Why Blocks Are By Far the Best Kid Toys for the Money

Ahh, Christmas…the lights, the trees, the food and all those TOYS. But toys aren’t cheap, and if you have a kid on your list, the last thing you want to do is spend a lot of money on items that don’t sit forgotten in a corner all year long. You don’t even want to spend money on cheap toys that break easily or sit forgotten in a corner either.

You want to spend money on toys with a high use per dollar ratio. Toys that your child will pull out on a regular basis and over a lot of years.

As a former kid and a former day care worker and a current Sunday school teacher, aunt and Mom, I have a pretty good idea of which toys kids play with, at least for the 8 and under set. And the go-to toys in my experience have always been blocks.

Almost every year Jon and I have bought Little Bit one set of blocks or another. She started with soft foam ones that she started knocking down during tummy time. For her first Christmas, she received a brightly colored alphabet set that she could pick up and stack. At one, we gave her a set of pink and purple Megabloks. Over the years we’ve bought cardboard blocks, wooden blocks, Lincoln Logs and Legos.

And she still plays with all of them. Well, maybe not the noisy baby blocks, but she pulls out all the rest. They’ve become bridges and towers and castles and diners. And she shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

The Benefits of Blocks

I’m not saying blocks don’t have their issues. Blocks scatter all over the floor, and they aren’t fun to step on. But they are sturdy, have tons of replay value, and have a host of educational benefits.

  • For younger kids, blocks help develop eye-hand coordination and motor skills.
  • They encourage cooperative play with both adults (because they are still fun when you are an adult) and peers. This type of play promotes language development, negotiation skills (“Okay, you can have those, but I need these,”), compromise, and friendship.
  • At the same time, blocks can also encourage independent play and self-reliance. 
  • Blocks introduce kids to physics and engineering. They promote problem solving and math skills (counting, sorting, and geometry.)
  • They encourage imaginative play and creativity. Kids can use blocks to make tons of different structures and settings for playing with other toys (even other block sets.)

Why Blocks Are By Far the Best Kid Toys for the Money

7 Essential Block Sets for Every Kid

So now that I’ve convinced you that you need some blocks for the kid on your list, I’ll go over a few of the better options we’ve bought over the years. Except the Legos, all of these sets are under $30, and they are good for a variety of ages and developmental stages. And they’ve all been pulled out numerous time for hours of enjoyment.

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Edushape Easy-grip Soft Foam Sensory Puzzle Blocks [18 Pieces]

I bought these blocks for Little Bit when she was a toddler, and I think I had more fun with them than she did. Because...they’re Tetris-shaped! And they fit together in neat ways, as you would expect Tetris-shaped blocks to do! While not the best for stacking tall towers, they make it easy to build lower to the ground constructions. Maybe even easier than regular wooden blocks do.
Because these blocks are made of foam, they probably aren’t the best choice for kids who still put a bunch of random items in their mouths. I still think they are incredibly fun blocks.

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden ABC/123 Blocks Set With Storage Pouch 

Alphabet blocks are a terrific choice for babies and toddlers. Not only are they the perfect size for little hands to manipulate, but the uniform size makes them easier to stack. Plus, there’s the whole “Teach your kid to kid their letters and numbers” aspect.

These wooden blocks will hold up well to even the toughest of little kids. And it’s a little easier to keep up with the blocks in the bag than the smaller set that comes in the wooden wagon. (We have both. My daughter likes the wagon, but it gets left out and acts like the proverbial banana peel.)

Melissa & Doug Wooden Building Blocks Set – 100 Blocks in 4 Colors and 9 Shapes

Another nice sturdy wooden set. These have the classic shapes that many of us played with as children. Kids will stretch their problem solving a bit more than with the previous set while they explore concepts of geometry and physics…especially gravity.

The set doesn’t come with a durable storage container, but that’s a minor drawback. Since these will mix easily with other wooden block sets, we just found a little tote for all our blocks and put them in it.

Melissa & Doug Jumbo Extra-Thick Cardboard Building Blocks

Little Bit’s absolute favorite blocks are the cardboard ones. They provide great props for her dolls; they are easy to stack, and best of all it’s incredibly satisfying to build an enormous big wall and knock it down. I’ve noticed they tend to be the top toy in my Sunday School class of 4, 5 and 6-year-olds as well.

The biggest drawbacks of these types of blocks are storage (they’re bulky), but some parents complain about assembly as well. The blocks come flat and then the adult in the house has to fold the cardboard and put them together. I might have found that a nuisance but I think Jon thought it a bonus.

While we have a different set (the Imaginarium Deluxe Set), the Melissa and Doug set had very good reviews and was less than half the price.

Mega Bloks Big Building Bag, 60-Piece (Classic)

If you loved playing with Legos as a kid and wanted your toddler to get their start, Mega Bloks and Duplo are both solid choices. And while we have a ton of Duplo sets that include princesses and bunny rabbits, Little Bit keeps going back to the cheaper and more generic Mega Bloks. Maybe she feels they give her more options since there are fewer “suggested” builds. Maybe she just finds it easier to find them since they’ve stayed in their sturdy plastic bag for 5 and a half years.

You can get the same set in pink and purple, but like so many products aimed at girls, you may pay as much as  25% more to get it in “the right colors.”

LEGO Classic Large Creative Brick Box 10698

There are about a billion different Lego sets of varying degrees of specificity and different themes. All of them are high quality.

However, I’m a big believer in traditional Legos over Lego Star Wars, Lego Princesses, Lego Minecraft, etc. Buy a kid one of the specific sets, and they’ll build from the directions and the pictures on the box. Buy a kid one of the classic sets, and they’ll try to construct whatever they want to build, not what the child thinks they are supposed to build.

I like this set because it has a lot of pieces and a nice sturdy box to put them in. That’s important because parents can tell you what happens when you step on Legos.

(We bought a different set that has been discontinued, but this is a close match.)


As Little Bit’s gotten older, she likes games as well as blocks, and Jenga combines both. While we’ve adjusted the rules a bit to let her play (she gets to use both hands), she enjoys both winning and losing (because losing means you knock the blocks down!) Best of both worlds!

Plus, Jenga ages up well and is just as much fun for Jon and me to play as it is for Little Bit.

For Replay Value, Buy Blocks

This list barely scratches the surface of the sets of blocks available (or even the sets we have in our house), but for replay value per dollar spent, they are all hard to beat. They all stand up to a lot of use, take no batteries, and don’t make a ton of noise…except when a kid dumps them out to enjoy them.

So if you have a kid or two on your Christmas list, consider some blocks. Maybe they’ll even let you play with them!

What type of toy do you think has the best replay value for the money? 

19 thoughts on “Why Blocks Are By Far the Best Kid Toys for the Money

  1. Great list, Emily! My kids loved blocks when they were younger. Legos became more popular as they got older (they built with Legos up until they were teens).

    The blocks that are the most memorable to me (besides legos) are the large cardboard blocks. They were large enough to easily build a fort and the kids loved them. The only downside is they do take up a ton of space!
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    • We do love the cardboard blocks, and i think they’ve gotten more play than any other set. But now that Bit’s getting older, she turns more to Legos, and Legos are nice for some of the math manipulative exercises her teacher has asked her to do, because it’s an easy place to find more than 100 of something. I hope she’ll enjoy them on into her teens as well.

    • We have a set of Magformers, and I thought about including them. But while they are fun, I think they are also pricy at $1 per piece or more, so I left them off. Your set looks like a better deal, though.

  2. What about Legos? My son got hooked on them when he was very young and enjoyed them into preteen time. He had so many, after he grew up I dumped them all in a huge box and took them to school for my Gifted and Talented Students to challenge them. I would say “What pair (or group) can make the best locomotive out of these Legos?” Not only were they determined, they wanted to “win,” which meant finishing first. If you have old Legos lying around and no kids or grandchildren to use them, DONATE them to an elementary or even middle school. Not recommended for Church Nursery use, as too many very young children would be in danger of choking on them.

    • I think Legos are terrific, which is why they’re on the list! Nice suggestion about donation. Little Bit’s school and our public library both have “Lego Clubs” to promote STEM education, and could probably use more…but we’re a long way from being done with our sets.

  3. We had indoor recess today at school and I stopped in to a bunch of rooms to say hello. SO many kids were playing with blocks and legos – it was awesome! We direct kids so much during the day that it is terrific to see them being creative and using their imagination. Great post Emily and totally agree about giving blocks as gifts to kids!
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  4. My kids love playing with blocks! I love them because they are portable. We always take a big bag of blocks when we visit my grandmother. She doesn’t have any toys at her house, so the blocks keep my kids entertained while we chat.

    • That’s a great thing to take along, Tara. Not too noisy and the kids won’t need too much supervision or assistance.

  5. I’m all for simple toys for children that allow them to use their imaginations. No electricity required for blocks – and the creative possibilities are endless. When I was in my teens, my parents took in foster children. My mom bought one of the boys a train set for Christmas. My dad wrapped up tape and some string. Guess which gift he played with more? The train set was a thrill for a day or two, but the tape and string held his interest for much, much longer. I wish Little Bit lots of creative fun with her blocks : )
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    • I love that! And art/craft supplies are something we give Little Bit every year also (this year, glitter, pipe cleaners and a hot glue gun). Thanks for sharing, Ruth!

  6. Hi Emily, very nice article!!! Good job!! Now i know what i can buy to my sons. Thank you

  7. Blocks are so awesome for kids, and even as a 50 year old, I like them, too. Similar to others above, our kids played with them and graduated into the more complex Legos as they got older. In fact, they graduated right into my 30 year old Lego sets. It was fun watching them build and play with the same blocks I had years before.

    As an engineer, I hear over and over from co-workers that they played with blocks as kids. I think they are terrific for spatial reasoning and creativity.

    Fun article!
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