Building Toys That Promote Independent Play

Building toys require a lot of imagination, and that’s why kids love them. 

Whether it’s an Empire State Building made of Legos or a castle constructed from old-fashioned wooden blocks, building toys are some of the best tools to bring to life the creative ideas in a child’s mind.

And building toys can keep kids busy for hours as they construct their fantasies. It’s this kind of independent play that parents (particularly those trying to work at home) love to see. These building toys age ranges go from toddler to tween.

Lego City

Lego City Construction Set
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Ages 5-12
Lego is probably the most popular of all building toys. And Lego City is a good entry point into the world of Legos. The everyday objects and places of Lego City (think auto garage, cement mixer, camper, etc.) can mingle with other playsets. And with some imagination they can integrate into other types Lego sets like Indiana Jones or even Star Wars. The pictured Lego City Advent Calendar gives special little figures and pieces, absolute gold to any Lego fan.
Also, the Lego City sets’ age ranges are usually around 5-12, while some of the more complicated Star Wars sets might start at age 7. Kids at the younger end of these age range may need adult help in putting together the sets.

Duplo Blocks

Duplo blocks
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Age 18 months to 5 years
Duplo Blocks are made by Lego. Similar to Legos but larger and easier to work with, the blocks are a good introduction to Lego building toys. Many Lego sets such as Lego City are designed for ages 5 and up, and though your 5-year-old may feel ready to graduate, hang on to the Duplos for a while.

Keep the Duplo set handy while you are working, even if your child is older than 5 because at this age some of the Lego sets are still frustrating without adult help.

This Duplo set (Shop Amazon) is a great way to start. It comes with a buildable wagon base with rounded edges and wheels, a boy figure, a dog figure, numbered bricks and lots of extra bricks.

Kaleido Gears

Unique Building set
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Ages 3+

Think outside the blocks! This different kind of building toy keeps kids engaged by letting them experiment with cause and effect. This building set with 52 pieces of interlocking soft plastic plates and meshing gears comes with connectors and various colored gears. May be eligible for free shipping.

Crazy Forts

Build a fort
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Ages 4-6

OK, now think big--as in life size. Kids love to build forts, but they can sure make a mess. So, instead of moving chairs all around for supports for their forts, these large interlocking, ball-and-stick pieces can provide that support for the bed sheets and blankets of a fort. Then they can be stored neatly later. Shop Amazon


More Building Blocks
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Age 2 and up
Deceptively simple, these building blocks have tons of potential. The fact that they are all the size (but not the same color) may seem limiting but that makes for developing intricate patterns in older kids. This set comes with 100 pieces, a good starting point for kids of any age. Shop Amazon


A favorite construction set
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Age 7 +
Kind of like modern day tinker toys, K'Nex building toys are various spokes and hubs that can go together into things like roller coasters (Shop Amazon). Many sets come with wheels to make vehicles. Shop Amazon

Classic Wooden Blocks

Classic wooden blocks
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Ages 1+
Babies can stack wooden blocks (and then delight in knocking them down again). But these building toys will last well past babyhood.

As a child grows other toys will inspire more excitement than blocks, but they will still get used creatively.

Older kids will knock them down too by crashing cars into them and use them as perches for army figures, as trestles on train layouts, as backdrops for Lego creations and whatever else a child's imagination can cook up.
The pictured 60-piece wooden block set by Melissa and Doug (Shop Amazon) is a good starting point.

Wooden ABC-123 Blocks

Letter blocks
Barnes & Noble

Ages 2+
These Melissa and Doug blocks are all the same shape--a cube--which makes elaborate buildings more difficult. But the addition of pictures, letters and numbers gives added play and learning value. This 50-block set (with a white cloth storage pouch with velcro closure) complements the classic wooden block set. May be eligible for free shipping. Shop Amazon

Lincoln Logs

Classic construction set
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Ages 3 - 5

Speaking of classics, Lincoln logs maybe be old-fashioned but they still offer great building fun. They make a great addition to wooden train sets. Kids can build cabins alongside the tracks. Shop Amazon

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