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Updated January 2023
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom line
Pros
Cons
Best of the Best
TINKERTOY Super Building Set, 200 Pieces
TINKERTOY
Super Building Set, 200 Pieces
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Bottom Line

Huge TINKERTOY set with 200 pieces that allows for plenty of creativity and free play.

Pros

Young children will love all of the different pieces and colors in this set, which includes flags, rods, end caps, and spools. Instructional ideas for 30 models, but children also can use their own creativity. Excellent set for experienced builders who want more pieces.

Cons

Higher price than some other TINKERTOY sets, although it has lots of pieces.

Best Bang for the Buck
TINKERTOY Essentials Value Set, 100 Pieces
TINKERTOY
Essentials Value Set, 100 Pieces
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Bottom Line

Great introductory set with a good variety of pieces and instructions for a dozen models.

Pros

Made for ages 3 and up, meaning even young children can have success with this toy. With 100 pieces, it's just the right size for a starter set because of the variety of pieces in the box, including spools, rods, and flags. Offers simple instructions to help you create 13 models.

Cons

May not offer enough pieces for those who are experienced with the toy.

TINKERTOY Classic Building Tin
TINKERTOY
Classic Building Tin
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Bottom Line

Great for individuals who crave the throwback feel of when Tinkertoy sets came in tube-shaped containers.

Pros

This set has 100 parts molded in bright colors to spark the imagination. Unlike the classic toys, these pieces snap together so your creations won’t fall apart easily. Included are 15 building ideas to get you started.

Cons

While the packaging is nostalgic, buyers should note that the toys inside have been upgraded to plastic.

TINKERTOY On The Go Building Set
TINKERTOY
On The Go Building Set
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Bottom Line

If you want a smaller set that is not so overwhelming, this offering includes 65 pieces.

Pros

While this set comes with building ideas for a train, race car, helicopter, and more, it also includes a fun winking eye that can be added to any model or used to build animals and people. The pieces are responsibly made at a zero-waste manufacturing facility.

Cons

Since this is a smaller set, it is best for satisfying the needs of only one child.

TINKERTOY Little Constructor's Building Set
TINKERTOY
Little Constructor's Building Set
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Bottom Line

Not too large and not too small, this set can be used to create a variety of buildings and common household items.

Pros

The ideas included in this colorful kit will help your child build a swing set, a table with chairs, and even an outdoor grill. But the fun doesn’t stop there; the set has enough pieces to build larger items, such as a spinning windmill.

Cons

A few users have noted that the toys stay together too well. As such, kids may require adult assistance when disassembling.

HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best Tinkertoy sets

When given the opportunity, people, especially children, tend to prefer figuring things out rather than being told. A child’s world is all about exploring, and the best toys are ones that engage the imagination and encourage creativity. That’s why something simple, like a cardboard box, seems to hold greater fascination than the toy inside. Tinkertoy sets take advantage of this. 

The key elements of a Tinkertoy set are simple sticks and spools that fit together to create basic shapes like squares, rectangles, and triangles. These shapes can then be assembled in a three-dimensional mosaic of infinite possibilities, structures, and creatures that are only limited by a child’s imagination. The best Tinkertoy sets have enough variety and enough pieces to allow children to express themselves without limitations.

To learn more about Tinkertoy sets and how important they can be in a child’s development, keep reading. If you just stopped by to find the best set, consider the handpicked options we’ve spotlighted on this page. 

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The size of the sticks in Tinkertoy sets isn’t random. It’s based on the geometric theorem of the progressive ratio of right triangles. This basic concept allows builders to create a wide variety of shapes with just wooden sticks and spools that have holes drilled in 45° increments.

Key considerations

STEM vs. STEAM

STEM is an educational model that’s based on a broad understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It was instituted to place an emphasis on the needs of a 21st-century workforce. 

STEAM includes an A that stands for art. The role of art in the STEAM curriculum is essential because it represents a focus on creativity, reviewing, and revising. 

Tinkertoy sets are the embodiment of a STEAM curriculum because they allow children to create, review, and revise their creations using elements such as engineering and mathematics. This early exposure can help give them the ability and confidence needed to pursue careers in science and/or technology.

Exploration

Children often learn best by exploring and experiencing the world around them. No matter how many times you warn them “don’t touch,” some kids won’t get it until they burn their finger on a hot surface. It’s just as important for a child to explore the world inside their head. Tinkertoy sets can teach children how to explore their own imagination to find the inspiration to create something tangible.

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Did You Know?
While there are different versions of the origin of Tinkertoy sets, the account written by the grandson of one of the inventors states that Charles H. Pajeau and Robert Pettit came up with the idea riding an Illinois commuter train in the early 1900s.
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Features

Age range

If you have younger children, the most important feature to pay attention to is the age range of the product. The smaller pieces in a Tinkertoy set can pose a choking hazard for very young children.

Quantity

Some Tinkertoy sets include 65 pieces while others have 200 pieces or more. Considering the fact that it takes 20 pieces to make a simple cube, it's best to look for a set that has a large number of pieces. Alternatively, you can purchase multiple sets.

Variety

Pieces: Over the years, Tinkertoy sets have grown beyond the basic sticks and spools. Today, you can get sets that include wheels, hinged pieces, fan blades, caps, and more. The greater the variety of pieces in your kit, the more creative your child can get.

Some Tinkertoy sets include special pieces too. These range from eyes to flexible shafts and propellers. If your child would get a kick out of putting eyes on a car, look for a kit that includes a few of these special pieces.

Projects: If your child craves inspiration or likes to follow instructions, you’ll want to purchase a set that comes with a booklet that includes several projects. Alternatively, doing a quick online search for Tinkertoy ideas will result in a wide variety of images that can also be used as inspiration for projects.

Authenticity

Hasbro is the official manufacturer of Tinkertoy sets. If you want the original experience, stick with sets that are manufactured by Hasbro. However, a number of other toy manufacturers have similar offerings if you’d like to try something a little different.

Initially, the cylindrical packaging of these sets was designed to reduce shipping costs. Some of the early packaging not only had an address label but also a place to affix postage. 

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Tinkertoy set prices

Inexpensive

You likely won’t find many (or any) current Tinkertoy sets for less than $25. This is the cost of many used or imitation versions of this popular toy. Some sets may be incomplete or damaged, so be very careful about purchasing Tinkertoy sets based on price alone.

Mid-range

Most of the new Tinkertoy sets fall in the $25 to $40 price range. These offerings include the official version from Hasbro as well as similar offerings from other toy manufacturers. Unless you’re a collector or you’re looking for used Tinkertoy sets, this is the price you can expect to pay.

Expensive

Believe it or not, many of the Tinkertoy sets you find in the highest price range are the same sets you find in the lowest price range. These sets are often old and/or used. Because of the nostalgia attached to Tinkertoy sets, you can find a lot of overpriced products in this category. Unless you’re a collector who knows what you’re looking for and the usual price for collectibles, it’s best to avoid sets that cost more than $40.

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Did You Know?
Before wooden Tinkertoy sets were invented, there were Meccano sets. This engineering toy created in 1898 by Frank Hornby in Liverpool, England, consisted of reusable metal strips, plates, motors, and other pieces held together by nuts and bolts.
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BestReviews

Benefits of Tinkertoy sets

Toys are fun. They keep kids engaged and out of trouble. However, certain toys, such as Tinkertoy sets, have benefits that exceed mere diversion and can actually help your kids grow and develop in a number of important ways. Here are some of the benefits of playing with Tinkertoys.

  • Tinkertoy sets encourage children to explore their creativity. Kids can easily structures, creatures, machines, vehicles, and so much more.
  • Tinkertoy sets can help children learn how to follow directions. Problem-solving skills, as well as critical and divergent thinking skills, can be improved by turning ideas into tangible creations.
  • Tinkertoy sets can help a child develop better spatial reasoning. Building encourages them to think in ways that can help with certain standardized tests too. 
  • Tinkertoy sets can help children learn basic concepts. Adults can use Tinkertoy sets to teach basic concepts of math, geometry, and engineering. And asking children to explain or describe their creations can help them improve language and communication skills.
  • Tinkertoy sets can help children develop fine motor skills and better hand-eye coordination. When playing with others, they can also be a means to teach children better social skills and foster the notion of teamwork.
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One of the fundamental concepts fueling the idea for Tinkertoy sets was that a toy didn’t need to be expensive to engage a child’s imagination. That could be accomplished with the simplest of items. 

FAQ

Q. At what age can my child start playing with a Tinkertoy set?

A. Tinkertoy sets contain numerous small and colorful parts that pose a choking hazard to children ages three and under. Some classic sets have wooden parts, which can be hazardous as well. Always check the manufacturer’s age recommendations on the package before purchasing. If you think your child would find these pieces tempting to eat, waiting to purchase a Tinkertoy set until they’re a few years older would be the best strategy.

Q. Are Tinkertoy sets still being made?

A. Yes! While Tinkertoy sets have experienced ups and downs over their lifespan, and ownership has changed six times over the last century, these classic toys are still being made. The current owner is Hasbro, one of the largest toy manufacturers in the country, headquartered in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. It also owns the trademarks and products of Kenner, Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley, Magic: The Gathering, and more. Hasbro also has business relationships with entertainment companies such as Disney and Dreamworks.

Q. What are Tinkertoy sets made of?

A. Over the years, there have been many marketing strategies used to keep these toys relevant. Some of these innovations included manufacturing sets of different sizes or adding motors. However, up until 1992, with the exception of a few parts, Tinkertoy sets were made primarily of wood. In 1992, the building toy was reimagined and plastic parts replaced the wooden parts. Currently, Hasbro only manufactures plastic versions of the toy, but it’s possible to find classic wooden sets that were once made by the company, as well as generic versions that are still made using wood.

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