Magnetic tiles are an incredibly popular toy among young children – their eye-catching colors demand attention, while the magnetic properties mean they can be joined together in a whole host of imaginative ways.
They are also incredibly versatile, and can even be used to help kids with their learning. Kids are creative creatures, and will fascinate you with the number of ways in which they can keep themselves entertained, just by using a few basic shapes.
You might not have thought about some of the activities that can be done with magnetic tiles, so I’m here to share with you 10 different ways my kids have come up with to make the most of their magnetic tiles. These may inspire yet more inventive ideas in your own kids – they really are the gift that keeps on giving!
1. Racing Cars
My boys love constructing a race track out of tiles and then racing toy cars around them. This is an ideal activity for kids who like to be a bit boisterous or have the need for speed, as they can get their adrenaline fix and don’t just have to sit and play quietly.
It is also competitive, so will keep your little ones occupied for a good period while they try and complete laps in the fastest time – just as long as there are no fall-outs or tantrums!
To build a working race track, the ideal width of the road will be two square tiles, but may be wider depending on the size of the cars you will be racing.
Create bends using triangular tiles, and you can even loop the circuit across itself for a cool figure of 8 shape. Remember that you can add ramps for elevation and an extra challenge, but bear in mind that you will likely end up with cars falling from heights.
2. Tallest Tower
Encourage your kids to see how high they can build a tower out of their magnetic tiles, making sure that it stays stable no matter how far it gets.
This will teach them about basic engineering as they try and work out how to stop it falling down – a great activity for analytical minds that always want to know ‘why’.
The first time they tried this, my kids automatically attempted to build their towers straight upwards, as their only thought was reaching a greater height than the others.
They soon learnt that they wouldn’t get very far using such a method, and started to experiment with different designs. The most important thing to figure out if you want to be successful is that you need a wider base to support the rest of the tower.
If they are stuck, try showing them a picture of the Eiffel Tower, for example, and asking them what they notice about the structure.
3. Board Games
You can easily transform magnetic tiles into boards on which to play all your favorite games! Because each pack comes with a lot of square tiles, you can join these together into a bigger square – 8×8 tiles will make a standard draughts or chess board, for example.
If you’re going with that idea, you should ensure that you only use two different colors and alternate them as you go.
Since chess is a bit too advanced for many kids, you may need to think of games that are more universal.
My middle child is particularly fond of Snakes and Ladders – the tiles can be any color you want, and the objective is simple: start at square 1 and be the first player to reach the last square (traditionally this is square 100, but you can make your game as big or small as you like).
The magnetic tiles are wipe-clean, so you can number each square and draw on the snakes and ladders with a dry-erase marker.
4. Alphabet Puzzle
If your children are at the age where they are starting to get to grips with the alphabet, help them along with this interactive learning tool.
They may know the song but not yet be familiar with all the letter shapes, or they may just want to practise it and keep it ticking along.
Because they are magnetic, the tiles will stick together to form a single alphabet line that won’t accidentally come apart and spoil their progress.
To start, I write each letter of the alphabet on a separate tile with a compatible marker pen. You can do capital letters or lower-case letters, depending on which you child knows the best – alternatively, you could write both versions of the letters if you have enough space on the tiles.
I find it best to stick to one or the other, but definitely make sure you don’t end up with some of each and confuse your poor child!
Once you have written on all 26 tiles, mix them up in a big space on the floor, so your child has to place them in the correct order.
5. Marble Run
Marble runs provide endless entertainment, as the kids build them then watch the marbles going round and round until they reach the bottom.
They don’t need a specialized marble run kit – they can just make their own using a set of magnetic tiles and some imagination! You can find examples online to get them started, or they can simply play around and see what works.
A good marble run has plenty of twists and turns, as you need to keep the momentum of the marbles going. The best way to do this is by using ramps, either setting the whole thing up as one big ramp, or adding ramps into an enclosed structure.
Build in a tray at the end to catch the marbles, so your kids can easily send them round again and again. Once they’ve had enough of one layout, they can change it up to a different design – hours of fun!
Tangrams are puzzles that you complete by placing tiles onto a shape outline. They supposedly originated in China in the 1700s and then gained popularity across Europe and America.
The idea is simple, and my kids love trying to figure out how to maneuver the shapes to fit the pictures.
Simply draw an outline of a shape onto a blank piece of paper (you will probably find it helpful to draw round the individual tiles that would make it up so you can ensure that the puzzle is actually doable.
Do this in pencil and then erase the inner lines afterwards, so only the outline remains. Alternatively, place tiles into a pattern yourself and draw around the whole thing).
Your shape can be as straightforward or as complex as you want, but it is best to start simple for younger children and let them gradually progress to more challenging puzzles.
7. Tile Sorting
This is a very basic game that is great for helping young toddlers to recognize shapes and colors. They will have noticed the differences between the tiles and may also start to make piles of tiles that look the same.
When I first bought a pack of magnetic tiles, my youngest reached out to grab the orange ones straight away (it’s her favorite color!). I saw it as a possibility to invent a game that she could play based on that idea.
Ask your child to separate out tiles of the same color, same shape, or both. If they’re unsure, demonstrate what you want them to do by identifying the first few so they know what to look for.
Once they’ve collected enough of each type, you can get them to make boxes or other constructions out of identical tiles to take it to the next level.
8. Stained-Glass Windows
You know when you take a child into a church and they are immediately awestruck by the large, beautiful stained-glass windows?
You can recreate that feeling in your very own home by letting your kids decorate the plain windows with their colorful magnetic tiles.
Because the tiles are translucent, they will still let in light, achieving the same glowing appearance.
What you will need is some self-adhesive plastic sheet, trimmed to fit your chosen window. Stick it to the window, and then get your kids to unleash their creativity onto it with their choice of tiles.
You should try and find the lowest window you have so that the children can reach it easily, or you may have to pick them up to bring them to the right level.
They can make lots of exciting designs, and what’s more, your neighbours can enjoy the new artwork too! If you’re a religious family, you might want to challenge them to incorporate a representation of their favorite Bible story within their stained glass window design.
9. Decorating Metal
The magnetic property of these tiles means they don’t just stick to each other, but they also stick to any metallic object that contains iron.
My kids love exploring the house and trying to find new things they can attach their tiles to. Of course, fridges are a common surface for anything magnetic, so they can use the tiles as standard fridge magnets to liven up the kitchen.
But if they get bored of that and want something new to adorn with tiles, there should be plenty of options around your home.
Some bed frames will be ideal, as well as radiators and other appliances such as washing machines. They could make a snazzy border to line the edges of these items.
My little ones have even started decorating our frying pans with their colored tiles – if yours do the same, make sure you’ve removed them all before you start cooking the dinner, or you could find yourself in a bit of a sticky situation!
10. Geometry Play
Your kids will know, just as mine do, that their magnetic tiles come in the shape of squares and various types of triangles.
Aside from teaching them the names of the different triangles (which will definitely be useful for them by the time they’re learning this topic in school), there’s not much else you can do with the individual shapes. But put them together and you’ll soon see a whole world of geometric possibilities that become available.
This is another activity that my kids picked up straight away without prompting. They learnt very quickly that two squares together make a rectangle, so then they set about trying to discover what other shapes they could make.
For example, you can put 6 equilateral triangles together around a central point to form a hexagon. Of course, once they’ve conquered 2D shapes, they can explore 3D shapes – pyramids, cuboids, prisms… the list is endless! Different 3D shapes can be used to construct castles, rockets, or any other creation their little hearts desire.
How To Buy Magnetic Tiles
Magnetic tiles are available to purchase from many large toy stores, as well as hyper markets like Target and Walmart. If you’d rather not visit a physical store, you can easily buy them online instead from websites like Amazon.
There are various different brands of magnetic tiles on the market today, with the most popular and well-known being Magna Tiles.
These ones come with a hefty price tag, but the quality is second to none – you get what you pay so they will last a long time. Other brands include Skymags, MagVision, Cossy Kids, and PicassoTiles.
They are all very similar, as there is a limit to how much variation you can get from the same simple concept, so there may not be a lot to choose between them other than price.
Whichever ones you go for, make sure you have enough for your children to be able to make the most of them. It is a good idea to buy a large pack of at least 100 tiles right away, especially if they have to be shared among several children.
You can always buy more on top, but children are always hungry to find novel ways of playing; the more tiles you start with, the more likely they are to stay occupied for long periods of time. Plus, they can keep any projects they’re particularly proud of while still being able to explore with the rest of the tiles.