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BEST Building Toys for Kids: Erector Sets, LEGO, KNex and more

Updated on January 17, 2014

Construction, science and learning toys for your kids. Help them learn and play at the same time.

Building toys like Erector sets, K'nex and even LEGO's help your child to learn while they play. These toys often have multiple semi-somplex building designs. These teach your child to follow directions and learn basic engineering principles.

Toys like erector sets go even further than these basics, getting into servo-mechanics and many other advanced principles.

Oh, they can also be a lot of fun for your kids.

I think that kids should have fun when they play, but it is good if you can also backdoor a little bit of learning and education in their toys.

I was recently writing about an electronics toy I got for my daughter recently. This got me to thinking about my son, who was never interested in electronics, but was, and still is crazy for erector sets.

These "building" toys have a lot to offer kids. They get to make things with their own hands, complete complicated tasks and do it all again. Unlike some toys that you child will grow out of, many of these toys can be used until their high school years.

Heck, I still sometimes break out my son's erector set to illustrate some point in a 3D model.

Though Erector sets are my personal favorite, there are a lot of other great options for children of all ages.

This lens will show you more about Erector sets, LEGO sets, K'Nex and multiple options for all three of these great kids construction toys.

The 3 main choices above are good for kids from about 7-15, depending upon the model and complexity. But this lens also shows you a few good option to get the younger kids started down the same path, with some good toys for kids aged 3 to 8.

There is a lot here, so let's get to it! Enjoy!

Erector Set - Still one of the best building toys for kids

Erector Set Creations
Erector Set Creations

I guess I am a bit nostalgic. My dad grew up playing with erector sets. I grew up playing with erector sets, and you can bet my son did too. My father became an engineer, I worked in electronics. Both of us are well versed in science and technical fields and did well in school and college. I hope my children will be the same, regardless of what path they wants to pursue with their lives.

While I cannot say that playing with an erector set is the only reason for the scientific curiosity that my family has always had (that would be presumptuous) I do think it is at least part of the equation.

So when I sit and think about the best building, educational and learning toys for kids, at the pinnacle of that list has to be one toy. The erector set.

Erector sets these days are much lighter than they were many moons ago. They are still versatile, in fact they are even more versatile and make great gifts for kids 7-8 and older. These toys can be used, and your kids learn from them up to the early years of high school.

I highly recommend these for anyone looking for a toy that will not only keep your child occupied and happy, but perhaps also, "trick" them into actually learning something and gaining a curiosity about science, engineering and the technical arts.

==>>50 Model Erector Set

Erector Set Creations

Here are a small sampling of some of the things that you can make from erector sets. All erector sets are sturdy metal in design. Some have motors and can actually do things like fly and drive.

Erector sets can get fairly complex, but they also start fairly simple and the older sets your child gets when they are young can be used even in their teenage years, if they are still making more advanced models. Not many toys can say that!

LEGO Sets - The most popular building toys for kids

LEGO Ninjago
LEGO Ninjago

When I was growing up, LEGO toys were big and popular. Now they are a real force to be reckoned with. Their popularity has grown in leaps and bounds.

LEGO has its own theme park, they make a specific set of LEGO's for just about every major movie that comes out, and they even have a highly collectible set of LEGO mini-figures, which are extremely popular. It is hard to find kids these days without a few LEGO toys and many of them have heaps and batches.

These LEGO toys can come in individual packages, where you simply get the LEGO blocks. Sets designed for constructing a specific item or building, or movie and entertainment themed packages around a wide variety of things kids these days love.

Being "old school", my favorite is the massive boxes of LEGO's; where you can build whatever you can imagine. The most popular however, are the themed packages such as LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Hobbit, LEGO Avengers, LEGO Batman, LEGO Ninjago, LEGO Harry Potter, and quite a bit more -you get the idea. There are many types of Lego's and Legos are here to stay!

Pictured above is LEGO Ninjago one of the most popular current LEGO building sets for kids

==>>Popular LEGO Building Sets

K'Nex building toys for kids
K'Nex building toys for kids

K'NEX building toys

K'NEX are sort of a hybrid between the plastic construction of the LEGO toys and the adaptability of the erector set. It is a great option for kids, and since it is a little bit "simpler" than the erector set, you can start children on this toy at a little bit younger age, although they both appeal to children of close to the same age group (7+).

The versatility of K'NEX is what sells me on this brand. It has plans that you can follow for multiple designs. The pack that is pictured to the right, for example, has over 50 planned designs your child can follow, and who can count what they may be able to create with their own imaginations (and perhaps a multiple of sets for more options)

The variety of designs and toys I have seen my son make with this set over the years has given me quite a bit of pleasure. Is there anything more rewarding than first seeing your child learn to follow directions and create, and then finally break free and create majestic creations for their own? I think not.

K'Nex Building Toys - Some of the popular sets of these kids construction toys

There are not nearly as many K'Nex construction toys out there are there are LEGOs. But there are still more than enough that you will NEVER buy your child ALL the sets that are available.

They are quite popular, although they do not quite have the cachet or collectible nature of LEGOs or the long history or erector sets, they are just as good as both for kids 7 and above, and perhaps even better than both.

At least I know my son loved his, and I am sure your child will too!

Little Kids Building Toys: Tinkertoys, Gears!, Melissa and Doug, and LEGO Duplo - building and construction toys ages 3-8

The toys above are gear for children to start using at age 7-8. Perhaps a little earlier if they are extremely advanced, but even then, much younger may not be a good idea.

It is never too early to teach your kids that building and creating is a better idea than mindless video games and give them the head start on science and learning. In fact, the earlier, the better.

The toys here are great for any child older than three. Since they have some medium sized parts, younger than that is not a good idea because of choking hazards, in my opinion. But some of the "manufacturers" recommended ages go even lower than that.

These toys are not as advanced or as educational as the ones above, but they are the perfect toys to set your child on the path of learning where they will want the erector set, Lego's and K'nex when they get a little bit older.

Erector Set Vintage Ad
Erector Set Vintage Ad

The History of the erector set

1913 to 2014 and going strong!

Kids toys have always been a means of learning for kids. Before erector sets, the learning was just pretty basic. It was mostly wooden blocks and hand made toys. Kids could build still, bot not with the versatility and variety that erector sets and all of their heirs would provide.

The first Erector sets were made in 1913, over 100 years ago, and erector sets were one of the most popular toys of the 20th century. The Erector sets were first created by AC Gilbert. The company he formed was called Gilbert toys and eventually became (and still is today) Meccano. Erector, was a line from an ad used in the US only, and eventually came to represent the brand name inside of the United States, and is now the name of the subsidiary company controlled by Meccano that operates inside of the US.

If you want to find out more about the story of Erector sets, Meccano and the interesting story of how an erector set was used as the model for the first artificial heart, check out the Erector Set Wiki Page

Vintage Erector Sets - AC Gilbert collectible Erector sets

The eBay choices below are likely not for your kids. Some of these old sets were very bulky, heavy and since they are collectible these days, may be expensive.

But I thought it was interesting to see some of these classic building toys as they were originally made.

Do (or have) you kids had any of the following toys?

See results

Let me know what YOU think - Share your thoughts in the comments below

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    • Blackspaniel1 profile image


      4 years ago

      It is amazing how some older toys remain popular, and some modify to keep current.

    • BunnyFabulous profile image


      4 years ago from Central Florida

      These are all excellent toys for building! Love how they teach logic, mechanics, etc. through play.

    • Michelllle profile image


      5 years ago

      You need an "all of the above" option on that poll... we are serious builders. :D

    • socialcx1 profile image


      5 years ago

      Excellent lens and I hope it will inspire many parents and kids to get their sets.


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