Wonderful Magnetic Tiles – Which Are The Best For You?
Magnetic tiles are one of the best toys your children could have. At home, we love them. My children play with them daily. They are fabulous for many reasons, but I especially love them because my kids, a girl and a boy aged three years apart, enjoy playing together with them. And when friends come over, they are magically drawn to the tiles.
They are fantastic open-ended toys that allow children to create many different things. A genuine invitation to creativity and to develop many skills and concepts through play. With so many brand options out there, you may be wondering, “which should I get?” You’re probably researching and asking yourself, “what is the difference between them?”.
Today I’ll be comparing three of the major magnetic tile brands: Magna-tiles, Connetix, and Playmags. I’ll do my best to share our experiences, what I appreciate, and the differences I see between them.
In this post:
- Our story with Magnetic tiles
- What are magnetic tiles?
- Why we love magnetic tiles
- About the three brands I’ll be comparing: Magna-Tiles, Connetix, and Playmags.
- Differences between Magnetic Tiles
- Comparison summary
- Where can you buy them?
- Which is the best brand for us?
*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself, and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you; when you buy through the links, we may earn a small commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thanks!
Let’s get started!
Our story with Magnetic tiles
We were gifted a small set of Playmags 4 years ago, when my daughter was four and my son was one, and my children always enjoyed playing with them. However, after my son started showing some interest and wanting to play more, I realized we needed more tiles for them to enjoy together. The set we had only had two large squares, and as I’ve discovered with time, the large square is our family’s most loved tile shape. We needed more.
So, after a lot of research, we got the Connetix Pastel Mega Set (I’ll explain why later), and it has been the money best spent. They love them. I even bought an Ikea cart and have them stored in our living room, where we all create together almost every day. (If you’d like to see how we play, you can check out here). I applied to be a Brand Rep for Connetix, and we’ve been having a lot of fun the past year.
Now, being a magnetic tiles enthusiast (I am also an #adultwhoconnetix 😉 ), I have many people asking me which brand of Magnetic tiles is better and how Connetix compares to Magna-Tiles or others. So I bought a set of Magna-Tiles to see them first hand, play with them and compare them.
I am disclosing all my relationships with the tiles because I want you to understand my journey and to share my honest thoughts and experience. Nobody is sponsoring this post. So you’ll be reading my opinions, what I’ve learned from doing some research, and our experience.
What are magnetic tiles?
Magnetic tiles are open-ended toys that encourage building, construction, and creation in both 3D and 2D. The pieces are plastic tiles of varying shapes that snap together magnetically, allowing users to construct geometric structures.
Some magnetic tiles are solid, and others are translucent, letting light through. I will focus my comparison on the latter, as I love how the plastic allows this new dimension of playing with light.
Why we love magnetic tiles
I have shared in previous posts what we love about Connetix tiles, but all these reasons apply to all magnetic tiles (that are translucent). They are lovely open-ended toys that invite children and grown-ups to create whatever their imaginations can come up with (why should children have all the fun? 😉 ). Magnetic tiles are lovely because they encourage all of the following:
- cognitive development
- spatial awareness
- magnetic force
- hand-eye coordination
- fine and gross motor skills
- build knowledge around scientific and mathematical concepts
- 2D and 3D shapes
- counting and quantities
- properties of materials
- experimenting with light
- cause and effect
- stability and weight
The list could go on 😉. Magnetic tiles are a very complete and versatile toy, as you can see.
I’ll be comparing Connetix, Magna-Tiles, and Playmags
I’ve put together the information I’ve found about these three main brands.
I believe they are the original toys, but I have yet to discover much about them. Unfortunately, they do not have an “About us” section on their website, which I always love to look at to know the story behind a product and brand. It would be nice if they changed that soon.
On Wikipedia, I found the following:
“Magna-Tiles were originally developed in Japan, where they were sold under the name Pythagoras. American salesman Rudy Valenta saw the toy while visiting Japan in 1996 and bought the rights to the toy. He re-branded the toy system “Magna-Tiles” and founded Valtech Co. in 1997 to sell it.
Sales began slowly, but Magna-Tiles are now “ubiquitous” among young children in the United States. The New York Times and other publications have highlighted Magna-Tiles as a top toy.”
They’ve won many awards and are a very trusted brand for educational excellence.
So I think it is safe to say they were the first magnetic tiles, high quality and with safety in their heart. Thank you for making them popular.
Connetix is an Australian-based company officially launched in 2019 by two families who met when their children started attending primary school together. They saw that their little ones enjoyed playing and that they learned when playing with magnetic tiles. For this reason, they decided to create their own strong and safe version while offering clearer refractions than the tiles that already existed in the market.
Brea & Dave are the two minds behind the business.
“Brea is an experienced primary school and Masters qualified early-childhood teacher and mother to three young children. She has a passion for learning through play and a love of open-ended quality toys that grow WITH your children! “
“Dave is a businessman with a strong financial and entrepreneurial background. After spending five years working in Engineering offices as a mechanical designer, Dave has extensive experience with manufacturing and shipping products. He understands what it takes to bring a quality product to market. Dave has two young children who enjoy playing with their Connetix wherever they go (yes, they take a travel pack out for dinner!).”
Connetix has won many awards in recent years. Here are the latest awards, to just name a few:
Playmags are another brand of magnetic tiles that you can find on Amazon. I believe they are from the U.K. Unfortunately, there is not much information on their website.
They did win awards and certifications for their tiles in 2013: they were in the 100 Best Dr. Toys Award and the National Parenting Center Seal of Approval.
Even though I’ve contacted them through email and social media, I’m still waiting for their reply (over five weeks). If I get a reply, I will update it.
Differences between magnetic tiles
Today I’ll compare these three brands from a mother’s point of view. I am not an expert; I do not have fancy gadgets to measure things around the house. I am just a mother that enjoys playing with her children and playing with magnetic tiles together. These are my opinions and what I’ve learned from research and our experiences.
I’ll talk about the following:
- Magnet Strength
- Shapes in basic sets
- Inspiration book
- Additional sets
Not all magnetic tiles are equally safe. Some sold in large department stores around the world are notoriously unsafe, and there have been accidents with children. Keep this in mind when considering buying magnetic tiles. Here is one article I’ve found about it. For this reason, in my opinion, the most important thing to consider is the toy’s safety.
The safest tiles are those that are ultrasonically welded shut. Unfortunately, cheaper tiles often use a lock-click system, which isn’t as secure and could more easily open.
For extra safety, those ultrasonically welded also have rivets. It’s a backup mechanism in case there is any failure with the ultrasonic welding.
In case you don’t know what ultrasonic welding means ( I had to look it up), this is Wikipedia’s explanation:
Ultrasonic welding is an industrial process whereby high-frequency ultrasonic acoustic vibrations are locally applied to work pieces held together under pressure to create a solid-state weld. It is commonly used for plastics, metals, and joining dissimilar materials.
Connetix tiles are ultrasonically welded and have rivets.
Magna-Tiles are ultrasonically welded and have rivets.
I’m unsure if Playmags are ultrasonically welded (I am still awaiting a reply from the brand), but they do have rivets.
I wanted to share some tiles from another brand sold on Amazon, where you can see they have no rivets. This box is half the price of Connetix and Magna-Tiles. This is what you get in the box:
And if you look at the images they show of the product on the pack, brochure, and online, you’ll realize they are not their tiles, but you can see Connetix, Magna-Tiles, and PicassoTiles (another major brand in the US). (I’m am clearly a magnetic tiles freak and can tell the difference from their designs).
In Spain, this product is “Bestseller” (Más vendido) and “Amazon’s Choice” (Opción Amazon).
Just be wary of what you buy. I personally wouldn’t trust a brand that uses other brands’ products to show how you can play with them on their box. It’s misleading. Even on their website, the reviews show people using Connetix tiles. And without the rivets, I feel they are the type of tiles that are just click-in. So less safe than the ones I’m mentioning in this article. Play must be fun and safe.
I think the most apparent reason for differentiation to me is the design.
Magna-tiles: Magna-tiles are translucent and have an internal structure that supports both sides. The sides are completely flat, and the tiles are finished with rivets. All the tiles have the Magna-tiles logo on them.
Connetix: Connetix tiles are see-through magnetic tiles and allow light to come through beautifully and magically. This design also allows playing with colors, shadows, and projections to capture your child’s attention. There are no logos on the tiles.
All the tiles are also sealed and riveted for extra safety, and their unique beveled design allows Connetix to be strong while creating beautiful clear refractions. The bevel is also a huge innovative advantage. It provides a clearer tile free from internal bracing and ensures a stronger, more durable, and scratch-resistant tile.
If you hold a Connetix tile between two fingers, you’ll notice they converge in the middle – this is what makes them less likely to crack if stepped on and scratch if rubbed against each other when in a pile.
Playmags: Playmags tiles are also see-through, and they are supported with lattice (an internal structure consisting of strips of plastic crossed and fastened together with diamond-shaped spaces left between), bound with rivets, and use supermag magnets. They are similar to Magna-Tiles but have a different lattice design. All the tiles have the Playmags logo on them, like Magna-Tiles.
Connetix is the most different as it doesn’t have the internal structure and has that beveled design that doesn’t make it flat, helps reduce scratches at the center, and makes them less likely to crack.
Magna-tiles and Playmags look more similar to me. Although they have different structure designs, they are both flat and have those lines inside the tile, making them less clear than Connetix.
What are the tiles made of?
Magna-Tiles: food-grade MABS plastic free of BPA, phthalates, latex, and toxic materials.
Connetix: they are made using non-toxic ABS plastic BPA, Lead, and Phthalate free.
Playmags: Plastic. (It’s the only description I’ve found on Amazon and their website).
Magna-Tiles: Magna-Tiles have three different color ranges: rainbow, clear, and luminescent (glow in the dark but are solid and not translucent). In the rainbow range, tiles come in 6 different colors.
Connetix: Connetix has three different color ranges: rainbow, pastel, and clear. The pastel range comes with tiles in 8 different colors. You can see them in the image bellow. The rainbow range also has six colors, like Magna-Tiles.
Playmags: I have only seen Playmags in rainbow colors, with six primary colors: yellow, orange, red, blue, green, and purple. Their orange and yellow are the brightest and almost neon.
They are all lovely, but if you are looking for more muted colors to match your adorable decorated kids’ room, the Connetix pastels are the most beautiful (in my opinion). And because Connetix has 8 colors in their pastel range, I feel they are the ones that offer the most in this category.
They are all practically the same, but Connetix is the lightest of the 3. When I took a bunch of 10, Magna-tiles and Playmags weighed the same, and Connetix less because it doesn’t have the internal bracing or extra designs on the tile face.
Connetix says that the fact that they are lightweight enables bigger builds. I’ve seen enormous builds like no other with Connetix tiles. Check out this epic build from Lucy from @life_with_the_three_geisis.
A box with 100 tiles of any three is a bit heavy 😜. My 4-year-old son can’t carry the mega pack by himself (which has over 200 tiles). That’s why I decided to store them on a cart in the living room so they can quickly move all the tiles around the house. (We have quite the collection now).
The magnet strength is something that I can not test in terms of physics, but as a mother that has been playing with all of them, I must say they are all powerful and do a good job.
I’ve been told that Connetix tiles have the strongest safety-approved magnets. There are other competitors with the same strength but none stronger.
When looking at the magnets, Magna-Tiles are smaller but feel as strong as Connetix. It’s something subtle, and my impression is that Playmags is slightly weaker; the builds don’t hold up as firmly as the other two. When my son moves them around, Connetix holds up better, and Playmags crumble more easily.
Do magnetic tiles get scratched a lot?
Yes, they can; they get scratched because of use and play and piling them up in storage.
If I carefully look at them, Playmags have scratches all over the tile’s surface – the surface is flat and even. But Connetix has scratches near the edges and not so many on the center, as the center is slightly deeper and doesn’t touch the floor or other tiles directly.
Although I haven’t played with Magna-tiles long enough, in time, I believe they will look more like the Playmags because they have the same flat design.
Do magnetic tiles break easily?
No, not a single one has broken in our four years of playing with these magnetic tiles. Playmags are still intact. Even though we’ve had Connetix for just one year, they have been played with almost daily and more roughly (my son is less careful than my eldest daughter), and they are all still whole.
As I mentioned before, the Connetix beveled design makes for a more robust and more durable tile, and since they converge in the middle, they are less likely to crack when stepped on.
But, if one of your tiles ever breaks, you must discard it and dispose of the magnets correctly. If swallowed, a magnet can be deadly. So it is imperative not to have a magnet loose with small children around that could eat it. This is why having tiles that are ultrasonically welded and riveted is essential.
Magnetic tiles are not cheap. But Playmags is the most budget-friendly option of the three. They are usually around 40% less than the price of Magna-tiles and Connetix sets.
Although magnetic tiles are not cheap, they are worth it. It has been the most used toy by all for the past year.
You can find them discounted every once in a while on Amazon. So keep your eyes open for special deals.
Shapes in basic sets
The most common shapes you’ll find in the major sets from these brands are the following:
- small square
- large square
- right triangle
- equilateral triangle
- isosceles triangle
- small rectangle
- some form of windows
Comparing them is complicated as each brand is different and has many sets with different combinations of shapes and colors. To make things easier, I’ve decided I’ll compare the most similar set between the three, the 100 pieces set from each brand.
Here you can see the contents of each set
- 4 Classic XL Squares
- 50 Classic Small Squares
- 20 Classic Equilateral Triangles
- 11 Classic Right Triangles
- 15 Classic Isosceles Triangles
Playmags 100 set:
At home, the most crucial shape for creating is the large square, followed by squares. My children started playing more with the tiles when they got more large squares. They can make buildings, cubes, and houses faster and more sturdy. Connetix here is the king. They know this is the most practical shape. You can even build a cube with it because you have 6 in the set.
Here are some of my children’s creations. As you can see, the large squares are usually the starting point.
Magna-tiles have four large squares, and Playmags only two. But I can tell you from my experience that two large squares or even four are not enough for two children.
That got me researching and buying more tiles; I needed more large squares because my children would fight over those two squares (they are the best to create buildings). So, they may be cheaper, but you’ll have to buy two or three sets to get the same number of large tiles.
Another thing that slightly bothers me about Magna-tiles and Playmags is that you have different amounts of tiles in the same colors. You don’t have Magna-tiles right triangles in yellow, and you’ll have 2 in each color and 3 in orange. You have nine blue squares and eight green.
And Playmags follow a similar chaos. I guess I’m more square-minded and like things to have a mathematical order. Connetix feels more organized to me, which I value because I love making mandalas and symmetrical designs, and need the same number of tiles in different colors.
Are Connetix, Magna-tiles, and Playmag magnetic tiles compatible?
The best news is that, YES, they are compatible! You can use tiles from the three brands together, and the structures will hold perfectly.
So even if you start getting a set from one brand, but later you see another one from another brand that you might like, it is ok. You can combine them.
The Connetix and Playmag tile sets come with an “Inspiration book” that is very handy when you are just starting to play with the tiles. There are so many possibilities that sometimes we need a hint to see the potential of something, and these tiny booklets are fantastic. All of our Connetix boxes have come with the same inspiration book without exception – and we have six sets so far.
I was surprised not to find one in the Magna-tiles set of 100. It is an important set, and it was disappointing not to find an inspirational book in the box. My son then tried to make the castle on the cover, which was misleading. Any child would think that to make the pointy tower, you need four triangles… but if you build the five towers with four triangles each, you realize you fall short with triangles.
The castle towers on the box are made with three triangles just for show – there is no triangle on the back. My son was frustrated because, in his mind, it had to have 4. Luckily for him, he added some Connetix triangles to complete his creation.
Aside of the inspiration books (which only Connetix and Playmags have), you can also find resources online.
Connetix has Free resources on their Education section on their website, which are excellent. You’ll find letters, numbers, and some figures you can create. And if you subscribe to the Connetix Club (their Newsletter), you unlock more resources that can be fun when you are out of ideas.
Magna-Tiles doesn’t have free resources, but they suggest you can subscribe to their Newsletter and become a Magna-Tile insider and get “Free downloads, exclusive offers, sneak peeks & more!”. I’ve been subscribed to them for two months, and after eleven emails, I have yet to see any downloadables.
Instead, I’ve received promotions, competitions, and quotes from professionals about why their tiles are so great, and you get an activity idea every once in a while. To be honest, I was expecting more activities and downloadables.
Playmags don’t have additional resources online. However, you have a small gallery with pictures from their consumers’ creations.
For more inspiration, you can always look at their Instagram accounts: @connetixtiles, @magnatiles, @playmags
Each brand has its own thing that makes them unique, and these come in the form of additional sets. These are the innovations that make each brand special.
Connetix has the ball runs, and they are so good. We love them. They are incredible and a fabulous thing that will keep them (and me) entertained for hours. They are fantastic for STEM because you learn much about physics without realizing it. I highly recommend them. Connetix has them in rainbow and pastel colors.
Magna-tiles has theme sets with magnetic figurines that are great for small worlds and imaginary play. Some of the tiles have patterns painted on them to fit the theme: snowflakes, jungle leafs, and more. They also have the Glow in the Dark tiles to make things a little more magical. I have not seen or played with them in real life, but they do sound fun.
Playmags have the click-ins, plastic tiles with letters or windows that you can add the square frames, and some curved triangular shapes that allow you to make a dome. Sounds pretty neat.
After this long comparison, I thought it would be good to add a summary table with all the main points in one place.
- Playmags I’ve considered less safe because I only see the rivets, and I’m unsure if they are ultrasonically welded. The rivets ensure extra safety and mean that they are better than any click-closed tiles. They have won awards, so I assume they are safe. But until I get confirmation from the brand, I feel obliged to consider them not as safe as the other two.
Where to buy them?
The world is wide and there are many options. You’ll find many local retailers having them on their shelves, and you can also buy them on Amazon.
But Amazon doesn’t offer all the sets, especially the latest launches. When I wanted to buy Connetix for Christmas 2021, it sold out everywhere in November. I only found it on their website, and it was great. They delivered quickly, and you had everything there. They deliver Worldwide (you can check the shipment warehouses here). If you’d like the latest products and complete ranges of Connetix, you can find them here.
Magnatiles ship easily to the U.S. However, they say the following for outside shipments: Items for shipment to countries outside of the U.S. may be subject to taxes, customs duties, and fees levied by the destination country (“Import Fees”). The recipient of the shipment is the importer of record in the destination country and is responsible for all Import Fees.
If you want Magna-Tiles and live outside the US, I’d consider buying them from Amazon.
Playmags I believe, can only be found on Amazon. I haven’t found them anywhere else.
After comparing, which was the best tile for us?
As you can imagine, Connetix is our favorite choice. They were the best option for us because they checked all the essential boxes:
- No tiles are safer.
- They have the most significant number of large squares per set.
- The design and pastel colors are just beautiful and unique.
These were the most important things for me, which made me decide on Connetix. After more than a year of having them around, I’ve never regretted buying them.
The three brands are different but similar in different aspects, as you’ve seen. So you must evaluate what is more important to you and decide what is best for your family. But regardless, magnetic tiles are fabulous for children. They will gain so much from playing with them.
If I’d have to say one last thing, choose whichever is better for your family and your pocket, you’ll all love playing with magnetic tiles, but please, don’t compromise on safety. Investigate if they are ultrasonically welded and have rivets for extra safety.
I hope you’ll enjoy playing and creating as much as we do. You can check out this post with ideas of how we play with the tiles and the Connetix mega set. In case you need some inspiration 😉
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