Legos aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean your kid should be deprived of options. As it turns out, there’s a whole gang of alternative construction toys and building toys for kids that happen to be pretty awesome themselves. Here are the best building toys you might want to check out. Some made of wood, some are robotic, some are life-size, and all are much less painful to step on than a Lego. After all, if your kid really is going to build the future, they’re eventually going to have to think outside the brick.
These blocks snap together using magnets and ball-bearings to form thousands of robots. Kids as young as 4 years old can build simple robots (and their understanding of larger systems) with Cubelets, while MOSS kits offer more complex robot builds that older kids can program to respond to light and proximity. With all those cubes, it’ll be like Minecraft come to life, only you’ll have a chance in hell at understanding how it works.
These modular building toy blocks snap together to form endlessly detailed and customizable scaled architectural models. The interconnecting components include staircases, doorways, window panes, walls, roof beams, and more based on modern building techniques. To complete a finished model, your little Art Vandelay can add finishes and surfaces like wood floors and terracotta tiles supplied by real building companies using Arckitexture decals. See what they did there?
They’re wooden blocks. With magnets. That’s it … almost. Tegu building toy kits promote every developmental stage, from classic free assortments to horses, stunt choppers, Evel Knievel roadsters, robots, customizable companions called Blockheads, and on-the-go pouches. And they’re do-gooders — their wood is hand-picked by Honduran cooperatives and they plant 983 new trees for every one they take. Do you do all that, alphabet blocks? No, you do not.
Atoms are smart building block sets consisting of regular old bricks and sensor, power, logic, and action blocks that make those bricks way less boring. Once assembled, your kid can control block bots like the Magic Wand or Popper Prankster with a simple app — no programming expertise required — or modify them. There are holes for screws and suction cups, and options to add hooks and loops and yes, Legos.
A Lego bike is cool, but a Lego bike you can ride is even cooler. That’s the power Infento enables your kid to lord over their friends as they pedal out-of-the-box bigwheels like suckers. While their parents dump and buy a new plastic ride every 6 months, you and your kid simply rebuild Infento, from wagon to trike to scooter to go-kart — with optional add-ons for snow. As for a drivable, block-built Millennium Falcon … dad’s got to have dreams.
Areaware’s Blockitecture bricks are hexagonal, and nest and stack to form towers, homes, and cities. These RIT Metaproject design competition winners are a minimalist’s dream — nothing but white, natural birch tones, and a touch of green for trees. They’re the perfect blocks for your budding aesthete, who will definitely be the only kid in preschool who knows how to say “Cantilever.”
Because bricks were already taken, ZOOB created cylindrical construction toy blocks with ball and socket ends that click or snap together to form all kinds of moving machines and creatures. If you really want to feel old, ask your kid if they want to recreate the Zoobilee Zoo set out of ZOOBs. Man, the ’80s were weird.
Build & Imagine
These build-your-own-dollhouses combine characters and sets that allow kids to build their own 3D storybooks by combining illustrated scenes. Dolls, panels, and accessories are infinitely interchangeable, which beats the hell out of an actual storybook, which is singularly colorable.
Remote Control Machines
If you’re tired of everyone trying to turn your kid into a programmer, or your kid is tired of you trying to, give ’em a Remote Control Machines DLX set and get out of their way. Kids can build 20 different motorized machines, all of which teach real-life engineering — pneumatics, hydraulics, gyroscopes, and more — and are controlled by a good old-fashioned remote. No parents, smartphone, or computer science degree required.