When it comes to building and construction sets for 5-year-olds, let’s say that LEGO and their little sidekick, Duplos, are king. Lego has been producing some of the best building blocks since 1949, and they’re still going strong today.
To stand a chance against Lego, toy manufacturers have to differentiate. They do that by offering more than one type of block or making them smaller than standard LEGO bricks.
Another distinguishing feature is the use of alternative materials. As parents become more mindful of sustainable manufacturing and sourcing, we see an increase in eco-friendly products with no toxic chemicals such as BPA, phthalates, formaldehyde, and PVCs.
If you want to look beyond the Swedish market leader, there are indeed a couple of other options out there.
Wooden construction sets
Those sets have the benefit of being made from renewable resources. That’s why wooden construction sets are so popular among parents who want to give their children a head start on learning about sustainability. And let’s not forget about the sentimental value. Millennial parents still remember the wooden blocks they played with when they were kids.
The downside? The cost can be higher than traditional plastic ones. But then again, you get what you pay for!
1.iPlay, iLearn Wooden Building Blocks
Based out of Minnesota, iPlay, iLearn was founded in 2016 by a young mother and teacher. This children’s toy company offers a 72-pieces building set of hardwood blocks that are sturdy and safe for kids.
2.Brain Blox Wooden Building Blocks for Kids
By building with this wooden block system, kids can learn physics, math, and engineering concepts. An excellent, all-natural STEM toy for kids of all ages! The kit helps develop problem-solving skills, supports logical reasoning, and improves agility and spatial awareness.
No magnets or connectors are needed for Brain Blox building planks: only Balance, Friction & your imagination. Build, stack, balance & have fun! Whether it’s a castle, a ship, a tower, a robot, a flower, a house, or a train, Brain Blox can do it all. The set contains a Building Ideas Booklet with detailed instructions and a Drawstring Backpack for easy transportation.
3.ONCE KIDS Wooden Eco-Bricks
Wooden Eco-Bricks by ONCE KIDS come as close to replicating real LEGO-brand interlocking blocks as possible.
Eco-Bricks are rectangular like LEGOs and have eight prongs at the top to interlock with other Eco-Bricks.
Imagine, build, stack, and create just as you would with an original LEGO set, all while helping the environment.
4.ROY TOY Classic Log Cabin Building Set (Lincoln Logs) for kids
The log cabin builder spirit is alive and well in this American toy company, which manufactures modern log cabin sets with the vintage wooden builder appeal. ROY TOY is an environmentally friendly and kid-safe brand that utilizes food-based dyes and pine wood.
Hape is a German company that specializes in wooden toys and playsets. Hape began as a maker of wooden toys and now diversifies its raw materials. Alternatives such as bamboo, the fastest-growing plant on Earth, have recently been introduced to their product line.
Mixed-material construction sets
Mixed sets contain both plastic and wooden parts. These sets are great because they allow your child to learn how to put together two different kinds of materials at once.
K’Nex is another mixed-material product.
Their sets come in three categories: K’Nex Lite, K’Nex Plus, and K’Nex Ultimate. These sets feature either plastic or metal rods, along with wooden elements. The green manufacturing facility in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, produces K’nex rods and connectors in a landfill-free, zero-waste way. Sturdy suitcase-style packaging that makes clean-up and storage easy.
By building with K’NEX, children better understand STEM subjects while improving their developmental skills. In addition to increasing spatial awareness, they practice fine motor skills and strengthen their agility to put the pieces together.
2.Oddbods Eco Blocks
Oddbods Eco Blocks is a mixed-material toy that lets kids create anything they imagine. Its kits are made of recycled plastic bottles and bamboo sticks. This durable, 100% recyclable, and plastic-free product teaches our children and us the importance of making responsible consumer and producer decisions for a lifetime.
Several different types of kits are available, including the Animal Friends Series, Cars & Trucks, Dinosaurs, Robots, Spaceship, Train, and Vehicles.
Metal construction sets
These sets are similar to the mixed-material sets, except instead of using wood and plastic, they use only metal.
1. Erector by Meccano
Invented in England in 1898, Meccano is one of the oldest construction toy systems in the world. In 1913, a similar construction set called Erector was introduced in the United States. In 2000, the two innovative brands merged under Meccano, becoming one global brand.
Meccano’s original values and objective remain the same after more than a century: to inspire builders worldwide to bring their inventions to life. Meccano offers everything from basic structures to high-tech robotics programming.
Erector Sets are primarily made up of individual pieces like nuts, bolts, and holes-filled metal girders varying in size. The other materials are pulleys, gears, wheels, and electric motors.
MALUVRIAN Erector Sets
Construction sets from cardboard or paper
Recycled cardboard has slowly been making its way into different industries and finally into toy products. The obvious appeal of sustainable materials, along with some truly original concepts, make for a great gift for young engineers. And then there is paper. Two millennials old, this material has proven itself time and again. It’s not just an alternative to traditional plastic toys; it also gives children the chance to learn about recycling.
Paper and cardboard toys are perfect for imaginative play, and they’re also environmentally friendly because they’re biodegradable.
1.Melissa & Doug Cardboard Blocks
Children today are less likely to use their imaginations due to the overstimulation and over-scheduling they face. This is a worrying trend. And it’s why Melissa and Doug, the dynamic parent duo with six children, are committed to making products that inspire creative thinking and encourage kids to see new possibilities.
Made of strong recyclable materials, the company’s cardboard blocks have excellent reviews. Large pieces allow for the creation of some truly unique structures. They are perfect for kids and toddlers.
2.Paper Nano building kits
Paper nano is an exquisitely designed, small-scale, highly-detailed papercraft that brings architecture and history together. Precision laser cutting technology, developed in Japan, the epicenter of paper arts and design, produces intricately detailed pieces. Children of 12 years and older can create world-renowned landmarks and artifacts with eye-catching detail.
3.HearthSong Fantasy Forts Indoor Building Kit
Imaginations are no limit when it comes to building and rebuilding a fort with Fantasy Forts. Kids can create their own fantasy fort, castle, village, city, or even a spaceship! Each kit contains all the necessary parts to build one’s dream structure.
The best part? No need for any glue, tape, scissors, or hammer.