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Building Toys

Monday, 26 May 2008

There's no limit to a child's imagination, and building blocks can fuel some wonderful creations. Whether you're talking plain old wood blocks or full-out Lego systems, the building block has been around for generations. We find out what to look for when considering this toy purchase.

   BUYING TIPS

The Basics

  • Building toys help children focus and develop their imagination, improve dexterity, co-ordination and perseverance, and stimulate their imagination and creativity.

  • Building blocks are usually designed for a certain age range. Be sure to read the age recommendations so that it’s not too hard, or doesn’t pose a choking hazard for children.

  • When starting a collection, look for sets that aren’t too specialized, which will really allow the imagination to roam.

  • To choose the size of a set, follow this general rule of thumb:

    • A 3-year-old: 200 blocks.

    • A 4-year-old: 300 blocks.

    • A 5-year-old: 400 blocks.

  • Building toys are usually wood or plastic, including:

    • Wooden blocks, the traditional standby, are still popular in today’s high-tech toy world. They usually come in a variety of common shapes, painted in bright, primary colours. They’re very durable and versatile, work well for stacking and are good for pattern development, which experts agree help to build math skills.

    • Other wood building toys include Lincoln Logs, popular for building actual log houses and other structures, and Tinker Toys (also available in plastic) which allow a child to create endless objects out of a set of sticks and spools.

    • Plastic toys are cheaper than wood. Sets like Mega Blocks and Lego can be simple to intricate, containing pieces to put people and animals together, and include character themes like Harry Potter or Star Wars.

    • Lego’s girl-specific building toy is called Clikits, for making jewelry, photo frames, mobiles and other things.

Other Considerations

  • Most starter sets come in a good container, but if not, be sure to buy something that will hold all of the pieces to make things easier to put away.

   TEST CRITERIA

We invited some kids aged 3-9 to build with a variety of different constructions toys:

  • Coloured Wooden Blocks (100-piece set): $19.99
  • Mega Blocks (larger pieces for younger children, 90-piece set): $12.99
  • Lincoln Logs (Wood, 63-piece set): $24.99
  • Lego (200-piece creator set): $9.99

Play Test

  • The kids had fun with all the blocks.

  • The younger ones definitely preferred the Lincoln Logs.

  • The older ones found the Lego to be more challenging and fun.

   OUR TOP PICK

It’s hard to go wrong with building toys. Just be sure to read the age recommendation, then let your kids’ imaginations run wild.

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