set and how he can move ball bearings around a track without needing batteries. It’s the sort of set that takes time and patience to put together and he really has to concentrate on the instructions to set everything up correctly.”

Available from: Amazon

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