I am partial to these plain heavy-duty wooden blocks from Community Playthings that look like the Amish made them. Our Coop preschool had many, many sets of them in each classroom and the kids had endless fun with them. Come to think of it, I think every preschool we attended had some version of these blocks; they seem like they’d last forever.
One summer I bought two sets when my kids were toddlers, budgeting the hefty expense as “day care.” It was how I was going to get through the summer with them and no babysitting help. We still have those blocks and my kids have played with them for nearly 7 years — not a bad investment, all told.
We tried out other block sets and found anything with a magnetic “snap” was well utilized though also expensive. For inexpensive fun, the cardboard blocks are also wonderful! I’ve gathered up blocks of every sort and price point that we’ve used or drooled over.
What are your favorite blocks? Please share!
p.s. My Holiday Gift Guides are all here. Popular ones include:
The stacking colored cubes is great because now kids can line up cubes diagonally not just vertically or horizontally. I also like the bright colors. We never had this when my kids were young, but they used to love stacking blocks and cups. This has an additional twist that makes it even more versatile.
My son started playing with this blocks set immediately when he discovered it which is always a good sign. I like how it’s an open ended toy. There are wooden slats and plastic holders which allow for an endless combination of building.
First my son made Minecraft tools: a pick axe, a sword, and a shield. Then he made an “Eiffel Tower” which immediately morphed into a weapon — a kind of robotic laser shooter. Then, this building emerged:
The beauty of this set is that it is great for those kids who like to build structures of any kind. Those kids who might tend towards engineering or architecture will love it. My son’s only complaint was getting the wooden slats exactly lined up. You have to push hard to get them all the way into the plastic holders. It’s not difficult, but after doing it for a while, he said his hand hurt. Still, he’s been playing with these for days. It fits nicely into the the carry case too!
My kids loved this toy so much at preschool that I ended up getting two sets of them. They stack into pyramid shapes in a rather mesmerizing way. They also have a plastic stand which they don’t show in the video. It’s amazing how many shapes you can get from these stacking plastic shapes. I’m sure there is a mathematical component to it but we are having too much fun stacking them to notice!
p.s. After watching this video, I can now see that we barely scratched the surface of how we played with the Wedgits. That’s ok, this is actually one of very few toys we kept when we purged the playroom! I guess we can build the water molecule using Wedgits after all!
Tegu Magnetic Blocks, Original Set, $125
My kids love anything magnetic. It’s that magnetic “snap” that has them fascinated. The Tegu blocks come in different sets and colors. My only concern would be swallowing a small block … just make sure younger siblings are not going to put these blocks in their mouth.
Citiblocks Little Builder Rattle Blocks, $30
The Citiblocks sets seem to win tons of accolades and awards. This set is perfect for younger kids. With 22 assorted blocks, it includes blocks that rattle, stairs and roofs in various colors to build cities. Perfect for a budding architect or city planner or just a kid who likes blocks that make noise.
Citiblocks Cool and Hot Sets, $42 each
Citiblocs are an open ended educational toy made from sustainable wood. These simple, basic blocks teach concepts like structural engineering basics, pattern recognition, cause-and-effect, collaboration, problem-solving, creative thinking, small-motor skills. It’s old fashioned blocks but with new color schemes.
Uncle Goose Wooden Blocks in Foreign Languages, $36
Chinese Character Blocks expose young kids to foreign languages including Mandarin Chinese, Korean, French, Arabic, Greek and more.
Other subjects too!
Math and Patterning
Cardboard Blocks, $54
These are just like those cardboard blocks at preschools! Light yet durable, they are easy to build with and perfect for a playroom! This set is from PlayBrix Cardboard Building Bricks from Educational Insights and has 54 assorted blocks.
Haba Architecture Basic Building Blocks, $104 (was $215)
Basic building blocks extra large set with solid natural untreated beech wood blocks for just playing or building an architect’s dream. It has 102 piece selection of blocks pieces in domes, rectangles, squares, arches and many more shapes.
The Haba Starter Set is $40
This smaller starter set is a great way to try out these blocks.
Magna Tiles, $140 for 100 piece set; $52 for 32 piece set
I learned about these gems on a playdate: Translucent Magna Tiles. You can buy them online at amazon or find them in a local toy store. They are pricey at around $120 for the 100 tile set, and sadly, 100 tiles isn’t quite enough. Two sets are much more versatile. But this toy is amazing. The tiles snap together magnetically to create anything from a castle to a disco floor. My preschool uses them with a light table so that kids can stack tiles to learn about combining colors. That’s fun but a light table is NOT coming into my house!
Nanoblock Musical Instruments, $44
Lego like building blocks that make these four instruments: piano, violin, guitar and drums. The pieces are quite small. The smallest piece is 4mm by 5mm. Each instrument has between 150-180 pieces required to build it.
Ninjago Fire Temple Set, $120
My son has a mild obsession with Ninjago legos. I’m not sure which came first, the TV show or the legos. I don’t mind because it keeps him off screens. This is a pretty extensive set but I think of it as less expensive than buying what amounts to three smaller sets. Apparently, the temple splits into two.
Community Playthings Wooden Blocks, Introductory 17 Piece Set of Large Hollow Blocks, $435; 19 Piece Half Nursery Mini Hollow Blocks, $365
This is my “go to” source for large, heavy blocks that can be turned into anything your child imagines. I bought two sets of blocks (hollow blocks and mini-hollow) and we got really great use out of them. They are expensive and I’m keeping my sets for future grandkids!
These construction and architecture building blocks look wonderfully creative for older kids.
Best Play Structures for the Playroom
Cardboard Color Me House, $30
What I like about a cardboard house is that it is easy to store, provides a blank canvas as well as a playhouse, and is great for imaginative play. We somehow bought this cardboard house on sale at the local drugstore and it was endlessly entertaining for at least a month. When you get sick of it, it’s easy to collapse and store away as well.
It’s very easy to set up with just a few folds too and fairly sturdy!
Cottage Tent, $56
We had a tent similar to this one but not as nice and there is just something about setting up a play structure that kids gravitate towards. This one is very girly but the Safari tent below is more boyish. It measures 58″ x 48″ x 58″.
Hi! I'm Mia Wenjen. I love children's books (picture books through YA) and sneaking in teachable moments in art, science, math, foreign language and language arts.
I'd love to chat with you. Let's connect! PragmaticMomBlog (at) gmail (dot) com.
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