Brandon is a gamer, sports lover, tech fanatic, and father of five kids.
Toy blocks and construction toys may lead to increased spatial skills, math skills, as well as creative, and divergent problem-solving says Gwen Dewar from Parenting Science. But with the increasing cost of Legos, many parents are left wondering what alternatives are out there that can take the place of this popular but expensive children’s toy.
Avoid Cheap Off-Brands
As a Father of five kids, I’ve had the chance to use quite a few building block and construction sets. My experience with most off-brand lego-alternatives hasn’t been a good one. Blocks that don’t fit correctly or stay in place simply aren’t worth using. The key is to find an alternative that either works with legos or is completely separate from them.
Not LEGO - But they Work Well Together
If you’re looking for something exactly like LEGO, you probably won’t find it. If that’s your goal, and you plan to be a hobbyist, buy LEGO. There’s nothing better.
And, if you want to start with LEGO, I recommend going with a basic building kit like this. You get more pieces for the money and don't have to worry about losing a few pieces.
Do these alternative bricks Still Work With LEGO Bricks?
Not Really. There are articles out there that say that some of these bricks work great with Lego parts. As a dad who's been there, I have to say that's just not true. I mean they fit, kind of, right? Which makes them useless if you're really trying to build a collection.
So Why Even Mention Alternatives?
My kids break, lose, chew, and generally DESTROY stuff. Ya, like EVERYTHING.
So, saving a bunch of money with a themed Kre-O set means they can go ahead and lose and break the pieces without worry.
In addition, several of the sets have their own identity. Brands like K'nex, Playstix, and Magna-Tiles use parts that allow you to build in unique ways.
My Dad and brother are both engineers. So, I can say with some experience that this is the type of set that appeals to kids that aspire to be future engineers and is great overall for promoting STEM learning.
The movement and cleverness of their sets are hard to beat.
Great Variety of sets:
K’Nex gives your kids some of the best versatility you can have in a building set. Simply put, my kids have built everything from trucks to skyscrapers and have barely touched the surface. Add a few more sets in and you make it just that much more flexible.
Beginner 40 K'nex Model
A Good Beginner Set:
The set I’m featuring below is one of my favorite beginner sets for K’Nex. It comes with 141 pieces and is reasonable for around $25. It’s cheaper per piece than similar lego sets and, in my opinion, is every bit as fun.
This particular set gives you 40 different models you can build from the 141 parts it comes with.
Overall, it’s definitely one to consider in place of or along with legos. Expanding your set allows you to build a lot of motorized moving sets as well. The only problem with some of those sets is that kids tend to want to keep them together.
Kid K'nex compatibility: I'll go over one of my favorite Kid K'nex sets below. However, keep in mind that the standard K'nex sets are not compatible with the kid version.
KRE-O – Good Locking and Building Sets
I like the KRE-O brand for several reasons. Yes, there are more expensive alternatives, but the KRE-O set gives that perfect mix of inexpensive blocks with good Toy Lines. So, if your kids are prone to losing pieces, then, at least, you’re losing a piece from a $20 set rather than a $60 one.
They DO work with Legos. That being said in our house, we've got many of these sets and typically separate them from the Lego ones as they work better together than with the actual Lego bricks.
Another great reason to go with Kre-O is their fun line of sets with transformers probably being their most popular.
Kre-O Toy Lines
- Transformers – This line follows the successful and recent movies that were released. My favorite option right now is the Grimlock Battle Changer set. It comes with 82 pieces and is a fully functioning transformer once built!
- G.I. Joe – Exclusive to Toys “R” Us, the G.I. Joe line is popular and locks well with Kre-O and lego pieces alike.
- Star Trek – No, it’s not Star Wars, but some of us like it just as much anyway. In addition, you get a space set without the Star Wars price that comes with legos.
- Dungeons & Dragons – Based off of the insanely popular RPG. Whether they like the game or not, these pieces are a lot of fun.
- Cityville Invasion - This is KRE-O's own set and is perfect for younger kids just looking to build.
Fun Little Toys Bulk Plastic Bricks
Want to get a lot of LEGO-type building bricks for cheap? Fun Little Toys has an 1100 piece set for just $25!
No, they're not as good of quality as LEGO and that's not what you're really buying here.
I'd recommend a set like this for someone who just wants a very basic building block collection for their kids who maybe use it just once in a while.
The parts do fit with Lego; however, I find they get stuck or are sometimes too loose.
Overall, get this for the kid that just wants a bunch of bricks to tinker around with. Don't get this for the kid who already has a substantial LEGO collection.
IQ Builder STEM Construction Set for Boys and Girls Ages 3 to 10
This set from IQ builder is more of a stand-alone option but we really like it so I thought I'd include it here.
Always Room for More
It comes with 164 pieces made of ABS plastic and allows your child to build a variety of shapes and designs. Sometimes this is simply not enough pieces for everything they want to build. So, since the set is only $25 you may want to consider adding a second.
Being Creative Vs Directions
As a personal preference, I prefer that my children learn to build LEGO and other building sets in this way. Through creativity rather than just a single one and done set.
Overall, this set is one of the best values on the market today for not only the number of pieces you get but the quality as well.
More likely to find on AliExpress rather than on Amazon, CaDA bricks is a fantastic alternative to the Lego Brand.
I recently put together their C61019 set with my son, which retails from between $40 and $80 and has 1,234 pieces. It comes with an optional remote control, which I did not receive.
Cada Exclusive Designs:
This is just one of many options in their Car Technic line. CaDA also has a gun, military, engineering and other lines of products that are impressive in design and construction.
The instructions were overall, better than expected.
One small complaint I have is that the bags could have been more easily labeled along with the instructions to make it easier to find the pieces you need for each step.
How's the Fit?
Having put together many Lego-like sets before, I can say that the "fit" of CaDA bricks is the most Lego-like that I've tried.
In fact, it's surprising just how much better they are than other alternatives I've tried. And when you look at how many of their own sets they've made, they are certainly something that I'd recommend to any Lego lover that likes the looks of their designs.
Overall, I'd recommend one of these sets to just about anyone. They aren't exactly cheap but compared to Lego, and considering the quality, I found them to be well worth the cost.
While I certainly wouldn't call Magformers cheap, I think they are a great alternative to LEGO and allow you to build in a different way.
I was first introduced to Magformer parts when my kids went to visit their Grandmother’s house a few summers back. While they live near to the beach we couldn’t get them away from these toys. The magnets give them a lot of possibilities for building and they’re just a lot of fun.
As they have magnets don’t expect these pieces to be cheaper than LEGO. In fact, these pieces are quite expensive at around a dollar apiece. That being said, if you wait for a sale you should be able to find them for less than that.
I recommend you go with the Challenger set to start out. It has 112 pieces and comes on sale for around $80 on Amazon at its cheapest.
These certainly don't replace a LEGO-type set but they are certainly more convenient to take with you on a road trip. I like the size of the pieces and it's even nice that they stick together so easily.
Mega Bloks – Perfect for Toddlers
If you’re looking for the bigger type of lego blocks, I recommend the Mega Bloks brand. Both their big and small pieces are of good quality and have no issue locking together.
Cheaper Than Lego Blocks
What’s more is that Pieces for Mega Bloks are considerably cheaper than Lego’s Duplo set. The set featured below has 80-pieces and costs around $18 on Amazon while a similar 70-piece set from Lego Duplo costs around $25.
Whatever lego alternative you end up going with I recommend you stick with it. Some of the rods and other pieces simply fit better with those sets. If you’re simply building on to your existing lego collection, you might want to consider more basic sets.
Did you know?
The Mega Bloks brand is so much like its lego-alternative that it was sued back in 2005 by the Lego Group.
Roominate – A Construction Set for Girls
Like many people, I first saw Roominate on Shark Tank. The premise of it makes total sense. A building block and construction set for girls.
Improve Her Problem-Solving Skills
Girls love to play with building blocks just as much as boys do and my oldest daughter is proof of that. Despite that, most of today’s building sets are geared towards boys. This leaves some girls disinterested in the same sets that can give them a headstart in their creative and problem-solving skills.
It’s Roominate’s theory that some of this bias in building sets has lead to boys being 6 times more interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. They’re trying to close that gap with a product that appeals to girls.
With lights, motors, and modular pieces that allow girls to build and design just about anything they want to, Roominate is a great option for girls that love to build.
A Good Lego Alternative for Little Kids = Kid K'NEX
K'NEX can be kind of complicated for young kids, so, it has a few sets for younger kids. These sets are listed under Budding Builders and are great for kids ages 3 to 7. Any older than that, and I'd recommend the original sets with smaller pieces.
Getting kids interested in using their hands to build is the goal here and a good set to start with would be the 116 piece Oodles of Pals sets.
The instructions give you over 60 designs they can build with.
As I mentioned above, Kid K'nex are not compatible with the standard K'nex. So if you're wanting more than one set they'll need to be all of one or the other to function properly.
Overall, it's a great little set for beginning builders!
Why Are Legos So Expensive?
A study was released 6 years ago that showed the average cost of a Lego brick at 10.4 cents. A question you might be asking yourself is why legos are so expensive. Lego claims this is a result of the quality and safety of their bricks. I’d say that this is somewhat true as in their category, their quality is unmatched. They build a product to pass from one generation to another and do so with expensive plastics and molds.
In the case of licensed product lines like Star Wars, legos are more expensive because the established properties get a cut of what’s sold. Still, whenever there’s a way for companies to make money they do it. Lego Group is certainly no exception. How much does Lego make off of each 10.4 cents brick? As a family-owned business, they aren’t required to disclose that information so unfortunately, we may never know. Still, it’s likely the amount is a healthy margin over what it takes to build.
Honorable Mention – Knuckle Strutz
Not As Well Known But Good
Another construction set we’ve started using in my family is Knuckle Strutz. These aren’t as readily available or as well-known as the other lego alternatives mentioned in this post, but my kids like them enough that I thought I’d put them in here.
The primary reason I like it so much is that the pieces lock incredibly well. In addition, many of the sets come with as many as ten designs. It’s the quality along with versatility that truly makes these sets shine. While some of these have been discontinued over the years there are still several that are available on their website as well as at online retailers.
Overall it’s a set that has decent quality, great locking power, and a lot of versatility. My oldest son made about 20 different vehicles out of just one of the bigger sets. For this reason, we’re adding several more of these to our collection during the holidays.
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on August 10, 2020:
These are lego alternatives. Not legos.
wrwrwr on July 25, 2020:
half were not even compatible with legos
Yogi on July 22, 2020:
How to buy CaDa blocks in Pune, India
Patt on February 13, 2020:
Enjoyed your comments. My 5 yrs oldl loves Lego but it costing me a fortune. Looking for something more cheaper.
DOUBLEEAGLE INDUSTRY (CHINA) LIMITED Cada bricks on December 15, 2019:
Would you be interested in reviewing or writing an article on Cada bricks?
I would be more than happy to provide you all necessary information.
dmadxx on August 30, 2018:
Scott on August 20, 2018: