Magnetic building tiles are one of our most loved and played with toys. They are a versatile, simple-to-use construction toy and provide hours of fun. We’ve been lucky enough to try two popular brands recently, which I review here.
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Before I get into the particulars of the two brands we have tested I wanted to share exactly why I think magnetic toys 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. Open- ended toys are toys that will be used in a variety of different ways depending on the child and their current interests and fascinations. They leave room for imagination, foster creativity and tend to engage children for far longer than toys that just have one purpose.
Magnetic tiles are an easy way for kids to create fantastic 3-D structures fast. Even very young children will be able to arrange the tiles and get lots of satisfaction from building with them.
The magnets in the brands I have tested are impressively strong so really the only limit on your structure is the number of tiles you have to play with. For that reason, even with the set of 100 we have, I’m considering buying more as we always seem to run out before the girls have made their building as big as they want!
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 patterns that are created when the sun shines through them. A top tip is to put a strip of magnetic tape at the bottom of a window to help give the tiles some extra stability.
I also love how magnetic building 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.
Magnetic Tiles are great for different ages
This is most definitely a toy that will appeal to 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 get motivated to play with your kids this is the toy for you!
As with a lot of toys, the manufactures recommendation is from 3 years and up. Personally my children used them before they were three as I felt happy that all the pieces were a good size and robust. The only word of caution is that as the magnets are so strong sometimes the pieces snap together fast and there is the risk of pinching your skin between 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 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?
You may have already heard of Magnatiles, one of the original companies making magnetic tiles, but in recent years several other brands have emerged making fantastic magnetic tiles, that tend to be more reasonably priced. I’ve had the opportunity to try two of the leading other brands: Playmags and Children Hub. For the purpose of this review I was using the 100 shape sets, though there are other sized sets available in both brands.
Firstly it’s worth saying that both tiles are 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. Having built the same structure using the Playmags and then the Children Hub set I would conclude that the strength of the magnets are very similar, which is obviously crucial to the success of your building project!
What we love about Playmags
- 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 since they have had a good flick through the book 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 comes with a small sheet of ideas which is fine to get you started but not nearly as comprehensive.
What we love about Children Hub
- The Children Hub magnetic tiles set includes a greater variety of shapes compared to the Playmags enabling more interesting and imaginative structures.
- The 100 piece Children Hub set includes two car chassis that can be built on. These have to be purchased separately with Playmags.
- Probably the biggest advantage of the 100 piece Children Hub set is that you actually get more magnetic tiles than the Playmags equivalent. This is because Playmags also include 13 click-in alphabet tiles which are deducted from your 100 piece total. It seems like a nice touch to add an ‘educational’ element to it but personally I think it is unnecessary and is not really where the strength and educational value of magnetic tiles lies. The other frustrating thing is that because the letters are double sided you might not actually be able to spell the word that you want to. I would sooner have the extra magnetic tiles in the Children Hub set.
All in all I don’t think you can go too wrong with either brand of these magnetic tiles. They both contain strong magnets, are well made and durable. However given the greater variety of shapes and the overall number of shapes you get with the Children Hub 100 piece set I would favour them over the Playmags equivalent. If your budget can run to it I would definitely advise purchasing the 100 piece set as otherwise it won’t be long before you’ll be wanting to add more to your collection!