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These educational toys keep kids happy while they learn. Remote Control Dancing Car
Kids and parents count magnetic toys as among the least frustrating and most satisfying. Magnetic blocks hold together, so kid-built structures don't easily collapse, while magnetic puzzles and play sets can be used in the backseat of the car without pieces falling this way and that. Aside from being less of a mess than many other playthings, magnetic toys provide rich learning experiences and are among our favorite STEM toys.
Good Housekeeping has a long history of testing all toys both in our Lab and at home with tester families. When testing magnetic toys, we first look to be sure each passes federal toy safety standards. Toys should have no sharp or hazardous pieces. Toys age-graded for children under 3 must have no parts that are so small they could pose a choking hazard. We check to be sure the magnetic parts are strong enough to hold together but not so strong that anything is difficult for a child to take apart and rearrange. Also, the magnets must be securely inside the toys. Next, feedback from families is vital. We want to be sure a toy is engaging not just out of the box, but over time. The following 11 magnetic toys all performed well both with our experts and families.
"Magnetic building sets allow kids to visualize a two-dimensional idea as a three-dimensional creation, then work to see their vision come to life fairly quickly," says Rachel Rothman, Chief Technologist & Executive Technical Director of the Good Housekeeping Institute as well as a mom of three kids ages 6 and younger. "You can watch your children grapple with spatial relationships and work through problem-solving while they construct things." At the bottom of this guide you can find more about how we test magnetic toys, and why you can trust our experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute.
Magna-Tiles were invented in Japan about 25 years ago and are the first of this kind of magnetic building toy with translucent, magnetized shapes that hold together. They're a staple of the modern toy box, a fun way for kids to experiment and build anything out of their imagination.
The editors at experts at Good Housekeeping are fans both professionally and personally. "These have lasted us for years," says Marisa LaScala, our Senior Parenting and Relationships Editor. "My 7-year-old hasn't outgrown them, and she keeps finding new and interesting ways to play with them as she's gotten older." Indeed, once kids get past the preschool stage of just being thrilled to build anything, school-age kids use Magna-Tiles as a supporting player in their other pretend-play scenarios. Barbie can perform a concert on a Magna-Tiles stage, or a Magna-Tiles fort becomes the place for an epic Star Wars showdown.
This substantial set comes with 100 pieces, including squares (large and small) and triangles (equilateral, right and isosceles). It costs more than $100, but as noted in the many of the more than 9,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, families feel this toy is worth it for the play value and durability. One hundred pieces means there's enough to share between siblings and playdates, and every kid in the family can use these for years.
Introduce your child to puzzles that aren't babyish. Magnetized pieces hold easily to the workboard and stay joined together while a kid works to create two pictures. The workboard is a small magnetic portfolio that opens like a book, and your child can build one puzzle on each side of the open portfolio. Mudpuppy magnetic puzzles come two to a box, with kid-popular themes such as outer space, unicorns and pets. They're on the small side — six and a half inches square, so a little smaller than a regular sheet of paper — which makes it easy for your child to work on their lap or at a table without you needing to clear a lot of space.
A complaint that occasionally pops up in online reviews is that the picture can start to peel off from a puzzle piece. Beware getting the pieces wet; the puzzles are best used as a quiet time activity or some backseat fun but perhaps not at mealtime. Preschoolers will enjoy mastering the same picture over and over again, and then can graduate to larger, regular puzzles.
This Swiss brand makes popular magnetic toys out of recycled plastic. Magicubes are inch-and-a-half square chunky blocks that can attach to each other from any side. We like this 32-piece set, one of our 2022 Best Toy winners. The box combines magnetized cubes with 3D triangles and even wheels for more play patterns.
The quality Geomag magnets really grip and our tester kids had fun building with the building blocks. As parents and as safety experts, we like that these are appropriate for ages 1 to 5 in case the kids in your house span baby to kindergarten age.
Chunky but smooth wooden pieces make Tegu a standout in the magnetic block world. Each solid wood piece is stained with a non-toxic, water-based finish. This starter set comes tucked in its own felt pouch. Keep it in your bag to amuse and distract your little one on outings. Just showing your child how one block attracts another is fun and can elicit giggles, and knocking them together makes a satisfying sound.
Our tester families say this set buys them some peace when they take their toddler or preschooler to a restaurant or on a plane, or when they're stuck waiting anywhere. Later, when the child grows, these can be incorporated into larger Tegu sets so your child can work on more elaborate creations. Larger sets include pieces like wheels, monster faces and more.
Watch your kid's face light up when they realize turning just one gear will set every single gear it is connected to spinning. Try these magnetized pieces on a cookie sheet or on the front of the fridge for a colorful mechanics lesson. "This is one of those toys that is so pretty, you don't mind looking at it," one tester parent said. "Also, it's kid-powered. Your child spins it, and there are no batteries required."
The set comes with 11 small and 11 large gears. The play is open-ended; your child can invent any path they want for the gears, and use as few as two or as many as all of them. Two children can play together, too. Lakeshore Learning is a brand that sells to educators as well as consumers, and these gears are used in classrooms from preschool through third grade. We're continually impressed by how long a child can tinker with these; the gears can hold their interest for 10 to 20 minutes straight, a long time to a little one!
Our tester families loved the strong and sturdy magnets from this brand, which has a smaller set in our 2022 Best Toys. We think it makes a perfect gift, whether you're introducing a child to magnetic blocks or giving these as a supplement to a collection they might already have. "Though this set isn't huge, it's got all you need to introduce a young child to shapes, including squares and triangles, and rectangles when you put squares together," Rothman says. "
Practice sorting, like grouping the blocks by shape or by color. Use the blocks to create a basic pattern, such as square-square-triangle, and challenge your child to repeat the pattern." Aside from playing around with those basic match concepts, you can watch your child work to make 3D creations such as a house, animal or rocket. You'll find this brand's 20-piece set in some of our gift guides, including best gifts for a 3-year-old boy and best gifts for a 4-year-old girl. But truthfully, this set knows no gender, and anyone age 3 and up will have fun with it.
It's the new way to do the old paper dolls: These wooden figurines have magnetic clothes and accessories that easily stay on until your kid is ready to change the figures' outfits again. The set has two humans, a dog and a cat — and some 70 pieces of clothing, including choices for the pets. Use it to keep your kid busy for a stretch, or bring it out for a playdate. Other sets in the series include an occupation doll (you dress her as a doctor, police officer, etc.) and a magnetic human anatomy figure, one of Good Housekeeping's Best STEM Toys.
Melissa & Doug is frequently chosen for our toy stories thanks to its vast line of thoughtfully designed educational toys. You can watch one of the cofounders of this family-owned business, Melissa Bernstein, talk about the importance of play at our 2022 Parenting Summit.
It's fun to create and then keep changing a farm scene. This works like a sticker book but thanks to magnetic pieces, it's endlessly reusable. There are four magnetic backgrounds to choose from, and more than a hundred magnets of people, animals, plants grown on the farm and more that can be placed on and moved around. It all stores in a magnetic tin to hold everything together.
Your child can create a story out of their imagination using the pieces. Are the farmers watering plants today, or feeding the goats? As your child creates a scenario, use it as an opportunity to have them tell you what's going on in their picture and practice their vocabulary.
As your kid grows they'll be ready to build giant structures, and this large set — both in terms of number of pieces, and the size of the pieces — provides that opportunity. “I can build towers as tall as I am!” one tester raved during our toy testing, helping cement this as one of our best toys of 2022.
The designers of Connetix put a lot of thought into making their pieces especially beautiful, and the eight pastel shades in this refract light to make it look like your child is building out of stained glass. The set includes 48 regular squares, eight large squares, eight thick-sided squares, eight squares that look like windowpanes, 16 small and 16 large equilateral triangles plus 16 isosceles triangles. In online reviews, some parents confess to using these to build their own art projects when the kids go to bed!
When your child places any of the 26 alphabet magnets into the bus window, the toy names the letter and teaches its sound ("the B says "bah" and so on). The catchy tune used is the same as "Farmer in the Dell" and helps kids connect the sound of each letter to its character. "This was an absolute favorite for my kids and for me, since they could play with it while I made breakfast or dinner," says one GH editor. "It works on the fridge, but you can also sit the bus on the table along with the magnets and kids can play there."
There are two levels of sound for volume control. On Amazon, this toy has more than 19,000 five-star reviews, a reflection of both how long this Leapfrog toy been around (almost a generation now!) and how engaging the toy is. Leapfrog Learning Academy tablet also earned a spot as one of the top tablets for kids, a testament to how this brand might help your kids grasp educational skills.
Kiddos can swap heads and tails and keep making different monsters out of 20 magnetic monster body pieces. It's good, silly fun that lets them create their own play figures over and over. Rothman is personally a fan of this set, which her three young children can play with together. All the parts can spin around 360 degrees, so a monster can have eyes in the back of its head or feet that turn backward. Lakeshore Learning has other mix and match sets, too, including a dinosaur set that lets kids invent new dinosaurs. If your kid is a huge dino fan, also check out these 20 other great dino toys chosen by Good Housekeeping.
Good Housekeeping performs toy testing year-round to create roundups such as this list of the best magnetic toys. As new toys come in to our Lab, the Good Housekeeping Institute does rigorous testing to look for the following:
✔️Safety: Our engineers and analysts make sure that each toy reaches all safety standards. They double-check that there are no pinch points that could hurt a child's finger, for instance, and perform a drop test to be sure that if a toy falls, it won’t shatter into small pieces and potentially pose a choking hazard.
✔️Ease of use: We look at each toy to evaluate how simple it is to assemble, how well it’s constructed and how durable it is during play.
✔️Educational value: A toy is rarely just a toy. Most offer the opportunity for kids to learn, too. Our analysts determine whether toys can help kids understand math concepts, work their imagination, hone their literacy, develop social-emotional skills and more.
✔️Kid approval: We'd never recommend a toy unless we're sure that children actually like it! Our experts use our own children plus call on a group of tester families, more than 100 children from birth to 15, who can assess the fun factor and assure us that each toy is a hit in a real home setting.
For more than 100 years, the Good Housekeeping Institute has provided expert reviews and advice on everything for families. In the past decade our experts have evaluated thousands of products of use to parents with young kids, including educational toys for toddlers, sensory and fidget toys, outdoor toys and much more.
Much of the toy testing for this article was overseen by Rachel Rothman, the Good Housekeeping Institute's chief technologist and director of engineering. For more than 15 years, Rachel has put her training in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics to work by researching, testing and writing about parenting products. Plus, as a mom to three kids age 6 and younger, she has plenty of firsthand experience. Rothman also oversees the annual Good Housekeeping Best Toys awards.
Butcher Block Table Top This article also used the expertise of the senior parenting and relationships editor, Marisa LaScala, a mom of a 7-year-old and lead researcher on many of our best-toy roundups including those by age, such as best gifts for a 1-year-old and best toys for an 8-year-old girl. Author Jessica Hartshorn joined the Good Housekeeping Institute as a writer and editorial consultant in 2022. She's written about the best remote control cars and best stroller and car seat combos. She was a senior editor at Parents magazine for 10 years, evaluating baby gear and toys for the brand. She has two kids, ages 17 and 20.