Great toys that encourage imaginative play while learning

Every so often I get the urge to throw out all the kids’ toys and leave them with nothing, just so that they can learn to appreciate what they have. To be completely honest, my kids are slightly overindulged and they do probably have more toys than they need. The truth is, half the time I buy toys that I think will be fun to play with rather than what they want, and I get upset when they don’t want to play with them.

I love encouraging STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) learning for my kids, so I thought I’d share with you two toys we have that the kids and I adore!

1. Magna-Tiles

We bought this from for R3 180 for a 100-piece set.

Magna-Tiles are 3D tiles with magnetised edges so you can connect them to build what your imagination wants. I can’t get enough of these Magna-Tiles, especially the transparent one as they let light through and make such wonderful creations. If you place the tiles against a window that lets light in, what you are building will be reflected in the floor. That effect is truly magnificent, like standing in a church and seeing the beauty of all the stained glass windows.

Girl sticking coloured tiles on window pane
Building Magna-Tiles against a windowpane to let the light in.

Another trick we have learnt with our Magna-Tile creations is to build on a magnetic surface like the back of a whiteboard, as it helps make the structure you are building more sturdy. For me, the smaller sets don’t have enough pieces to build interesting structures. We currently have two box sets of 74 pieces and that still doesn’t feel like enough! One of the downsides to this toy is that’s it pricey, so we asked the grandmothers to get the two boxes as a joint Christmas present.

According to Magna-Tiles, they have been designed to improve and develop the following learning skills through playtime:

  • Fine motor skills: This is done as children build and “click” their creations together.
  • Imaginative play: Learning is made fun as children engage in play.
  • Teamwork: As children play and collaborate.
  • Encourages free play and reduces screen time.
  • STEM Learning: Supports discovery of STEM subjects.

Next up is another of my most favourites…


“There is a lot of trial and error while building the creations and they’re great to teach my girls ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!’”

2. Hape Flexistix

These come in different sets but we bought our Eiffel Tower at Toy Kingdom for R259.90. Other sets include the Pallina for R499.90, the Truss Crane for R349.90 and the Geodesic Structure for R399.90.

Girl playing with colourful toy sticks
Enjoying the challenge of building with Hape Flexistix kits.

These stix kits are challenging and encourage my girls to think in new dimensions, which I love! There is a lot of trial and error while building the creations and they’re great to teach my girls “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!” We have done both following the given instructions and created one of my most favourite buildings – the Eiffel Tower – as well as building from patterns we have in our heads. Both are equally fun.

This toy just lends itself perfectly to out-of-the-box thinking. Again, this is one of those toys that I feel like the more sets you have, the more interesting structures you can create.

According to Hape, Flexistix kits are designed to encourage the following:

  • Building or construction play
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Imaginative thinking
  • The stimulation of children through every stage of development and help nurture and develop their natural abilities.
Girl building Eiffel Tower out of sticks
A successfully built Eiffel Tower.

I highly recommend these toys and believe they are worth every penny! The true magic of any toy comes to life when you play and engage with your kids, so I hope your family will enjoy these as much as ours does.

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