Magnetic tiles are fast becoming the most popular STEM learning toy for 3-8 years olds, and it is no surprise.
They offer a new twist on the famously popular Lego and Kre-O building blocks, and have a far simpler connectivity so are suitable for younger children as well as their older siblings.
They are beneficial to the development of children's motor skills, imagination, critical thinking, creativity, science and maths understanding, collaboration and shape and color learning. They are also just great fun!
There are lots of brands offering magnetic tile sets today, and in this review we are going to examine three of the leaders: Magna-Tiles, Playmags and Connectix Tiles.
We will look at the pros and cons of these clever play things in general, and then compare the design, effectiveness, educational value and price point of the three specific makes.
So, read on to find out which magnetic tile set will best suit your little one.
What Are Magnetic Tiles?
Magnetic tiles are a relatively new addition to the toy industry, and they are most related to traditional wooden building blocks and plastic building sets like Lego and Mega Bloks.
The main difference is that these tiles do not fit together due to their interlocking design, but rather due to their magnetic edges.
The tiles are flat sheets of plastic rather than 3 dimensional bricks, and they can be fitted together in any number of different ways in order to create incredible 3D structures and designs.
The tiles come in all shapes and sizes and you can even buy specialist sets which have themed pieces and figurines.
The great thing about magnetic tiles is that they are age appropriate for anyone who is 3 years of age or older.
This is according to the official guidance given by most brands (Magna-Tiles, Plagmags and Connectix all say 3+), however we think that children of 18 months and over would really enjoy playing with them as long as they are supervised by an adult.
They are very safe for toddlers as they don’t have sharp edges and aren’t heavy, and the bright colors and interesting shapes are incredibly appealing to little ones.
Unlike Lego and other building blocks that are often tricky for toddlers to stack, the magnetic connection makes magnetic tiles very easy to stack and stick together.
Whilst young children will not be able to create intricate structures they will still benefit from and thoroughly enjoy playing with magnetic tiles.
Older children will be able to let their creativity run wild, and will find that these tiles form the building blocks for houses, fortresses and castles for their other toys as well.
Both boys and girls adore magnetic tiles. Honestly - we even think adults will love playing with them!
Early Child Development Benefits
For very young children of 18 months and over, magnetic tiles can provide lots of lovely stimulation thanks to their bright colors and interesting shapes.
Unlike wooden blocks which can easily be knocked over and rely on balance, magnetic tiles connect effortlessly and help to develop early motor skills and coordination.
The tiles are strong and will not easily break, making them safe for kids to handle, drop and even bite (although not recommended), so the feel and texture of the tiles is very stimulating for young toddlers as well.
Educational STEM Benefits
Magnetic tiles are an excellent STEM learning toy because they encourage children to interact with and learn about science, technology, design and maths without even realising it!
The play possibilities are so vast that it is impossible to name all the educational games and lessons these tiles can be used for, however some of their key educational benefits include:
- Learning to name and recognize shapes and colors
- Learning about light and shadow (particularly with the translucent tiles)
- Learning numbers through counting and can be used to explain more
- complex math ideas
- Learning about magnets, magnetic forces, push and pull
- Learning about construction and design
- Learning about weight, size, angles and balance
- Developing critical thinking skills
- Developing logical thinking skills
- Developing problem solving skills
- Encourage spatial thinking and awareness
- Develop hand-eye coordination
Social And Emotional Development Benefits
Of course, magnetic tiles are not simply a STEM learning toy, they are also incredibly enjoyable and provide endless possibilities for social and emotional development too.
The enjoyment that children get out of these tiles will increase as they become older, since they will be able to build more and more adventurous and impressive structures.
They can play with friends or on their own, and the simple act of connecting the tiles to build something fun and beautiful can be very calming and therapeutic for children.
These tiles provide an excellent alternative to inactive screen time and can be used as the structures in which their other toys live and play. Social and emotional benefits include:
- Learning about teamwork and collaboration when kids are playing together
- Encouraging experimentation and creativity
- Encouraging communication between children as they play
- Encouraging imagination and exploration
- Encouraging visualisation, patience and calmness
- Build confidence
The magnets used on the tiles in all three of the brands we looked at are all strong and effective.
Unlike wooden blocks that rely on balance in order to stay standing, magnetic tiles stay well connected even when children are clumsy and heavy handed, meaning that their structures do not fall down as easily.
This is great as it spares kids the frustration and disappointment of having a tower knocked over whilst they are still building it.
The strong magnetic connections are much easier to achieve than the interlocking connection required by most plastic building blocks.
Even young kids are able to join the tiles together, meaning that magnetic times are far less fiddly than Lego and Mega Bloks.
The versatility of magnetic tiles is vast, but it increases with the number of tiles that your child has access to.
Most children have noted that sets of less than 60 tiles limit their creativity as they are not able to build the houses and castles that their imagination desires.
We recommend starting with a set of 100 pieces, then smaller sets can be purchased separately if you so wish.
These smaller sets often contain themed pieces which are not included in the standard sets.
The small sets make awesome gifts as you can choose a specific theme that you know your child will particularly love, like cars, castles or farms.
Whilst these additional shapes are great for firing kids' imagination and helping them build more specific and detailed structures, the standard shapes are more than versatile enough to keep children happy and engaged for hours.
The cleverly designed squares and triangles can be fitted together in endless combinations so that children will not tire easily of playing with them.
Thanks to the fact that these tiles are flat, they are incredibly easy to stack and store and they are quick to tidy up because they stick to each other!
A set of 100 pieces can easily be condensed into a few small piles and stored away until next needed. This is a big advantage over traditional building blocks which require a large amount of space when stored.
Magnetic tiles are incredibly safe for children to play with as long as they are 3 years old or over.
This is because the magnets inside the tiles are very small and could cause a choking hazard if they were to accidentally come free and be swallowed by a young child.
The plastic that is used in the making of the tiles is non-toxic and meets US standards for child toy safety.
Now that we have reviewed the various qualities and benefits of magnetic tiles, let’s look at three of the leading brands to see how they compare to each other in terms of quality, quantity, price point and features.
Magna-Tiles are the best selling brand for magnetic tiles on Amazon, and their customer reviews speak for themselves.
With over 7 and a half thousand positive reviews (the majority awarding them 5 stars) it is clear that these tiles score highly for customer satisfaction.
This set of 100 pieces includes 4 large squares, 50 small squares, 20 equilateral triangles, 11 right angle triangles and 15 isosceles triangles.
The tiles are see-through and come in a range of 5 bright colors making them very attractive to look at.
We really like the translucent design because kids can see inside the structures that they build and can also see the light shining through them.
The magnets are particularly ingenious on these tiles because they attract even when flipped, with no repulsion whatsoever.
This makes these tiles even more connective than other brands, and their spoked design makes them strong and durable too.
The only downside is that they come at a premium price. You won’t find a 100 piece set of Magna-Tiles for less than $100, however you will get hours and hours of enjoyment from playing with them.
We absolutely love the Playmags 100 piece tile set as it has so much versatility in terms of shapes and pieces.
As well as the standard squares and triangles, this set includes two window pieces, and 5 window ‘click-ins’, which are incredibly popular with kids as they love adding windows to their structures.
This set also includes 15 alphabet click’ins that can be attached to the tiles to spell out names and words.
Although it is frustrating not to have all the letters of the alphabet, the small selection does prove very popular with youngsters and helps with their letter recognition and naming skills too!
The magnetics used on these tiles are strong and durable, and they are also compatible with both Magna-Tiles and Connetix Tiles, meaning that the sets can be played with together.
However, the Playmags tiles do not have the unique reversibility of the Magna-Tiles, something that is not annoying until you have experienced the other.
The playmags 100 piece set comes with a handy storage bag which we love. Better still, it comes with a handy Idea Book filled with ideas and suggestions about what you could make.
This is a really great resource, particularly if kids have never played with magnetic tiles before as it fires their imaginations and sets them on the road to bigger and better structures.
Considering all the quality and features that the Playmags 100 piece set offers, we cannot believe that it comes in at half the price of the Magna-Tiles set! This really is great value for money!
The tiles in this 30 piece connectix set are not see-through like the other tiles we have seen, however they have holes in so that children can see into and through the structures they build.
This design is actually really great for younger kids as it makes the tiles very easy to grip and grab hold of, even for little hands.
As there are only 30 pieces in this set (18 squares and 12 triangles) the building options are more limited, however it is an ideal amount of pieces for youngsters who have shorter attention spans and will be better able to cope with a smaller selection of tiles.
The tiles in the Connectix set are thicker and more robust that the other brands and the colors are wonderfully bright and vibrant. All in all, it is clear that this set is better suited to a younger user.
The price point is actually pretty high on these Connectix Tiles when you consider that you are only getting a third of the amount of tile included in the other sets.
However, the quality is great and this small set will make a brilliant gift for any little ones as it is both fun, safe and educational.