Baby & Toddler


Growing Reader


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:

  • Baby’s First Book Blocks

    by Dan Stiles

    Blocks that are also books are definitely a double win. This cute set of four miniature board books invites babies to browse the high-contrast pages, build towers, and experiment with loading and unloading them from the box. The heavy-duty cardboard will hold up against plenty of drool, too.
    (Ages 0 – 1)

  • Tip Tip Dig Dig

    by Emma Garcia

    Catchy and colorful, this cheerful board book is a toddler favorite. Various construction vehicles dig, lift, mix, and roll as they work towards the grand reveal: an adventure playground! For little crew members who specialize in building towers and houses, this book offers a new direction for construction play and projects.
    (Ages 0 – 3)

  • Blocks

    by Irene Dickson

    All is peaceful while Ruby builds with her red blocks and Benji builds with his blue ones. As is apt to happen, though, one toddler swipes a block from the other and a territorial, tower-crashing argument ensues. For any child in the throes of possessiveness, this story gently shows how building with a friend can be even more fun.
    (Ages 2 – 4)

  • Bigger! Bigger!

    by Leslie Patricelli

    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)

  • Rex Wrecks It!

    by Ben Clanton

    Endearing characters Gizmo, Sprinkles, and Wild love to build together, but their pal Rex just can’t stop himself from knocking down all their creations. The friends are impressively resilient and forgiving, though. They come up with a plan that suits everyone: to build an “awesomerific” creation and then “WRECK IT ALL TOGETHER!”
    (Ages 2 – 5)

  • Construction

    by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock

    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)

  • Gus’s Garage

    by Leo Timmers

    Gus’s garage might be considered a junkyard, but he uses his “bits and bobs” to help his friends with their design challenges. When Rico the Rhino can barely fit on his scooter seat, Gus attaches an armchair. When Gina Giraffe’s neck is cold sticking out of her convertible, Gus builds a custom-shaped heater. Leo Timmer’s zany illustrations are a treat to pore over.
    (Ages 2 – 5)

  • 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)

  • Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building

    by Christy Hale

    This collection of poems honoring simple pastimes — from stacking cups to creating sandcastles, igloos, and pillow forts — is a feast of building ideas. Each spread shows diverse children engaged in a project alongside a related notable building. Back matter identifies the buildings and the architects who designed them, providing plenty of real-world inspiration.
    (Ages 3 – 8)

  • A House in The Woods

    by Inga Moore

    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)

  • Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building

    by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by James E. Ransome

    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)

  • LEGO Play Book

    by Daniel Lipkowitz

    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)

  • Smithsonian: Build It!

    by Brian Elling

    How did the first humans get their mud huts to stay up? How many people does it take to build a castle? This jam-packed Smithsonian activity book answers those questions and more, in a captivating exploration of how the world’s buildings got built, from the earliest eras to today.
    (Ages 8 – 12)

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2018 and updated in 2019.