If your young kid doesn’t take to Magna-Tiles right away, don’t despair. Give a toddler a set, and you might first see them hold up the translucent, jewel-hued tiles over their eyes to revel in the way the light filters through them. They might attempt to stick a few shapes together but then get frustrated and cast them aside. But over time, you’ll likely witness your child begin to figure out how to manipulate them, which way to align the magnetic edges, and how to stack and connect the flat shapes to create 3D structures. And their imagination takes off.
Magna-Tiles (100-Piece Set)
Toddlers and grown-ups alike can build massive, intricate magnetic structures with these colorful STEAM blocks.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $50.
You’ll see how six equilateral triangles become a pizza or a cake. How squares turn into a bed or an oven or a house. A 6-year-old might gingerly stack piece atop piece until they’re standing on their tippy-toes—and the whole thing comes crashing down with an outrageous clatter. As my kids have gotten bigger, I’ve seen them build Magna-Tile ziggurats, mazes, marble courses, stuffie skating rinks, and multitiered castles.
As I’ve observed, there’s something about Magna-Tiles that makes kids slow down, experiment, cooperate, and persevere. Maybe it’s the ASMR-worthy clickety-clack the pieces make when snapping together. Maybe it’s the way the magnetic edges attach easily but not too firmly, so you have to be gentle and precise with them, ask for help, and work together. Maybe the abstract shapes give kids the freedom to imagine.
Magna-Tiles have a gravitational pull on grown-ups, even. I spent an afternoon, probably procrastinating from work or chores, painstakingly creating an icosahedron, a shape I never knew existed. We once had friends over for dinner, and one of them was an architect. She sat down and started building with them while chatting and drinking wine.
I’m far from the only parent who knows the magic of Magna-Tiles. They’ve been a stalwart in our kids gift guides since we first published those articles. “They’re one of the few toys we own that I feel like my 3-year-old plays with independently for long periods of time,” says senior editor Catherine Kast. “I even leave a handful of them in the car so she can snap them together on long drives.” Deputy editor Christine Cyr Clisset’s two daughters have played with them from ages 2 through 9. She says they’re among the very few toys she plans to keep after her kids grow up, to pass down to the next generation.
There have been numerous occasions when a well-meaning gifter has given my kids whatever flashy, spinny, noisy toy was new on store shelves. Behind my grateful smile was the thought: “Why didn’t they just buy more Magna-Tiles?” Invariably, the new toy would captivate my kids only until they’d exhausted the dopamine rush. Then they’d turn back to Magna-Tiles.
And here I must admit the one barrier to Magna-Tiles: They’re kind of expensive. A 32-piece set typically costs around $50. And the truth is, a 32-piece set doesn’t have nearly the play possibilities of a 100-piece set—or more.
So I’ve tracked Magna-Tile prices like a commodities broker tracks pork bellies. When they go on sale for less than $1 per tile, it’s a buy. We’ve accumulated over 300 tiles this way—probably enough to satisfy my four kids until we’re ready to pass along our trove. Or I might just hold on to them for my grandchildren.
This article was edited by Catherine Kast and Christine Cyr Clisset.