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Gift Guide: 11 Inspiring Building Sets For STEM-Loving Boys & Girls

Gift Guide: 11 Inspiring Building Sets For STEM-Loving Boys & Girls

When I was a kid building sets met Lego or Lincoln Logs, and not much else. So I think it’s awesome that there are so many different kinds of buildings toys out there today, incuding a few that are made specifically for the ways girls create and build.

Here are a dozen building sets that are innovative and spur creativity and an interest in STEM in different ways. And they all come in forms that your young builder can take with him or her pretty much wherever you travel. They are flat tiles or compact shapes and they incorporate magnets, suction or parts that clip together. So they fit easily in your child’s backpack and are harder to lose from an airplane tray or restaurant table.

To make them more compact and portable consider taking them out of their box and putting them in a ziplock or Lay n Go pouch.

More Gift Guides For Tots, Kids & Teens:
• Really Cool Tech Gifts That Travel
Board Games You’ve Never Heard of That Kids Love
Engrossing Portable Puzzles For Every Age

11 Innovative Building Sets To Get Tots, Kids Tweens Thinking Creatively

For Young Builders

These magnetic wood tiles and blocks from tegu are just right for little hands.

1. I’ve long been a fan of Tegu’s colorful wooden blocks with magnets. They aren’t inexpensive but they’re nicely made, just the right size for small hands and they appeal to both girls and boys.

They come in a few different size sets that work for travel. The 6-piece classic or travel kits, which both come with their own case is ideal for toddlers and preschoolers while slightly larger sets can travel with school-age kids.

They’re handy for building airplanes, cars and restaurants or anywhere that you don’t want blocks spilling over and getting lost.

2. Sticky puff balls like these from OmGood are a soft creativity toy that 4-8 YOs were going crazy for when I saw them at a Toy Fair a few years ago.

Buy this pack of 640 and takealong a few of each color, along with a few accessories, so kids can make bugs, animals or silly monsters wherever they go. You can even hold some of the accessories back to change thrings up durig the trip.

I wouldn’t go younger than 4 with these because they’re small enough to go in kids’ mouths. I’ve also heard of toddlers getting them stuck in their hair! that would not be fun on an airplane or in a car. At all.

Sticky building balls

Especially For Girls

Magnetivity tiles from melissa & doug are ideal for travel. Kids can color the tiles and play figures on the road or in the air. Then put them together.

3. The Melissa & Doug’s Magnetivity Draw & Build kit is a building set, arts & craft project and stage for imaginary play all in one. They market it as a co-ed toy, but girls gravitate more toward build-then-play sets.

The set comes with flat magnetic building pieces and 2 play figures that you can color in with dry erase markers (also included).

All the pieces are erasable so kids can change the house’s style whenever they get new inspiration. They might want to pack some extra play figures to augment the playing part.

It’s handy because it packs flat and your kids can have a play house anywhere they travel. I think it’s small enough to work on an airplane tray, too.

They’ve expanded this line to include several types of buildings, and many come with more pieces for more different ways to build. But some also include harder-to-travel-with pieces like cars.

For Lego Fans

Here are two inexpensive products to make Legos more fun on the go.

4. Creative QT’s Baseplates provide a playspace for Legos anywhere, in the shape of four familiar 10X10-inch squares. They come in a choice of colors.

5. How cool is this? Cortex makes a backpack for carrying Legos. It has four internal pouchs to organize small pieces, an outside pocket and a Lego base attached to the front panel. Unzip the cover to lay it flat and start building!

This backpack was made for carrying lego bricks and building on the go. It opens up to provide a sturdy dotted base for building anywhere.

Magnetic Blocks For Growing Builders

It’s amazing how many magnetic building sets are out there these days and each is a bit different than the others in what they’re made from, wtheir shapes, and how they connect with each other.

Magformers are lightweigh magnetic building tiles that come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors.

6. Magformer Building Sets come in vivid colors, several sizes and shapes that include squares, triangles and pentagons. They’re rings rather than tiles though, which makes they light for travel.

Buys a smaller travel pack or invest in a larger set for home and pack a few favorites to bring with you when you travel.


7. Guidecraft‘s PowerClix shapes (above left) are smaller than magformers, which can make 3-D and vertical building easier.

The box says 4+ but think 7-10 YOs will get the most out of building them.

8. If your kids prefer blocks for building, try Magna-Qubix 3-D building sets (above right). The translucent magnetic cubes and pyramids allow for more traditional building, with no tumbling.

Unique Building Sets


9. Clip Connect by Awesome Choice has the same principle as Zoob, but it’s atom-like shape let’s you build out in six directions. A box of 100 seems like a lot but it’s not that big and you don’t need to travel with all of them.

Clip connect is a stem toy with atom-like shapes that let you build in any direction.

10. Fat Brain also has its Squigz, which come in a few shapes and connect by suction cups at either end. This means you can start with a secure base on a airplane tray or restaurant table. The 24-piece starter tube is just the right size for your child’s carry-on. 

I’d recommend these for kids 6YO and up, who have the dexterity to get the suction cups to stick.

Sguigz have suction which make them excellent for building in laces where yuo don't want blocks to scatter.
Engino kit

11. When your STEM kid starts to outgrw Lego, buy him or her an Engino building kit. Some of the pieces are similar but Engino wants kids to focus pon design and structure and has components to take building to the next level. it even hjas an app that gives kids the feelng of working in CAD.

I always like freeform kits that let kids use their imagination. But Engino has a wide variety of kits that focus with all kinds of themes. There are “girls” kits too; they’re basically the same as the other but in pastels.

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