What Toys for Little Kids Deliver Endless Entertainment?

Suggestions from Slate moms and dads on toys that encourage creativity and imaginative play in preschoolers.

Marble run, Tegu, Magna-Tiles, and cardboard box.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos courtesy of retailers.

Parents have questions! And other parents have answers. Readers in our Slate Parenting Facebook group offer practical advice every day. Today: suggestions for a mom looking for toys that preschoolers don’t get sick of. For more great parenting conversations, join the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

“Best kids’ toys that give endless entertainment? Our kids are 2 and 4. We have a large collection of Magna-Tiles and those are definitely a hit at my house. Assume cost is not a factor. I’d rather spend money on something durable that they’ll play with for years than cheap stuff.” —Maria

Magna Tiles

Magna-Tiles Clear Colors 100-Piece Set

$119.99, Amazon


Michael: Marble run has been a hit for years.

Michelle: Second this. My kids love their marble maze.

Allison: My kids have these wooden marble runs and they are awesome.

Marble Run

Hape Quadrilla Cliffhanger Marble Run

$69.99, Amazon 


Meredith: A train set (like Brio, but let’s be honest—off brand).

Zoe: Ikea has great train sets.

Ikea Lillabo train set.

Lillabo 45-Piece Train Set

$29.99, Ikea

Lillabo 50-Piece Track Set

$17.99, Ikea


Mary-Jo: Old kinda formal clothing you no longer use for playing dress-up.


Amanda: Cardboard brick blocks—get a couple sets, kids use them for years! 

Constructive Playthings brick colored card board boxes.
Constructive Playthings

Constructive Playthings 12-Piece Block Set

$35.43, Amazon


Elizabeth: Cardboard boxes—don’t underestimate the power of a box. They aren’t durable, but they have consistently been the thing that my kids will spend a long time playing with together. They love to color them with markers, cut out armholes, etc.

Jennifer: The BEST is if you can get your hands on a big refrigerator or furniture box! Endless possibilities!


Chris: The plain green bin of Duplos will last from ages 2–5, and a floor piece (not sure what to call it) is a great investment too.

Elizabeth: The term you’re looking for is “base plate” and DUPLO should work OK with regular LEGO base plates.

Duplo Play Set, LEGO Baseplate.

LEGO Duplo Creative Play Set

$23.99, Amazon

LEGO Classic Blue Baseplate

$7.97, Amazon


Adriana: If price is really not an issue, the Tegu magnetic blocks are amazing. My mom got a set for my son right before his second birthday (he’s about to turn 3 next week) and they have held up great. And he is really rough with his toys. I am still amazed, every time we pull the blocks out, what new things we’re all making. 

My only complaint is how easily the rubber on the wheels comes off—I will probably eventually Krazy Glue them on there so I’m not constantly searching under the couch for missing wheels/rubber tires.

Tegu Blocks

Tegu Magnetic Wooden Blocks 130-Piece Classroom Kit

$300, Tegu


Eva: OK, you said to assume cost was not a factor. Our kids actually won these big outdoor blocks in a museum contest three years ago and they’ve rocked their world ever since. Also witnessed teens and adults playing with them. Still, this may seem exorbitant and definitely requires space. We don’t have much space but we do live with mild weather all year so they can be used a lot.


Meredith: Any idea how much these cost? The website just says contact us. Hmm …

Imagination Playground blocks in Chicago.
Imagination Playground big blue blocks in use during Open Streets at Wicker Park on Sept. 16, 2012, in Chicago. Jaysin Trevino/Flickr CC

Imagination Playground Big Blue Blocks Set, 105 Pieces

“Contact Us,” Imagination Playground

Julia: We painted a bunch of treated two-by-fours cut to different lengths. Endless outdoor fun.

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