If you spend hours of your day walking past your kids, seeing them with a slack-jawed look on their faces as they stare into whatever smart device happens to be in use at the time, and audibly sighing, you’re not alone. As parents, we can use all of the screen time limiting apps, change the WiFi password, physically take away a screen, and rely on the go-to staple from our parents — yelling at the kids — yet they always seem to find a way to have a screen available. It’s uncanny.
Sure, you could just cut off all electricity to the house in a completely desperate move. But here’s a better idea that allows you to keep your air conditioning and give the kids a non-screen option for entertainment: creative and time consuming best erector sets for kids.
There are simple erector sets for beginners, but there are also erector building sets that connect together to create different worlds. Some sets even have a motor included, so they can move or light up for extra fun. Erector sets often qualify as the best STEM activities, so the kids may even learn something while they’re playing.
Erector sets are a lot of fun for kids of all ages, although for the littles, they’ll still need parental help. Kids may even find that hands-on building is way more fun that pressing a button on a screen or watching a video, just like you promised them it would be. (Now don’t expect them to admit it. Telling mom or dad that they were right about something usually doesn’t happen until the kid reaches at least their mid-20s.) Here are our picks for most creative, fun and time-consuming erector sets that we’re hoping do the trick!
Does your kid occasionally say, “I’m bored”? (If you’d like that sentence to be more realistic, replace occasionally with constantly until I’m ready to go insane and then answer.)
Cut them off before they can start complaining with this K’NEX model building set. It has 480 erector set parts, yielding enough parts for 35 different kits. That’ll keep them busy daily for roughly 5 weeks … 4 if the kid is an overachiever.
This erector set ships with step by step instructions for completing each model, which include airplanes, helicopters, motor vehicles, and other items. Or you can let the kid show off his or her creativity and just start jamming pieces into one another until creating something unique. Whatever it takes to avoid hearing, “I’m bored,” in that whining pitch that only a pre-teen can achieve.
Have you ever promised to take your child to a local fair or amusement park, and the kid talks nonstop for weeks about the excitement over riding a roller coaster or the Ferris wheel? Then when it’s time to ride the big rides, the kid’s face turns ghost white, and he or she dissolves into a blubbering mess out of fear?
If so, maybe you’d have better luck building up the kid’s courage with this Ferris wheel erector set. Once the child builds this set, he or she may feel braver riding the real thing. (And before you know it, the kid will be brave enough to be demanding to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl and other god-awful rides that you want no part of. Sometimes, a step forward has a dark side.)
This set is made for older kids. It has 954 erector set parts, and it includes the ability to create lights and sounds that actually work. Pretty cool. Not quite as good as the real thing, but if you pick up a bag of cotton candy to eat while building it, you’ll feel like you’re as close to the real fair as possible without seeing any carnies.
If you want to add to your own personal amusement park erector set, combine this K’NEX Swing Ride set with the Ferris wheel set we just mentioned.
This building set is pretty cool, using 486 pieces to create any of three different kits. It also ships with a motor, so you can make it spin and add to the fun.
The kids will learn more about how different levels of mass on the swing ride affect how the seats swing and how speed affects the performance of the entire unit.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll create such a love of the engineering behind amusement parks and carnival rides that you’ll inspire the child to make a career out of it down the road. (Maybe he or she will become a national hero by being able to figure out how to shorten the wait time in the line at Splash Mountain at Disney World.)
If your child (or husband) is a huge LEGO fan, going with a LEGO erector set is a natural selection. This Crawler Crane kit has a host of really cool features that are sure to keep boredom at bay. The included pieces will work as one of two different types of cranes.
This kit has 920 pieces, making it a challenge that will keep children pretty busy. Once the kid builds the crane, he or she can use the 180-degree rotating extendable boom to pick up small things and move them. The hoist includes a cable to make it feel realistic, and the kid can even fold out the outriggers to set up and stabilize the crane.
For kids who are interested in construction and engineering, this erector set from LEGO will be a fascinating toy. However, be prepared to answer a lot of confusing questions about engineering and how cranes work to move large items. (Thankfully, Google has all the answers.)
If your kid loves dinosaurs, Meccasaur is the next level toy. This erector set Walmart offers has the ability to march around after completion, and it also will react to stimuli the child provides.
It ships with everything you need to put it together, including specialized tools. But to make it move and roar, you’ll have to provide four C batteries. It even has some programmable features.
It has 715 pieces, so it’s a better choice for older children. It’s not exactly a cuddly toy, so younger children may not be as interested anyway.
Meccasaur is only 3 feet long, so don’t expect to start your own Jurassic Park with a fleet of these erector set robots. But one of them should be enough to freak out the family dog.
Some erector sets have specific items the child is able to build, closely following the included instructions. Others have a variety of pieces available that will work for several different final projects, which gives the child a bit more opportunity for creativity.
The IQ Builder fits into the latter category, providing step by step instructions for many different items, while also allowing for some creativity. The projects are split into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, so you can let the kid work on harder builds after he or she gains some experience with the basic builds. (If dad is helping, be sure to start on the beginner level. We hate to see him cry with frustration when the building kit is too hard for him.)
This kit has 164 erector set pieces, and it doesn’t have robotic parts, so it’s a good choice for the younger kid who’s curious about building kits, but who doesn’t have the skill level yet to handle a complex set.
Sometimes, the best things in life come in buckets. Fried chicken, ice cream, and bottles of beer on bucket night at the local pub, to name a few. (We didn’t say the healthiest things come in buckets.)
So when we found this bucket of erector set parts, it definitely caught our eye.
This kit has 150 pieces that can be assembled in 10 specific models, or the kids can let their imaginations go wild. This set is made for ages 5 and up, so it’s one of the best erector sets for young children. There are instructions to help with making certain items, such as cars, motorcycles, and hybrid helicopters.
Best of all, when build time is over, all of the pieces can go back in the bucket for an easy cleanup. (We’re not guaranteeing the 5-year-old will actually put all of the pieces back in the bucket; we’re just saying he or she can do it. Good luck.)
No list of the best erector sets for kids would be complete without including Tinkertoy. I’m not ashamed to admit I spent dozens of hours in my childhood playing with wooden Tinkertoy pieces that were handed down from my dad. (I am ashamed to say that he took far better care of them as a kid than I did as a kid. I don’t think many of them survived after I was finished with them, eliminating my chance to cash in on the vintage toy market.)
Today’s Tinkertoys are a bit different from those vintage wooden toys, as this model consists of plastic. Some of these 200 erector set parts have a little bit of flexibility to them, which makes it easier for young children to fit them in the desired place (which was part of the problem with the wooden Tinkertoys, which were stiff and breakable … and I’m sticking to that story.)
The instruction set with these Tinkertoys allows for 30 different specific building ideas, or kids can use their imagination to create almost anything.One fan says, “My 2 year old and 4 year old have a million toys- this is there go to toy. As a stay at home mom they play with this atleast 3 hours a day! No joke!”
These Brain Flakes sound like they should be a breakfast cereal. But they’re not. They’re a best erector set for children that allows them to create all kinds of creatures, vehicles, and any kind of cross between the two that they desire.
The beauty of Brain Flakes is that each piece has the same shape and design, almost like a flat round flower petal. Kids can spend more time building things and less time searching for that one key part that they probably lost inside the couch … and no one is going into that terrifying locale after it.
Brain Flakes are made for kids ages 5 and up. The 500 pieces will interlock together to create your items, and the kit ships with an instruction book with ideas for different things the kids can build.
(Now if someone would come up with a Brain Flakes cereal, We’d buy it. Our brains never work quite as efficiently at 7 a.m. as they do at 7 p.m., so a brain boosting breakfast cereal to pair with high caffeine coffee would be a welcome change. Starbucks, we’re looking at you.)
Although educational toys are great, it’s OK to buy your kids some toys that are just fun on occasion too. (Don’t let those excessively controlling social media moms guilt you into thinking otherwise.) Check out our toy guides for some fun ideas.