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Anyone who’s ever taken an education class (or read a lot about child development) probably remembers the major 20th century developmental psychologist Jean Piaget and his classic observation that “play is the work of childhood.” It turns out that building toys are particularly valuable for developing important skills. These include things like spatial reasoning and hand-eye coordination—and also less obvious building-driven skills like cognitive flexibility, creative thinking, language fluency, and social competence. That’s big bang for your building toy buck. Keep reading for our future-forward suggestions.


This kit teaches geometry and the physics of polarities while your little one snaps together brightly colored castles and rockets. PicassoTiles

When it comes to building toys, the name of the game is scalable. Since these toys are meant to last through years and developmental phases, scalable play sets grow with your child—and give parents the option to invest in more pieces over time. Eventually your child can even build their own tile-or-block apartment and move out. (We’re kidding…or are we?)

This option includes 60 challenges so your little problem solver can move from beginner to expert. Think Fun

Good building toys support and challenge your child’s play as they grow. Educators call this scaffolding—which means making sure earlier puzzles or building challenges are achievable and then later activities build on what the child has learned. It’s very meta; building toys building developmental skills incrementally.

Classic Play

These cosmonaut sets feature heavy detail like articulated grappling arms to bring retro fun into the 21st century. LEGO

Ideally, building toys are usable on their own—for example, building a model from a block kit—and can also form the foundation for open-ended play when combined with other toys. After all, repurposing the pieces of a space shuttle or moon rover into a pretend-play veterinary setup for a group of intrepid magical ponies is exactly the kind of creative thinking experts say makes up the value of building toys.