Stack, Wreck, and Rebuild:
Exciting Books To Get Kids Building

by Lindsay Barrett

Photo credit: kate_sept2004, E+/Getty Images

Besides books, building toys are my top choice to give as gifts and to enjoy with my kids at home. Their appeal is wide-ranging. Babies studiously manipulate and mouth them, then steadfastly move them from one container to another. To toddlers, nothing is more hilarious than knocking down a teetering tower — over and over and over! Older kids love to create, whether with interlocking bricks, magnetic blocks, traditional wooden unit blocks, or materials salvaged from the recycling bin.

The benefits of construction play for children are numerous, from encouraging creativity and motor development to providing opportunities for flexing math and problem-solving skills. Building play can even influence a child’s career choice; Frank Lloyd Wright credits a set of wooden blocks, a gift from his mother, with inspiring his architectural designs. While simply sitting down on the floor together with a pile of blocks will usually get your little one interested in construction play, books about building can spark fresh ideas and interests. These books will encourage children to imagine, stack, wreck, and rebuild again and again:

  • Little Excavator

    by Anna Dewdney

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    If you enjoy the rhyming text and expressive illustrations in the Llama Llama series, you’ll love this book by the same author. Little Excavator works with a team of machinery to create a neighborhood park. This delightful story shows readers that even small people can make a big difference.
    (Ages 2 – 5)

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  • Bigger! Bigger!

    by Leslie Patricelli

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    Leslie Patricelli knows that girls love to wear construction hats and transform piles of blocks into imaginative masterpieces just as much as boys do. She’s also spot-on with her portrayal of a Godzilla-like baby sibling approaching one such masterpiece. The story ends sweetly with the older sister initiating her younger sibling into the fun of building together.
    (Ages 2 – 5)

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  • Construction

    by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock

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    Sally Sutton’s entire series of construction-themed rhyming romps is destined for classic read-aloud status, but this installment is particularly inspiring for young builders. From cutting planks to building a frame to adding a roof, windows, plumbing, and electrical wires, this step-by-step look at how a library is built models the sequential nature of construction and suggests new elements for children to include in their own building endeavors.
    (Ages 2 – 5)

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  • Built to Last

    by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat

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    In this heartwarming story, two friends spend their time building and creating their own imaginary worlds using just cardboard and their boundless imaginations. Whenever something falls apart, they don't get discouraged. Instead, they pick themselves up and try again. But when they finally build their greatest masterpiece, and it crumbles in a way they never expected, their friendship is put to the test.
    (Ages 3 – 7)

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  • Fort-Building Time

    by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Abigail Halpin

    Calling all fort builders! The changing seasons mean new fort-making materials — snow, mud, sand, the artful floral trellis. Young readers will love following along with this creative troupe of friends as they experiment with the countless ways a fort can be made. (Spoiler alert: there’s no wrong way to do it!)
    (Ages 3 – 7)

  • Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?

    by Brianna Caplan Sayres, illustrated by Christian Slade

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    You can’t go wrong with this modern classic about the bedtime routines of construction machinery, from diggers to dump trucks. This adorable book is a nighttime favorite for little builders everywhere.
    (Ages 3 – 7)

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  • A House in The Woods

    by Inga Moore

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    When small and simple structures prove inadequate to house them, two pigs, a bear, and a moose envision a house grand enough for them to all live together. With the help of an industrious beaver team, they turn their dream into reality. This story is perfect for encouraging children to design structures to accommodate all their favorite figurines or stuffed animals.
    (Ages 3 – 8)

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  • Dig, Scoop, Ka-book!

    by Joan Holub, illustrated by David Gordon

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    Read about the machinery and noises found at a construction site with this rhythmic book from beloved children’s author Joan Holub (Goddess Girls series). Simple vocabulary and plenty of onomatopoeia make this a fun leveled reader book for young children.
    (Ages 4 – 6)

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  • Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building

    by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by James E. Ransome

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    In 1930s New York City, a young boy watches mesmerized as a team of workers construct a towering building. When the last brick is in place, the boy travels to the tip-top of the skyscraper — named the Empire State Building — and we get to experience the wonder through his eyes.
    (Ages 4 – 8)

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  • This Is My Dollhouse

    by Giselle Potter

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    Building something extraordinary doesn’t always require large machinery. The little girl in this story builds a dollhouse from a cardboard box and other items. Her imagination allows her to create a unique dollhouse filled with personality and life. And if you peek inside the dust jacket, you’ll find step-by-step instructions for your child to build their own dollhouse.
    (Ages 4 – 8)

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  • A Girl Can Build Anything

    by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Keisha Morris

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    This beautifully illustrated picture book celebrates imagination, self-expression, and creativity. The sparse text reminds children they can build anything they imagine, from birdhouses to buildings. It’s a must-have for STEM-loving girls!
    (Ages 4 – 8)

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  • Someone Builds the Dream

    by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Loren Long

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    Buildings, bridges, farms, and parks fill our world — but who builds them? This eye-opening book introduces young readers to the people who imagine, design, and create incredible things we see and use every day.
    (Ages 5 – 8)

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  • LEGO Play Book

    by Daniel Lipkowitz

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    Even the most inventive of us can get stuck in a LEGO-building rut. Reinvigorate your child’s imagination with this colorful idea book brimming with awesome models for their favorite building staples. Ranging from simple, medium, and complex constructions — and always encouraging their own twist — your young builders will be occupied for ages.
    (Ages 7 – 10)

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  • The Cardboard Kingdom

    by Chad Sell

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    Tweens will love this graphic novel about a group of neighborhood children who create an entire kingdom out of cardboard. From buildings to costumes, these kids build a world where their imaginations take flight and adventures await.
    (Ages 8 – 12)

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Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2018 and updated in 2023.