One of the most common messages I get on my Instagram account is “What are the favourites/most-played with/must-have toys in your house?” Well today I’m casting the spotlight on our ‘Most Played With Toy’ and sitting WAY at the top of this leader-board are our Magnetic Tiles.
A Bit of Background
We’ve had the 100-piece Magna-Tiles for about one and a half years now and with the exception of about a month somewhere in the middle where my 2.5yo gravitated towards wooden blocks and duplo, she has honestly played with them nearly every single day from the time she was about 1.5yo. My 15mo on the other hand started playing with them since about 8mo. Seeing how much use my kids were getting out of them, I knew it wouldn’t take us long to outgrow the 100 pieces so for a birthday this year, we added the 150-piece Playmags to our collection of magnetic tiles and we haven’t looked back.
Why the switch to Playmags for a second set?
We really love our Magna-Tiles but I’ve heard and read so many positive reviews about Playmags that I was simply tempted to say the least, especially when the 150-piece Playmags set I had my eye on had a variety of pieces that the Magna-Tiles didn’t have – the cars, the windows, the gates, the 4-part windows, the rectangles and the really cool Clickins features.
Since both brands were compatible for use together, I decided that Playmags would be an amazing addition/ complement to what we had and would bring forth new ways of imaginative and construction play for both my 1yo and 2yo. And I was right.
The Open-Endedness of Magnetic Tiles
Magnetic tiles are incredibly open-ended and can be played with in multiple and varied ways. They are wonderful toys that can be described as 90% child and 10% toy as they leave plenty of room for a child’s input. By this definition, it can be played with by different age groups of children.
In the rest of this post, I share 10 different ways that my kids have used our magnetic tiles, both as babies and toddlers.
1. Sorting by Colour and Shape
From the simple sorting when we only had Magna-Tiles, to the epic sorting/ construction that Miss 2 attempted to do with our Earth Tiles (which are wooden magnetic tiles) as well as Playmags. Sorting was and continues to be a favourite way of using these tiles.
Sorting happens even during pack up time. My toddler sorts them into neat piles of different colours and shapes before we put them away and ensures she stacks the small square pieces evenly across the large square pieces so besides developing her independence and self-help skills, solidifying her knowledge of colours and shapes, she is also exploring heaps of math concepts in a totally hands-on way.
2. Exploring Magnetic Properties
This was exactly how my second-born began playing with these at 8mo. She would sit holding two pieces of square tiles, pulling them apart and pushing them back together over and over again. Such a wonderful resource for heuristic play, which is the idea of allowing babies and young children to explore and discover the properties of objects through free play.
Even as a slightly older toddler, this exploration of the magnetism is still happening when my 2yo attempts to test the limits of the magnet strength through various ways of building her constructions which leads me to my next point.
3. Construction Play
From building tall towers and structures, to constructing transport vehicles, farms and houses with windows and gates when we got our set of Playmags.
Magnetic tiles are honestly the favourite/most used construction material in our household at this point in time and I think it is because of how easy it is to construct and build with (considering I have two young toddlers). It comes together and comes apart easily unlike something like duplo which requires more precision and developed fine motor skills. Constructions are also more likely to remain intact as compared to wooden blocks for instance, where the slightest movement or a block that’s not put properly could easily send an entire construction to come crashing down.
Construction play with magnetic tiles also lends itself to so many opportunities for developing important life skills like learning resilience, perseverance and mental strength to face setbacks and I talk about it more in depth in this post.
4. Imaginative Play
As children get older and become more engaged in imaginative play, construction and imaginative play are really a match made in heaven as they could potentially build props, settings and landscapes for the stories that are in their head, or come up with stories based on the construction that they have built.
In this picture for instance, my 2yo had built a pretty impressive structure and then decided to use that as a background for creating a pipe cleaner campfire setting for her animal friends and wooden peg dolls, complete with a single wooden spool marshmallow roasting over the open fire. It just shows how creative children can be when given quality open-ended toys to play with. My toddler here was only a few days past her 2nd birthday and the amount of patience and concentration she exercised to create this 😍.
5. Loose Parts Play
Magnetic tiles aren’t always the main focus of a play scenario. Sometimes, my toddler is happily playing with other toys when she sees that she can use magnetic tiles as loose parts to add to and extend on her play. In this photo, a couple of triangle magnetic tiles have been used as “leading things” to lead people to the trees (arrow directions I presume?)
On another occasion, a couple of large square pieces became the walls and roof of a cafe, and two small squares came together to be the laptop for a person who wanted to work on the cafe’s rooftop 🙂
6. Exploring Design with Magnetic Tiles
Exploring symmetry, pattern-making and beauty in design
Miss 2 made rainbow houses out of the magnetic tiles, added roads, matched our DIY wooden peg dolls to their respective coloured houses and finished it off by giving each house a flower crochet roof. Such simple play, but there’s engineering, design, colour sorting and matching, pattern-making, fine-motor skills, story-telling, creativity, imagination, focus, concentration and problem-solving involved.
7. Lightbox Play – Experimenting with Light and Colour-Mixing
Magnetic tiles on a light box, light table or a light panel is ALWAYS such a beautiful and calming experience. The translucent nature of the tiles on a light source allows the light to pass through so beautifully and even without considering all the learning opportunities that comes with this, it is an amazing experience. On this occasion, I had two cranky kids during witching hour. None of the usual toys/ play setups out on our play shelf seemed to suffice so in a desperate attempt, I broke out the lightbox and out came our Playmags. There was Silence. Quiet Focus. Concentration. Engagement. Miss 2 made a castle for “Princess Panda” and “Princess Polar” 😆
This is Miss 1, captivated, quietly looking down in awe and amazement. For once, she didn’t attempt to destruct and the moment was pure gold.
8. Posting (Baby Activity)
This was a way of playing that I would not have thought of myself if I didn’t see it with my own eyes. At around 12 mo, my second-born became extremely interested in posting things. She would see a hole, opening or slot anywhere and attempt to stuff things into it. One day I saw her attempting to post objects into a stack of the Playmags window pieces. All that amazing engagement in play, focus, concentration and practicing of fine-motor skills that was 100% child-led. I couldn’t be more proud!
9. Book-Inspired Play/ Storytelling
Similar to Point 5, it is the idea of using magnetic tiles as loose parts but in this case, it is a result of engaging in some book-inspired play, using the different pieces to create props for retelling a familiar story. In this photo, Miss 2 realised we didn’t have any bed props for retelling ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’. After thinking for awhile, she ran off and came back with a heap of the Playmags to make her own!! I was extremely impressed to say the least.
10. On the Fridge
And finally, this way of playing was born out of #momlife. I needed to prep food in the kitchen and both kids were clingy and crying out for attention so I quickly grabbed our basket of Playmags, set it up next to the fridge and stuck a few pieces on to show them how to play. Miss 2 ended up making a house complete with a mailbox on the side and to extend their play further (and get a couple more minutes to do what I needed to do), I brought out our magnetic chips and the kids used them to decorate what they have created.
This way of playing also makes use of working on a vertical surface which has so many benefits – develops good hand-eye coordination, crosses the body’s mid-line, builds core strength, upper body strength and posture while working on developing both fine-motor and gross motor skills.
The possibilities of using magnetic tiles in play are truly endless as they are so wonderfully open-ended and limited only by the imagination. Use them as loose parts or create an entire play scene out of them; as construction play, imaginative play or even a combination of both; to explore math, science, engineering and design concepts, develop fine-motor skills, while developing important life skills like problem-solving, perseverance and resilience. Hands-down one of the BEST toy purchases we’ve made!
p.s. Want to make sure that the toys you are thinking of purchasing are as open-ended as our magnetic tiles? Here’s an “Open-Ended Toy Checklist” I’ve created just for you so you can be sure you are making informed toy purchases. It’s a FREE download you can get by clicking the button below.
** (CLOSED!) INTERNATIONAL INSTAGRAM GIVEAWAY **
Find all the details on the Instagram post here.
Barefoot Toys (a newly-opened online store specialising in bringing in quality toys for play adventures) has become the sole distributor for Playmags in Singapore. To celebrate their launch, from now til 31st Aug, they are offering a storewide 10% discount! Shipping is also free for orders above $60. Check them out!