12 of the best construction and building toys

From toddler-friendly tracks and building blocks to motorised dinosaurs and rollercoaster sets, here are the best construction kits for kids

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Building toys are a hit with all ages and genders. 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. Either way, a good construction toy develops motor skills, imagination and logical thinking – and always rewards you with the sight of something cool you built all by yourself.

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

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1. City Engineering & Design Building Set, £24

GOLD winner, Best Collectible Toy, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards

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’s the extra challenges that make this special. So, for example, that bridge you’ve built: how can you redesign it so a large boat can get under it? Properly stimulating construction fun…

What our child testers made of it:

  • ‘This is really fun and I can play with this for hours. I like the cards with the projects on, as they gave me fun ideas to try.’ Aaron, 8
  • ‘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.’ Emily, mum to Maisy, 6

Available from: Learning Resources and Fun Learning

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2. Magformers Sky Track Play Set, £69.99

SILVER winner, Best Collectible Toy, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards

Age: 3+

What it is: A set of 44 construction pieces that can be connected to make lots of different monorail tracks. Includes a sky shuttle, a lift, a 360 degree shuttle spinner. Requires 2 AA batteries.

Why we love it: This looks very cool and it’s super-easy for kids to create a track without adult help. The shuttle spinner that makes the train go upside had a real ‘wow’ factor for our child testers.

What our testers made of it:

  • ”This is the best toy ever!.’ Ernest, 4
  • ‘I love my train set. It is so much fun and I like it when the train goes upside down!’ Tara, 4 

Available from: Amazon

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3. Geomag Mechanics Gravity Up and Down Set, £69.09

BRONZE winner, Best Collectible Toy, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards

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. Construction time: 2 hours.

Why we love it: This is a serious piece build – with amazing rewards! What a clever and interesting way to see the laws of physics in action. Our child testers were enthralled.

What our testers made of it:

  • ‘This set is great for kids like me, who are into science and like to see how things work, and make toys for themselves. If you like Lego Technics and Meccano, you’ll like this – and you don’t even need batteries.’ Lola, 8
  • ‘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.’ Mary, mum to Freddie, 8  

Available from: Amazon

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4. ENGINO Jurassic Earth, £44.99

BRONZE winner, Best Construction/Building Toy, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards

Age: 8 to 14

What it is: A 123-piece construction set from which you can build 5 moving, motorised dinosaurs. Created by a primary school teacher specialising in design and technology. Includes instructions (also available online), and a fact booklet. Requires 2AAA batteries. Dimensions: 41cm x 5cm x 28cm.

Why we love it: We think the finished motorised dinosaurs are pretty impressive – and our child testers loved the build. The fact booklet is really good, too.

What our testers made of it:

  • ‘I loved that the dinosaurs are movable. And it’s good that that you can build several dinosaurs – it means it’s more fun to play with.’ Pundeet, mum to Arjun, 11
  • ‘I really liked this as it was very fun to build and there were interesting facts to read. I think it was a good difficulty for my age as it was complex but there were amazing instructions that made it really simple to work through.’ Harriet, 12

Available from: Engino Toys

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5. Meccano Formula 1 Ferrari, £29.97

Age: 10+

What it is: A 325-part kit from which you build your own model (5cm x 32cm x 19cm) of the iconic F1 Ferrari with working wheels and poseable steering. Comes with tools and instruction booklet. Construction time: a good 3 hours.

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. So impressive that we awarded it Silver in the Best STEM toy category of our 2018 Toy Awards. Good, clear instructions.

Available from: Amazon and Smyths Toys

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6. Magformers Creator Set, £79.99

Age: 3+

What it is: A 60-piece set of rainbow-coloured magnetised pieces that click together to allow you to build impressive 3D structures quickly and easily. Comes with 6 large, laminated play mats showing step-by-step instructions.

Why we love it: This is such a great toy for encouraging fine motor skills, logic and creativity – it won Silver for Best Educational Toy in our 2018 Toy Awards – and the instructions are fantastically small-child-friendly.

Available from: Magformers and John Lewis

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7. K’NEX Thrill Rides Web Weaver Roller Coaster, £39.99

Age: 9+

What it is: A large (76cm) 429-piece rod-and-connector rollercoaster building set with glow-in-the-dark track and a little air-powered car (charged using an USB, included). Can be built in 2 different ways and, once built, the track can be flipped from vertical and horizontal as the car’s zooming round. Comes with instruction manual.

Why we love it: This is a great build – and what a result when you’re done! The rollercoaster itself thrilled our child testers, as did the little car that whizzes round the track really fast. And did we mention that it glows in the dark? A Gold winner in our 2017 Toy Awards.

Available from: John Lewis

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8. Stickle Bricks Big Red Bucket, £19.99

Age: 18 months+

What it is: A starter set of 85 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 build your own thing. A lovely first construction toy for toddlers, it won Silver in our 2017 Toy Awards.

Available from: Very

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9. LEGO Duplo Number Train, £12.99

Age: 18 months+

What it is: A 23-piece set to build a locomotive with 3 wagons. Comes with 2 passenger figures, a cat and bricks numbered 0 to 9.

Why we love it: A sweet and simple build with lovely chunky pieces. The numbered bricks area great way to introduce, or reinforce, counting skills as your child builds – and the cool, brightly coloured train is great fun to push around at the end. A Bronze winner in our 2017 Toy Awards

Available from: LEGO Shop and Argos

See what other mums – and their kids – thought of the LEGO Duplo Number Train in our MadeForMums product test

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10. Ravensburger VW T1 Campervan 3D Puzzle, £21.99

Age: 10+

What it is: A 162-piece jigsaw with plastic pieces that slot together (no glue required) to create a 3D model of a camper van, complete with surf board to fit on the roof rack. Finished model measures 30cm x 15cm x 14cm. Can be assembled by eye or using numbers on the back of the pieces.

Why we love it: This is such a modern, trendy twist on the standard 3-D puzzle, and the guide numbers are a nice touch to prevent frustration if your child get stuck mid-build. One of our child testers was so proud with her handiwork, it went on display in the family living room!

Available from: Argos and Smyths

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11. VEX Robotics by HEXBUG Robotic Arm, £28.99

Age: 8+

What it is: A 350-piece snap-to-connect kit for making a 6cm x 38cm x 25cm robotic arm with an articulated grabber hand and a base that rotates 360 degrees. Comes with an instruction booklet (it’s a 4-6 hour build) that also details 2 alternative construction options.

Why we love it: This is a proper ‘project’ build that requires lots of patience and perseverance but the pay-off at the end is super-exciting: all our child testers loved playing with the robotic arm they built.

Available from: Amazon

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12. Lego Architecture 21034 London, £36

Age: 12+

What it is: A 468-piece set that builds a 15cm x 28cm x 8cm scale model of famous London 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. It’s also a good, challenging build for a pre-teen, with the London Eye wheel, in particular, a fascinating lesson in creative construction.

Available from: John Lewis and LEGO

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