Magnetic building tiles are the toy I recommend most to my friends with kids. We first tried them about 18 months ago when I bought a set for my daughter’s birthday. They quickly became our most loved toy and are still played with today as much as when I first bought them! Magnetic tiles are so simple-to-use and can be played with in lots of different ways. Over the past couple of years we’ve been lucky enough to try three popular brands, which I review here.
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In order to expand this review I was gifted a 100 piece set of Connetix Tiles in December 2019. All words and opinions are my own.
Before I get into the particulars of the three brands we have tested I wanted to share exactly why I think magnetic tiles are such a brilliant toy.
Magnetic Tiles are perfect for open-ended play
As far as open-ended toys go magnetic building tiles have to be up there with the best.
In case you’re unfamiliar with this term, open- ended toys are toys that can be used in a variety of different ways depending on the child and their current interests and fascinations. When a child plays with an open-ended toy they are in control and guide their own play rather than the toy doing the hard-work for them.
It’s important that children have the opportunity to play with open-ended toys. Not only do they leave room for a child’s imagination to flourish, they also foster creativity and critical thinking. Open-ended toys also tend to engage children for far longer than toys that just have one set purpose.
Magnetic tiles can be played with in so many different ways.
Making 3-D structures is so easy with magnetic tiles, even young children can manage it independently. This makes them incredibly satisfying to play with and quick and easy to incorporate into different play scenarios.
Magnetic tiles can also be used to create 2-D pictures and patterns on a flat surface. Because the tiles are translucent they work fantastically on a lightbox or used against a window to take advantage of the beautiful reflections that are created on a sunny day.
I also love how magnetic tiles can be combined with other toys. We’ve made garages for cars, set up enclosures for animals and made rockets to take the play people to space. It really is a very versatile toy.
There are many other creative ways to use magnetic tiles too… from marble runs to shape matching games! Just check out Pinterest or Instagram for lots of inspiration!
And of course children find their own ways to play with them, which is one of the best things about open-ended toys like these!
Magnetic Tiles are great for different ages
This is most definitely a toy that will appeal to a variety of ages and will be returned to again and again as your kids grow older. In fact they are pretty addictive for adults too, so if you struggle to join in with your kids’ play this is the toy for you!
As with a lot of toys, the manufacturers recommendation for magnetic tiles is usually 3 years and up. I believe this is mainly due to the magnets contained in them. Fortunately all three of the brands tested are riveted together for extra strength. I have heard of some budget brands not including this feature so I would steer clear of them.
Magnetic tiles teach shape recognition, reasoning and problem solving
Magnetic tiles naturally provide the opportunity to teach about shape, whether it be 2-D shape names or creating 3-D shapes such as cubes and pyramids. The girls soon picked up that they needed 6 squares to make a cube, for example. You’ll also find kids will be solving problems and reasoning about shapes all the time as they work out which shape they need to complete their picture or structure.
Which brand of magnetic tiles should I buy?
Hopefully by now you’re convinced that magnetic tiles are an amazing open-ended toy that are brilliant for kids of all ages! But there are many brands of magnetic tiles on the market so it can be confusing to know which one to go for. It doesn’t help matters that there’s a huge variation in price between brands. Budget brands start at about £30 for a 100 piece set whereas to pick up an equivalent set in a premium brand it will cost closer to £80.
I’ve had the opportunity to try two popular mid-range brands with my children- Playmags & Children Hub. More recently I was approached to test Connetix Tiles, which is a premium brand of magnetic tile, though not the most expensive on the market. I was delighted to be asked as I’ve often wondered whether paying more for a premium brand was actually worth it. So I’m pleased to be able to share my thoughts with you and hopefully make the decision a little easier.
For the purpose of this review I was using the 100 shape sets, though there are smaller sized sets available in all these brands.
Firstly it’s worth saying that all three brands are in essence very similar and are in fact compatible with each other, which is good to know if you are looking to add to an existing collection. There are some crucial differences though that are worth considering before deciding which to purchase.
This is an important one, as the strength of the magnets are of course integral to the success of your building projects! If you want to avoid frustration and disappointment it’s worth considering this carefully. This is the main reason I would avoid buying the really budget brands as the magnets aren’t usually up to the job.
Having built the same structure using the Children Hub set and Playmags I would conclude that the strength of the magnets are very similar and are certainly adequate for building reasonable sized structures with little frustration! It wasn’t until trying the Connetix Tiles though that I realised how much stronger the magnets could be and how this would impact on our building potential. There is certainly a notable difference in strength with this premium brand and even my littlest was able to build tall towers easily with these.
Each brand has some subtle differences in the design of their tile. Children Hub tiles have raised edges designed, according to the manufacturer, to prevent scratching. I have to say it hasn’t prevented ours from scratching and what it does mean is that whilst the edge of the tile is the same thickness as the other brands, the inside part is half the thickness. I imagine this goes some way in explaining why the Children Hub structures don’t feel quite as sturdy as when building with Connetix.
Playmags tiles have a lattice effect on their tile whilst the Connetix Tiles opt for a unique bevelled design, which again is said to prevent scratching. Time will tell if this is the case but I do really like the look of the Connetix and the tiles definitely feel superior in quality, as well as design. The less-fussy style of the Connetix tile also make for beautiful reflections when using them in the sunlight.
Each of the brands tested have other features that are worth noting when considering which one to buy.
Firstly The 100 piece Playmags set comes with a really comprehensive book of ideas. This has been a great reference point to inspire my kids about what they could make and I’ve noticed that their own ideas are a lot more ambitious. It has definitely expanded their horizons and pushed them to be more creative, though it’s worth noting unless you have a huge collection of tiles you won’t be able to build everything in the booklet!
The Children Hub set has a greater variety of shapes included compared to the other brands, enabling some imaginative structures to be built. Whilst the Connetix Tile set has less variety of shapes you do get 6 large squares which are great for building bigger structures and are a favourite with my children.
The 100 piece Children Hub set includes two car chassis to build on, which is a great addition. My youngest loves building on these, then adding a few animals and taking them for a ride! These are available to purchase separately with Playmags and will also soon be available with Connetix.
The Playmags set includes 13 double-sided click-in alphabet tiles for building words. Unfortunately they deduct that from your 100-tile total so you actually get less magnetic tiles to build with. Similarly Children Hub deduct 8 for click-in windows. Personally, I’d rather have the extra magnetic tiles in the Connetix set. I find these click-in elements a little unnecessary, particularly the click-in alphabet tiles with the Playmags set and I’m disappointed that means you get less tiles to build with. If you want to use magnetic tiles for word building purchase a chalk pen and you can draw the letters on yourself and wipe them off when you’ve finished!
When it comes to choosing which of these brands to buy I think it really does come down to your budget. If I had to choose between the mid-range Children Hub and Playmags than I would favour Children Hub. In essence they are very similar but as you get more actual magnetic tiles in the Children Hub 100 piece set and the two car chassis as well, I think it represents greater value for money. I also like the variety of shapes you get with this brand.
But if you can stretch your budget you won’t be disappointed spending the extra money on Connetix. The tile design is beautiful, they are clearly well made and the magnets are stronger, which means bigger and better structures. I also like the simplicity of their set. They haven’t tried to be clever by adding in additional elements like the alphabet tiles or click-in windows, but have understood the value of the magnetic tiles themselves as an open-ended toy. Open-ended toys are meant to be simple. They leave room for children to be led by their own ideas and imagination and the Connetix set certainly allows them to do just that.
One final bit of advice… whichever set you go for, buy the 100 piece set if you can- magnetic tiles are definitely one toy that you can never have enough of!
You can buy Children Hub & Playmags Tiles from Amazon. Connetix Tiles can be purchased on their website- www.connetixtiles.com.