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5 Best LEGO® Alternatives

Reading Time: 12 Min
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Published: 13 February, 2023
Updated: July 10, 2023
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Lego is a beloved toy for kids and adults alike, who enjoy creating complex structures and sculptures with their colorful bricks. But you don’t have to limit yourself to just one type of block-building toy. There are plenty of great alternatives that offer unique designs and special pieces that can take your creations to the next level. So if you’re looking for an alternative building set, here’s a list of the best LEGO alternatives out there!

Invention of LEGO® Bricks

The Process and Thought Behind the Creation

In 1949, LEGO® embarked on the production of a novel kind of toy – the Automatic Binding Bricks, the early ancestors of today’s LEGO® bricks. The objective was to develop a toy that could stimulate children’s creativity and imagination in an unprecedented way. The concept was to offer children a system that permitted them to build, disassemble, and reassemble models as per their ideas. In essence, the invention was rooted in the belief that the process of construction and creation was equally, if not more, important than the ultimate result.

The Introduction of the Interlocking Brick System

The design of the Automatic Binding Bricks evolved over time to become the LEGO® bricks we’re familiar with today. A significant transformation took place in 1958 when the company patented the design for the LEGO® brick with its iconic interlocking principle. This innovative design, featuring tubes on the underside and studs on top, allowed for a vastly improved degree of building stability and precision. Furthermore, the design guaranteed that bricks of varying sizes could interlock flawlessly, opening up a world of endless creative possibilities.

Impact of LEGO® Bricks on the Toy Industry

The introduction of LEGO® bricks revolutionized the toy industry. The unique concept of the interlocking brick system shifted the traditional understanding of toys. By incorporating an element of constructive play, LEGO® bricks have promoted creativity, problem-solving skills, and spatial reasoning in children, setting them apart from the predominantly passive toys that were available previously. Furthermore, the standardization of LEGO® brick design, allowing bricks produced today to still fit with those made decades ago, became a trademark feature of LEGO® and significantly contributed to the brand’s lasting success.

Initial Response and Success Among Children

Analysis of Its Immediate Success or Growth Period

Contrary to common belief, LEGO® bricks did not attain immediate fame. In the early years, LEGO® encountered several hurdles, such as public unfamiliarity with the brick concept and technical problems like warping. The tide turned in 1958 with the introduction of the new interlocking system, leading to increased success for LEGO®. The period of the 1960s and 70s marked significant growth and expansion for the brand, characterized by the addition of the LEGO® wheel and the advent of themed sets.

Factors Contributing to Its Popularity

The popularity of LEGO® bricks among children can be traced back to several contributing factors. Firstly, LEGO® presented a unique opportunity for constructive and imaginative play, quite revolutionary at the time. The bricks enabled children to bring any creative idea to life, making each LEGO® set a source of boundless enjoyment. Secondly, the launch of themed sets that tapped into popular culture drew an even broader audience to the brand. Finally, the exceptional quality, durability, and timeless compatibility of LEGO® bricks fortified the brand’s reputation and appeal, fostering generations of loyal customers.

Reasons for Seeking LEGO® Alternatives

High Cost of LEGO® Sets

One of the most cited reasons for seeking LEGO® alternatives is the relatively high cost of LEGO® sets. As LEGO® has grown and expanded its range, so too have its prices, with some larger and more complex sets fetching a significant sum. This price barrier can be discouraging for some consumers, leading them to seek more affordable alternatives.

Desire for Variety and Innovation in Building Systems

Another reason for the growing interest in LEGO® alternatives lies in the desire for variety and innovation in building systems. While LEGO® offers a wealth of different themes and styles, some consumers are interested in exploring new methods of construction, different types of materials, or unique building mechanics.

Inclusion of Electronics and Robotics in Some Alternatives

The integration of technology into building toys is an appealing feature for many, especially with the growing emphasis on STEM education. Some LEGO® alternatives have incorporated electronics and robotics into their sets, providing an interactive and educational experience that goes beyond traditional brick-building. This addition not only encourages creativity but also introduces children to the basics of programming and engineering in an engaging and accessible way.

Specific Themes or Characters Not Covered by LEGO®

While LEGO® has a broad range of themes and licensed products, there are still some themes and characters that haven’t been included in their line-up. Whether it’s a niche theme, a lesser-known cartoon character, or a unique architectural style, some consumers look for LEGO® alternatives that offer these specific themes or characters.

List of The Best LEGO Alternatives

1. K’nex Building Sets

K’nex is a classic building toy that has been around since 1993. Unlike Legos, K’nex blocks are connected by rods and connectors instead of studs and tubes. This allows builders to create more complex structures like moving roller coasters, cranes, catapults, and more. The pieces come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors, and textures, so you can get really creative with your builds! Plus, K’nex also offers some electronic components such as motors which can help bring your creations to life.

Brief Overview, Unique Features, and History

Introduced in 1992, is a construction toy system invented by Joel Glickman. Its design is distinct from LEGO®, featuring a system of rods and connectors that enable the creation of complex, three-dimensional models. The sets often include gears, wheels, and pulleys, which add dynamic movement to the constructed models. Some kits are even designed to create functional roller coasters, bridges, and more.

Playing with K’nex and Public Reception

Children can assemble K’nex sets into numerous shapes, designs, and structures, allowing for an immersive play experience. The community has warmly welcomed K’nex, applauding its focus on engineering principles and moving parts.

Price Comparison with LEGO®

K’nex sets generally range in price, much like LEGO®, depending on the size and complexity of the set. However, on average, K’nex tends to be more affordable.

2. Mega Bloks Building Sets

Mega Bloks is another popular building set similar to Lego but with its own unique elements. The blocks are slightly larger than regular Lego pieces and have flat edges instead of studs on top. This makes them easier for tiny hands to grasp and build with! The shapes are also more rounded than those found in Lego sets so builders can make more abstract or organic designs. And because the blocks come in all different sizes, it’s easy to create large-scale models like castles or skyscrapers without taking up too much space!

Established in 1984, is another popular LEGO® alternative. Known for their oversized blocks, Mega Bloks are great for younger children developing their motor skills. Over the years, Mega Bloks has expanded their product range to include sets with smaller, more detailed blocks for older children.

Playing with Mega Bloks and Public Reception

Mega Bloks sets cater to different age groups, offering various themes and characters. The larger blocks are easy for small hands to manipulate, while the more intricate sets challenge older children. The brand has been well-received as a cost-effective and versatile alternative to LEGO®.

Price Comparison with LEGO®

Mega Bloks are generally cheaper than LEGO®, making them a more accessible choice for many families.

3. Tinkertoys Building Sets

Tinkertoys is another classic block-building toy that has been around since 1914! It features wooden spools connected by plastic rods of various lengths which allow builders to construct elaborate towers or even 3D models of animals or other objects. Unlike Lego or K’nex sets which rely on interlocking pieces, Tinkertoys require a bit more finesse when it comes to construction as each piece needs to be carefully balanced so it doesn’t topple over! But this also means that builders can create much taller structures than they could with other sets!

Tinkertoys were invented by Charles H. Pajeau and Robert Pettit in 1914. These sets, featuring wooden spools and rods, aim to foster creativity and imagination in a different way than the brick-based systems.

Playing with Tinkertoys and Public Reception

Children can construct a variety of structures, from simple designs to more complex creations. Due to their unique design and nostalgic charm, Tinkertoys have been embraced as a creative and educationally beneficial alternative.

Price Comparison with LEGO®

While Tinkertoys tend to be more affordable than many LEGO® sets, their price can vary depending on the size of the set and whether it is a classic or updated version.

4. Magna-Tiles

Magna-Tiles are magnetic building tiles that come in 3D shapes such as squares, triangles, pentagons, hexagons, diamonds, and arches. You can stick them together like LEGOs or use the magnets to make them into 2D pictures or sculptures. They come in bright colors that children love, and they even glow in the dark! With Magna-Tiles, kids can explore geometry and spatial relationships while having fun creating whatever comes to mind.

Magna-Tiles allow children to construct two- and three-dimensional shapes and structures. Unlike traditional building sets, Magna-Tiles primarily focus on geometric shapes and patterns.

Playing with Magna-Tiles and Public Reception

Children can use Magna-Tiles to explore concepts like symmetry, shapes, and geometry in a hands-on way. The magnetic design also adds a unique challenge and dynamic to the building process. These tiles have been praised for their educational benefits and versatility.

Price Comparison with LEGO®

Magna-Tiles can be quite expensive compared to other alternatives, sometimes even more expensive than LEGO®, but their unique design and educational value justify the price for many consumers.

5. MECCANO

MECCANO is an old favorite of many parents who grew up playing with it themselves! It comes in various sets ranging from simple starter kits all the way up to advanced engineering sets. MECCANO allows children (and adults!) to build 3D models out of metal rods and plastic connectors; these models can then be connected together with electric motors or batteries for movement or sound effects. Plus MECCANO has hundreds of parts so there’s no limit on your creativity when it comes to making new projects!

MECCANO, created by Frank Hornby in 1898, is a model construction system comprising reusable metal strips, plates, angle girders, wheels, axles, and gears, with nuts and bolts to connect the pieces. This system promotes advanced problem-solving and engineering skills.

Playing with MECCANO and Public Reception

With MECCANO, children can build intricate, mechanical models. Due to the complexity and sophistication of its sets, MECCANO is generally better suited to older children and adults. The community has welcomed MECCANO, particularly for its ability to offer a more advanced building and engineering experience.

Price Comparison with LEGO®

MECCANO sets can range widely in price, similar to LEGO®, depending on the size and complexity of the set. Some large MECCANO sets may be more expensive than LEGO® sets of a similar size.

Patent Issues with LEGO® Sets and Alternatives

LEGO®’s patent for the design of its bricks expired in 1989. This expiration meant that other companies were legally allowed to produce similar interlocking bricks, which has led to an increase in LEGO® alternatives on the market.

K’nex Building Sets

K’nex’s design and operation are substantially different from LEGO®, so patent issues haven’t been a significant concern. The rod-and-connector building system of K’nex isn’t comparable to LEGO®’s stud-and-tube interlocking brick system, so there’s little overlap.

Mega Bloks Building Sets

Mega Bloks had a long-standing legal dispute with LEGO®. The latter argued that the former’s product was a direct copy and violated LEGO®’s trademark. However, the courts didn’t agree, stating that the functional design of the brick could not be trademarked and that Mega Bloks could continue producing their bricks.

Tinkertoys Building Sets

Like K’nex, Tinkertoys have a different design and play concept than LEGO®, focusing on wooden spools and rods. Therefore, patent issues haven’t been a major concern for Tinkertoys.

Magna-Tiles

Magna-Tiles, with their unique magnetic tiles design, are also sufficiently distinct from LEGO®. Their play system focuses more on shapes, geometry, and magnetism, which separates them from the building block design of LEGO®. Thus, they haven’t faced significant patent issues relating to LEGO®.

MECCANO

MECCANO’s construction system, which is based on metal strips, plates, and gears, is entirely different from LEGO®’s plastic brick design. Because of this distinctive difference in design and function, MECCANO has not faced patent issues concerning LEGO®.

Why LEGO® Sets Are Still Unbeatable

Consistent Quality and Durability

One of the fundamental reasons why LEGO® continues to dominate the construction toy market is the unparalleled quality and durability of its bricks. LEGO® bricks are designed and manufactured to a high standard of precision, ensuring a tight and perfect fit every time. They are also built to last and resist damage, which means LEGO® sets can be passed down from one generation to another, a testament to their longevity.

Wide Range of Themes and Options

LEGO® sets come in an extensive range of themes and options, catering to all ages, interests, and skill levels. From cityscapes to spaceships, from medieval castles to modern-day architecture, from popular movie themes to creative free-building sets, LEGO® has it all. This wide-ranging variety ensures that there’s a LEGO® set for everyone, maintaining its appeal to a broad audience.

Investment Value

LEGO® sets are more than just toys; they can also be valuable collectibles. Certain LEGO® sets, especially the limited editions or retired sets, appreciate in value over time. For collectors and savvy investors, LEGO® sets can provide a unique and enjoyable investment opportunity.

Ongoing Innovation and Creativity

LEGO® continues to innovate, keeping its products fresh and exciting. Over the years, the company has introduced various new features like power functions, light effects, and even digital integration with video games and coding. LEGO® consistently pushes the boundaries of creativity, making it a dynamic player in the toy industry.

Educational Benefits and Cognitive Development

LEGO® sets offer significant educational benefits. Constructing a LEGO® model enhances fine motor skills, spatial awareness, problem-solving abilities, and creativity. For older kids, complex LEGO® sets can also introduce engineering principles and advanced problem-solving. In addition, LEGO® has educational lines such as LEGO® Education and LEGO® Mindstorms that promote STEM learning in a fun and engaging way. These numerous cognitive and educational benefits give LEGO® a distinct edge over many other toys.

Classic LEGO® Sets

LEGO® Medium Creative Brick Box 10696

Set Number: 10696 
Theme: Classic 
Year Released: 2015 
No. Pieces: 484 
RRP: $34.99

The LEGO® Medium Creative Brick Box 10696 is a versatile set that provides a wide assortment of bricks and elements for endless building possibilities. This classic-themed set was released in 2015 and contains 484 pieces, including bricks in various shapes, colors, and sizes. With this set, builders of all ages can let their imaginations run wild and create anything from simple structures to more complex designs. 

The set comes in a sturdy plastic storage box, making it easy to keep the bricks organized and ready for future play. The LEGO® Medium Creative Brick Box 10696 is a great starting point for young builders or a valuable addition to any LEGO collection, offering endless hours of creative fun.

LEGO® Lots of Bricks 11030

Set Number: 11030 
Theme: Classic 
Year Released: 2021 
No. Pieces: 790 
RRP: $59.99

The Lots of Bricks 11030 set is part of the LEGO® Classic theme and was released in 2021. With a whopping 790 pieces, this set provides an extensive assortment of bricks in various colors, shapes, and sizes, allowing builders to unleash their creativity. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned builder, this set offers endless possibilities to construct unique creations, from simple buildings to more intricate designs. 

The Lots of Bricks set comes in a durable storage box, providing a convenient way to keep the bricks organized. With its generous piece count and versatile elements, this set is perfect for builders of all ages who want to expand their LEGO® collection and embark on imaginative building adventures.

LEGO® Creative Color Fun 11032

Set Number: 11032 
Theme: Classic 
Year Released: 2021 
No. Pieces: 240 
RRP: $19.99

Released in 2021, the Creative Color Fun 11032 set belongs to the LEGO® Classic theme. This set features 240 pieces in a vibrant assortment of colors, including bricks, plates, wheels, and various other elements. 

With its colorful selection, builders can bring their ideas to life and create eye-catching structures and imaginative models. The Creative Color Fun set is designed to inspire creativity and provides endless possibilities for open-ended play. It is an ideal set for builders of different skill levels, whether they are looking to start their LEGO® journey or expand their collection with additional colorful elements.

LEGO® Grand Piano 21323 

Set Number: 21323 
Theme: LEGO Ideas 
Year Released: 2020 
No. Pieces: 3,662 
RRP: $349.99

The Grand Piano 21323 set is part of the LEGO® Ideas theme and was released in 2020. With an impressive 3,662 pieces, this set allows builders to construct a highly detailed and playable grand piano model. The set features authentic piano keys, a working damper and pedal mechanism, and a motor that enables the piano to play music. 

Builders can enjoy the challenge of assembling this elegant instrument and then play tunes by using the LEGO®-built music sheet. The Grand Piano set combines the joy of LEGO® building with the beauty of music, making it a captivating display piece and a remarkable addition to any LEGO® collection.

LEGO® Ideas Book Second Edition 5007532

Set Number: 5007532 
Theme: LEGO Ideas 
Year Released: 2021 
No. Pieces: N/A (Book) 
RRP: $24.99

The LEGO® Ideas Book Second Edition 5007532 is a book released in 2021 under the LEGO® Ideas theme. This inspiring book showcases a collection of building ideas, tips, and techniques from LEGO® fans around the world. It is filled with full-color photographs and step-by-step instructions for building a variety of models using LEGO® bricks. 

The book covers a wide range of themes and encourages readers to explore their creativity and build their own unique creations. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced builder, the LEGO® Ideas Book serves as a valuable resource for sparking new ideas and enhancing your LEGO® building skills. It is a must-have for LEGO® enthusiasts seeking inspiration and seeking to expand their building repertoire.

Conclusion

LEGO® sets, since their inception, have been an integral part of children’s toy collections around the world. With their unique interlocking system, they sparked a revolution in the toy industry. The LEGO® bricks offered children a new avenue to express their creativity and learn valuable skills, leading to an almost instantaneous success among children and families.

However, the high cost of LEGO® sets, the desire for variety and different building mechanics, and the need for specific themes not covered by LEGO® have led to the growth of LEGO® alternatives. Companies like K’nex, Mega Bloks, Tinkertoys, Magna-Tiles, and MECCANO have developed their unique building sets that provide a range of choices for consumers.

Despite the rise of alternatives, LEGO® sets are still unbeatable in many respects. Their consistent quality, wide range of themes, and continuous innovation have sustained their popularity over the years. Furthermore, the educational benefits that LEGO® offers add to its appeal and value.

Though LEGO®’s patent on their brick design has expired, leading to an influx of similar products, the alternatives highlighted in this article have unique designs and concepts that differentiate them from LEGO®, reducing the chance of significant patent issues.

While alternatives provide an array of choices, there’s no denying the unique charm and appeal of LEGO® sets. If you’re seeking something truly unique and personal, Belle-Ve Bricks offers custom LEGO® sets and MOCs (My Own Creation) designed to cater to your individual preferences. It’s time to bring your ideas to life and let your imagination soar. Explore Belle-Ve Bricks’ vast collection today, and start your unique LEGO® journey!

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Written by Matthew Mitchell
Hey, I am Matthew Mitchell and I am an AFOL from the UK. I have been fascinated by LEGO® since I was a child. My two children are in love with LEGO® and it's because of them that my interest continued to grow, this is how I fell in to the rabbit hole of MOCs (my own creation). 

With every new MOC I saw I became just a bit more addicted to the endless possibilities that LEGO® offers. This led me to creating Belle-Ve Bricks, a platform where talented designers can share their work with the world.

And where we can create together with you, custom models.
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