Some time ago, when our daughter was almost 1 year old, we wrote an article about the importance of open ended toys for open ended play. Just as a quick reminder, open ended play is a creative, imaginative, child-directed play. It allows children to explore ideas and concepts by themselves, without any imposed boundaries or limits. Open ended play implies an emotionally safe environment, without any rules, where children can make mistakes and learn from them instead of fearing the consequences.
On this idea, we recently bought some sets of Magnetic Tiles (different brands) for our daughter, right after her 3rd birthday. And, as expected, she loves playing with them in so many different ways: she builds 2D or 3D shapes, she builds various structures for her Lego Duplo compatible minifigures and she pretends the structures are pieces of furniture or elements of an amusement park. She creates houses, farms, rockets, vehicles and garages, or she just pretends they are plates on her dolls’ table, a large mat for her stuffed toys, or pillows under her animal figurines’ heads. She enjoys sticking them on the fridge or on our apartment’s door. The playing possibilities are only limited by her imagination.
There are various brands of magnetic tiles to choose from, each of them having specific features when referring to quality, durability, creative possibilities or connection to other brands. Below are the best-known brands with some Pro and Con tips to help you choose your favorite easier:
Playmags Magnetic Tiles
Pros: Playmags are high quality, solid and resistant and come in a variety of shapes, from basic shapes like squares, rectangles or triangles to curved shapes, windows, fences, car bases etc. They are They are compatible with all other magnetic tile brands.
Cons: Their magnets are not very strong. They are more expensive than other magnetic tiles.
Magna Tiles Magnetic Tiles
Pros: Magna Tiles are high quality. Their magnets are strong and the plastic is solid. They hold well together. They come various shapes. There are sets with solid, opaque colors, too.
Cons: They are expensive.
Magformers Magnetic Tiles
Pros: Magformers are very high quality. Their magnets are strong. They have cutouts, so they can be easily grabbed and hold by small children. They come in standard and super shapes (larger shapes) in a variety of themed sets, ex. Magformers Smart Set, Magformers Magnets in Motion Set, Magformers Vehicle Wow Set or Magformers Pythagoras Set.
Cons: They are quite expensive. They are not compatible with most other brands.
Shapemags Magnetic Tiles
Pros: They are a bit cheaper than Playmags or Magna-Tiles and come in various colors and shapes. Some sets contain figures, car bases and arches. They are compatible with other magnetic tiles.
Cons: Their quality is not as good as that of Playmags or Magna-Tiles. The magnets are a bit smaller and they don’t hold the structures that well.
As a conclusion, no matter what brand you chose, magnetic tiles are a great acquisition for your child. They help develop your child building skills, fine motor skills and extensive learning through limitless playing scenarios. They also introduce your child to STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), spatial reasoning and architecture, and offers him endless opportunities to express himself, acquire knowledge and apply it at his own pace.
We highly recommend them.