Magnetic tiles are the best. They encourage open-ended play, are colourful, appeals to children of all ages, and best of all, they’re super easy to build with. But magnetic tiles can be used for so much more than building impressive structures. Below I’ve gathered 15+ fun and alternative activities with magnetic tiles.
Big magnetic tiles like Magna-Tiles, Playmags, Magformers, Picasso Tiles and Connetix Tiles are one of my kids’ all time favourite toys. My youngest has been playing with them ever since he could sit up – and both kids are still playing with them at least a few times a week – and often for hours on end. There’s just something about this amazing open-ended toy that keeps kids coming back for more!
Building towers and other grand structures are one of my children’s go-to’s whenever they pull out the magnetic tiles. But the longer we’ve had them, the more uses we found for them. I’ve gathered 15+ play ideas and activities below, if you want a bit of inspiration!
How many magnetic tiles do my children need?
We own two big sets – one 100 piece set from Magna-Tiles and one 150 piece set from Playmags which included a few click-ins. The two brands are almost 100 pct. compatible except the colours are different and the long triangles are slightly different in length, but it’s not something we notice in everyday play. We also bought two extra vehicles and a big stabilizer base for my son’s birthday.
You don’t need as many magnetic tiles as we’ve got, but I do recommend at least one big set – especially if you have more than one kid playing at a time or if you want to get the full play experience out of some of the ideas below. For us 100 was a bit too few, but it all depends on your child. I do recommend getting most of the basic tiles like squares and triangles as they’re the base of most of the play ideas. That being said the extra large base and a few vehicles did add a lot to the fun, but the fence like tiles and tiles with holes in are not necessary, though a fun addition.
15+ play ideas and activities with magnetic tiles
Below I’ve gathered 15+ ways to play with magnetic tiles. My kids will usually just start playing on their own, but sometimes a new play prompt can keep the playing going a little while longer – or to get adults and older children engaged in playing with their younger siblings.
Place a long row of squares on the floor, and stand another square magnetic tile on top of the tiles on the floor, right where two tiles meet. Keep doing this until you’ve run out of tiles on the floor. Once in place knock the first tile over and let the rest fall – like dominoes. It’s such a satisfying feeling to watch them fall one after another, so it’s no wonder my younglings want to keep doing this over and over whenever we set this up.
Make it more challenging by trying to make more rows fall at the same time or make twist and turns.
2. Make a maze.
Make a maze using the magnetic tiles and then blow a ping pong through the maze without knocking it down. Take turns making mazes and/or time who’s quickest at getting the ball from start till end.
3. Math and spelling.
Use a dry eraser marker to make math or spelling challenges. Write numbers on some tiles and have them match them with the correct number of dots on another (or the right amount of tiles), practice simple addition and substraction, write letters on the magnetic tiles and have your kids spell words with them and so forth. A little heads up: make sure that you use a dry eraser and not a permanent marker – I was way too close to making that mistake.
You can also write numbers of a piece of paper and have your kids match them up, if you don’t feel like writing on your tiles. It’s a good way to visualize the numbers when substrating and adding.
4. Repeat the sequence.
My almost 5-year old loves figuring out the right sequence and make little assignments for me as well. Depending on your childs age make a pattern that repeats itself, but leave out a few magnets – either at the end or in the middle – and let them figure out what comes next or what is missing in the sequence.
5. Make numbers and letters.
You could either challenge your child by asking them to write letters and numbers using the magnetic tiles or purchase the letter templates from Adventure In A Box. They also sell number templates.
6. Sensory play.
Make a sensory bin with rice, kinetic sand, chickpeas or whatever you have lying around. My kids love to hide rice in small cubes and make pretend food and presents for us parents.
7. Puzzle match.
Make tangrams by drawing shapes around a pattern of magnetic tiles and have your kid figure out the right pattern by placing the tiles the right way. Make it simple for younger kids by doing one or two tiles – and for older kids make animals, flowers, or random patterns. Either draw each individual magnet or trace around the entire pattern.
Make the puzzle easier by handing your child all of the pieces needed to finish the puzzle – or more difficult by having them find them among all the other magnets or hidden around the house.
8. Colured lights.
One of the best thing about the magnetic tiles are their coloured shadows when the lights shines through them. It adds another dimension to the play if you ask me. Either simply build in a room with lots of sunlight as we often do – or if your fortunate enough to own one, use a light table or maybe just contact paper on a window.
You can also add some small battery run tea lights or glowsticks when playing when it’s dark outside. Simply place them inside small magnetic tile boxes or inside bigger structure, turn of the lights and watch the magic. This activity of course required the magnetic tiles to be see through, which most are.
9. Mix colours.
This is a small little activity, but nonetheless fun for younger kids. Take two tiles and place them on top of each oher and look through them to see what colour the two tiles make. Use primary colours – red, blue and yellow – but also see what happens with purple and red etc. Like the activity before this activity requires see-through magnetic tiles.
10. Add small toy cars.
Build roads, ramps, tracks, bridges and garages for small toy cars. My youngest absolute loves this!
11. Decorate any metal surface you can find.
Anything from a metal cookie sheet and the table legs to the fridge and the garage door. Getting to use a new surface to play on is always a hit with my kids and lets them play in new ways. They especially love using the metallic frame from our living room table to build a small walk-in fort.
12. Make a marble run down the fridge.
Use the magnets to form a track down the refrigerator and a ping pong ball as the marble. How long can you make marble run? What will make the ball go faster or slower? What can be used insteda of a ping pong ball.
A simple little game for younger kids. Your little ones can sort by colour or shape – they might just start doing this on their own, but you could also help them get started by showing them how to do it. Be mindfuld that colours vary from brand to brand, so if you buy sets from different brand they might not match in colour.
Develop the game by asking your children to find objects around the house in the same colour and/or shape as the magnetiles – or build small box in a single colour and have them sort pom poms, coloured pasta or similar in them.
14. Knock’em down.
This activity is very basic, but oh so rewarding. Get your children to build as high a tower as they possible can – and then have them knock it down again. Throw soft balls or bean bags at the tower, push an O’ball attached to a string at the ceiling towards the tower or simply kick it to watch it tumble to the ground. It feels to good for children to be allowed to destroy something and especially something big! A small disclaimer: We usually do this activity on the carpet or a mat and so far no magnets have broken, but of course, it’s a possibility, so do it at your own risk.
15. Imaginative play with peg dolls.
Add different toys like peg dolls, animals and small other small toys and build houses, zoos, schools or whatever your child desires. My kids all time favourites to add are their rainbow friends from Grimms. These little peg dolls fit perfectly in size and in colour with the magnets, so I can almost always count on my kids to fetch their rainbow friends, when one of them starts playing with the magnetic tiles. The combination of peg dolls and magnets is actually the reason why we haven’t invested in a doll house.
16. Learn about shapes.
This might be an obvious, but magnetictiles are awesome for naming shapes and having your kids build them – both flat on the floor and in 3D. You can make challenges like “Build a square out of triangles”, “make a hexagon”, “build a pyramid” or “make a circle”.
17. Open-ended: Planes, shooters or whatever your child is occupied with.
Magnetic tiles can become pretty much anything your child wants. And it doesn’t have to be confines to building on flat surfaces. My 2-year old loves making air planes by combining two magnets and then fly them around the house – and whenever he sees an obstacle – like his mum – the tiles will be transformed into a gun, that will blast the obstacle away. Such a simple idea that is possible, because the magnetic tiles are so easy to swap around.
Magnetic tiles are one of the toys that I wished I had growing up. They are so much fun and so versatile. I know these 15+ play ideas have kept my children happy and entertained – and I’m sure there are many more ideas out there! Please share if you or your kids have come up with some great ideas!