Magnetic tiles and magnetic building blocks are one of my favorite toys out there. They are typically translucent magnetic tiles that you can use to build 3D structures, although there are several variations. We own Magna-Tiles, Magformers, Picasso Tiles, Playmags, and Tegu blocks. I'm here to give you the rundown on all of them and why it's worth spending the money on these.
We LOVE Magna-Tiles in this house!
These are the top of the line, the leader of the magnetic building tiles, and also the most expensive. What makes them special? The magnets are very strong. The tiles have flat sides so they can stand up on their own. Magna-Tiles are the easiest to use if you want to build big, solid, interesting creations. They have metal rivets in the corners to hold the magnets in, and after a full year of daily abuse not one has broken.
This is our favorite brand, and we now own several sets. See them in action below:
Magna-Tiles Clear Colors 100 Piece Set (Amazon)
What to watch: Priciest of all (but worth it I'm telling you!), the basic sets only have basic shapes (no chassis or windows, etc)
We love these too. Super Magformers are not compatible with other magnetic building tiles. You can sort of use them with other types, but the creations usually topple over quickly.
Here are Magna-Tiles and Super Magformers side by side:
Super Magformers have cutouts, so they are easier to hold for smaller children. They are larger than Magna-Tiles and regular Magformers. With just the one 30-piece set we can build giant rocket ships and towers. These tiles do not stand up on their own as the sides are rounded. The magnets inside the tiles are cylindrical and spin around. That is an important difference from Magna-Tiles. When you’re cleaning up Super Magformers you have to stack the tiles one by one. If you try to put two stacks together, you can’t. You will have to take apart one stack first.
Super Magformers 30 Piece Set (Amazon)
What to watch: Cleanup is time consuming. The tiles do not stand up on their own. These are not compatible with most other brands. These take up a lot of storage space.
Magformers are a great starting set for a young child. They are smaller than both Magna-tiles and Super Magformers. They are easy to hold for little ones because of the cutout shape. A Magformer start set easily fits in my diaper bag for use at a restaurant or during a long car ride. You can find them in many brick and mortar retail stores such as Toys R Us and Target.
Magformers 62 Piece Set (Amazon)
What to watch: Clean up is time consuming. These are not compatible with most other brands.
The magnets in Playmags tiles are not as strong as Magna-Tiles, but they are strong enough. This is a great option if you have your heart set on Magna-Tiles but can't afford the price tag. The set comes with a chassis, a rectangle that has wheels on it so you can build vehicles. It also comes with window pieces. Since the magnets aren't as strong, structures collapse more easily than those made with Magna-Tiles. I've also had several tiles break after only a few months of use. Overall I give this set two thumbs up for the variety of pieces (the kids just LOVE the "car" and windows) and for the price point.
Playmags 100 Piece Super Set (Amazon)
What to watch: The magnets are not as strong. The tiles are not as durable.
Some people love Picasso Tiles. Unfortunately I have not had a good experience. They don't seem to be on the market anymore, but I'm mentioning them in case they come back. They are cheaper than Magna-Tiles by far, but to me it shows tremendously in the quality. We have one set of Picasso Tiles and several of the tiles have already broken. The magnets are also not as strong. Structures we build using them crash easily.
PicassoTiles 60 Piece Set (Amazon)
What to watch: Honestly, just don't buy these.
Tegu wooden magnetic blocks are only vaguely related to magnetic tiles, but they are worth mentioning because they are so great. Tegu blocks are out of control expensive, but we all have fun even with the tiny 8 piece set. What's great about these blocks is that they are timeless. A baby loves them as much as an adult. The creativity they inspire is endless. Best of all, after a year of use our Tegu blocks look brand new. They are smooth to the touch and make a nice sound when the magnets find one another. The blocks are stained wood, so I imagine they will look brand new for years to come.
42 Piece Tegu Magnetic Wooden Block Set (Amazon)
What to watch: These are not compatible with any of the magnetic tiles.
So there you have it: Magna-Tiles vs. Magformers vs. Super Magformers vs. Playmags vs. Picasso Tiles vs. Tegu blocks.
Buy some magnetic building tiles and let your creative juices run free. From rocket ships to fish to hotels, your building options are endless.
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This post was originally published October 9, 2015; it was updated and republished February 16, 2018
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.