We love construction. Truly. I mean, we work at a software company so we don’t build anything. Not like that. We make the software that enables all you lovely people to build better and faster — and to budget. But it’s not the same.
We’re also parents (and big kids at heart) who know the wonder of wee ones when passing construction sites. “What machine is that?” “What does it do?” “What are they building?” “How long will it take?” “Why do they do it that way?” It’s infectious. We may not be able to answer 100% correctly, but we do want to foster that “how does the world work” curiosity.
With that, we’ve gone beyond our normal blog scope and pulled together a list of the best construction toys and activities we know about that won’t break the bank this holiday season. Just in case you have one of those little question machines in your family and need some good (and last minute!) ideas.
Check out our list:
Sometimes, with the wee-est ones, it’s really about building the love of something — especially when they are still sticking everything in their mouths and can’t yet control their limbs. This book serves two functions — one, educates kids about construction vehicles and their jobs on the site and two, gets them settled and ready for bed themselves — just like the equipment. We call that a win/win.
Age range: 0+
Price: around $8.00
Shipping: Free 2-day shipping and in-store pick up.
Maybe it’s for meal times, maybe it’s your camping plate. We won’t judge. Either way, it’s a great gift for the construction site lover on your list – and teaches some great lessons about portioning and food types in the process. We bet you can get someone to eat their peas if they’re “special green boulders the bulldozer has to pick up and deposit into the mouth cave.” Just sayin’.
Age range: 2-5
Price: A bit on the pricey side. Under $20 for either the plate OR the utensils. About $35 for both.
Shipping: “No later than the 9th business day after the order was placed,” so you do the backward-from-Christmas math. Basically, act fast before expedited shipping needs kick in.
Let the building commence. Or rather, the machinery for building is what you get with this Duplo Big Town Big Construction Site set. Bulldozer, flatbed/dump truck, crane, jackhammer, construction workers — it’s all there. Duplos are easy for little hands to put together, have great bright colors and are big enough to see before stepping on — critical for parents. And it integrates with all other Duplo sets. It’s a sure hit for tots and parents alike.
Age range: 2-5
Price: Expect to pay around $40 for this set.
Shipping: It’s Amazon. You’ll get it before Christmas.
What’s that phrase again? Dress for the job you want? Let’s get them started young! This sweet Melissa & Doug costume set gives them a tool belt, hard hat, saw, hammer, safety glasses, safety vest and name tag. Because how can you do all that building without dressing the part? Just be glad the working bullhorn comes with a different set.
Age range: 3-6
Price: Approximately $30
Shipping: Free with any $50 order. Must order by 12/14 to guarantee Christmas delivery.
Magnets. Plastic. Cool and weird shapes. Plenty of squares for building. Easy to build unique structures. If you want a little one to learn to love building, this is the set for you. Magnets make these shapes easy to use and great to build with — no connections or struggling for small hands, the pieces just snap together. We find they often form the framework for other great, interactive games, e.g. the Magnatile “hospital” often receives guests from various Lego construction accidents in our home. (That set up is an OSHA violation waiting to happen.)
Age range: 3-10
Price: Starter sets begin at around $30, but the 37-piece set ensures something substantial can be easily built.
Shipping: Free 2-day shipping and in-store pick up provide multiple options.
Want to get them thinking out-of-the-building box? Try odd shapes and non-linear connections. True to their tagline, Squigs are “fun little suckers.” Kids stick them to other Squigs to make unusual and awesome shapes, and can also safely attach them to windows, glass doors, shower doors and anything else a suction cup sticks to. Hours of fun, doesn’t leave marks (unless left on forehead for extended periods — funny story) and really spurs the creativity by removing a lot of common parameters. Don’t just build on the floor, build off the door!
Age range: 3-10
Price: Sets of various sizes start at around $25.
Shipping: Still easily ships by Christmas, but expedited options are available if you miss the window.
What do you get when you combine 25 balls and 44 sticks in any shape you can imagine? The answer is fun for the whole family (with minimal pick up after). All Crazy Forts requires is a couple old sheets and your imagination. Kids learn the basics of gravity and physics on a larger scale, how to visualize what they want to build, and then learn to plan and engineer it. You’ll end up helping in the beginning, but you’ll end up amazed at their creative output.
Age range: 5-8
Price: Around $50
Shipping: Free with $50 purchase, but act fast! Then expedited options are available to receive before Christmas.
Whatever you call them (“Lincoln Logs” probably ages me), timer log sets teach kids how to build using materials they can see and understand. They know what trees are, they can see how logs are made from them and, with this set, they’ll understand how to put them together to build solid structures. They won’t need help from you to use this practical education on building. Imagine the places they’ll go … and take you! Lake cabin anyone?
Age range: 5-9
Price: Around $70, but they will literally last a lifetime
Shipping: $4 flat rate for ground shipping. Right now, it’s only 4 days to our Oregon HQ.
Well, we’ve shown you many toys people have invented to help kids learn to build. Now, it’s time to take off the training wheels. No glue, no connectors, just stacking to build what you need to. There’s a killer book that shows projects and provides guidelines. Projects vary in difficultly, so its suitable for a wide range of ages and abilities. We’ve moved past creativity here into building resilience and analytical skills wit
h this building set. Engineering for the win!
Age range: 7+
Price: Approximately $50
Shipping: Still easily ships by Christmas, but expedited options are available if you miss the “free” window.
Ready to branch out? Already have too many Legos? Encourage kids to explore using them in a different way. This Lego Chain Reaction kit includes pieces, instructions, balls, string, etc. – all the things needed for the most inventive chain reactions you can imagine. Think Rube Goldberg machine. It allows kids to still have fun but adds in problems solving and
physics. Help them learn without it feeling like learning. And folks, this is a killer one for the young ladies on your list as well.
Age range: 8+
Price: Around $20
Shipping: Shipping: $4 flat rate for ground shipping. Right now, it’s only 4 days to our Oregon HQ.
This gift will put remote control monster trucks to shame. Let your kids experience some heavy duty construction equipment for themselves (safely!) They can control the claw to lift, move and stack materials. Any young builder is sure to have a blast with this gift. Combine it with a TimberLogs set from above and BAM you've got a full-blown construction site in your living room.
Age Range: 3+
Price: Around $30.00
Special Adult Bonus! Contractor Pen
One bonus addition for the grownups. Who knows what problems actually need to be solved on the jobsite day-to-day since it’s ever-evolving, but with this handy Contractor Pen, at least there’s help around. This multi-tool/pen is built specifically to help contractors out. It comes equipped with a level and plumb bubbles, drywall and angle gauges, a ruler, a magnetic strip and a mini-pen holder — and still fits in a pocket.
Age range: Grown folk
Price: Approximately $35
Shipping: “No later than the 9th business day after the order was placed,” so you do the backward-from-Christmas math. Basically, act fast before expedited shipping costs kick in.
Our Best Construction Toy Recommendations: Done
There you go. We were out over our ski tips providing this list at all, but we’re parents who love construction with kids who love construction. We defy those YouTube kid reviewers to do better! (They already do better – $22M/year better. Sigh.)
That said, we’d love your thoughts in the comments. Did we miss anything epic?
And, this holiday season, we do want to acknowledge that it’s not all about the toys or gifts, but about people. And we are grateful for you, our colleagues, clients and friends, so thank you for a lovely 2018 and we look forward to experiencing all the joys of 2019 with you.
The Viewpoint Team