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 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 2 to over 12...

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

1. GraviTrax Obstacle Starter Set, £80

– Great for challenging creativity

Age suitability: 8+ | Best for age: 8+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Gold, MadeforMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 140-piece construction set from which you can quickly build super-cool-looking multi-level tracks for magnetic balls to run along and do stunt tricks. Comes with bridges, a magnetic cannon, a spiral, a zipline and 2 trampolines. Includes instructions, tasks and blueprint tracks to follow, plus access to a (free) GraviTrax app, where you can design more complicated tracks, and view the track from the ball's perspective.

Why we love it: It's pricey but it's super cool – and there are so many tracks to build and stunts to devise. It's definitely a step up in stunt fun from the original GraviTrax starter set. Amelie, 8, one of our child testers, said: "This toy was really exciting to play with. I enjoyed building the obstacles and it kept me and my brother and sister busy for hours." Her mum Hollie added, "I like how this toy encourages them to really concentrate and use their brains: they have to pick the right pieces and use their minds to really imagine the layout first. I really think this toy will get a lot of use."

Available at: Amazon, Jarrold and Smyths Toys

2. Geomag Supercolor 78 pcs

– Great for eco-friendly construction

Age suitability: 5+| Best for age: 5+| Batteries: None
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 78-piece set of magnetic rods, balls and shapes that 'stick' together so you can build all sorts of 3D constructions. The rods and shapes (each roughly 5cm) are made of recycled plastic. Comes with an instruction booklet, featuring 7 builds to get you started.

Why we love it: The step-by-step instructions for the suggested builds are really clear and easy to follow but the real value in this toy is that the magnetic parts are so versatile, your child can then go on to use their imagination to build other designs of their own. Our child tester Brooke, 7, said, "This is so cool. It's really fun building all the things. I want to play with it all the time." It has to be said that this is pretty pricey but, as Brooke's mum Sarah-Jane said, "You can instantly see the quality: this is a toy that would last for years and is definitely a toy that all older ages would play with, so you can look at it as an investment. I really like the use of recycled plastic and that the sticks and balls come in little containers – so you can store them safely once you've finished playing."

Available at: Amazon and Musiker

3. Learning Resources Design & Drill Bolt Buddies Fire Truck, £46

– Great for post-build imaginative play

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ Batteries: 3 x AAA (not included)
Awards: Editor's Choice, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 16cm x 18cm x 33cm fire truck that comes with a (play) power drill for you to use to fix the wheels on (and take them off). Features a hinged ladder, 13 drilling spots, 24 bolts, 8 snap-on fire and water toppers, 2 firefighter figures and a little dog. The eco-friendly packaging is designed to be turned inside out and used as a burning building and fire headquarters.

Why we love it: The little drill is great – there's loads of fun to be had taking the wheels off and putting them back on. And the engine is nicely designed for post-drill play: we like seat on the ladder and the diverse skin tones of the firefighters, although, oddly, you can only access the driver's cab through the roof as the cab doors don’t open. Our child tester Casper, 4, loved playing mechanic and fixing the fire engine, as well as carrying out daring rescues. His mum Robyn said: "The box turning into a scene (that can then be turned back into a box) is genius!"

Available at: Amazon and Learning Resources

4. Laser Pegs Multi-Models, from £14.99

– Great for light-up thrills

Age suitability: 8+ | Best for age: 8+ | Batteries: 6 x LR44/LR41 (included)
Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A set of plastic bricks – including LED bricks – that build into 4 or 5 (depending on the set) different light-up vehicles on the same theme. Choose from sets featuring aircraft, racing cars or construction vehicles. Comes with step by step instructions.

Why we love it: Adding a light-up element to traditional building bricks is a genius touch – as our child tester Abubaker, 8, said as soon as he saw his set: "This is awesome – it actually lights up!" – and his mum, Heena, says he's barely stopping playing with his aircraft set since he received it. The bricks are quite small and with between 75 and 100 needed for each build, this is definitely not a construction toy for under-8s – or for over-8s with small reserves of patience for the occasional fiddly bit.

Available at: Firestorm Games and Smyths Toys

5. Stickle Bricks Fun Tub, £19.99

– Great for freeform toddler builds

Stickle Bricks Fun Tub

Age suitability: 18 months+| Best for age: 2+ | Batteries: None

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 at: Very, Amazon and Next

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

– Great for imaginative construction

modu

Age suitability: From birth | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None

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 at: Modu

7. City Engineering & Design Building Set, £24

– Great for early engineering skills

Age suitability: 5+ | Best for age: 5+ | Batteries: None

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 at: Learning Resources, Bright Minds and Amazon

8. Kid K'nex Wings and Wheels Building Set, £24.99

– Great for preschooler builders

knex

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None

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 at: Amazon and Booghe

9. LEGO Architecture 21034 London, £44.99

– Great for intricate detail

Age suitability: 12+ | Best for age: 12+ | Batteries: None

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 at: John Lewis, LEGO and Amazon

10. Geomag Mechanics Gravity Up and Down Set, £55

– Great for developing understanding of physics

Geomag Mechanics

Age suitability: 7+ | Best for age: 8+ | Batteries: None

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 at: Amazon

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About the author

Helen is Deputy Editor of MadeForMums, the author of Parenting for Dummies (Wiley, £17.99) and the Head Tester for our MadeForMums Toy Awards. She has written about parenting for Mumsnet, Pregnancy & Birth, Prima Baby, Boots Parenting Club and She Magazine and she's also been Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby. She has 3 boys and a heavy-duty washing machine.

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