Block Buying Guide - 2023!

Block Buying Guide - 2023!

Welcome to the UPDATED 2023 Every Day with E and J block buying guide! Here I’ll share my recommendations for unit block sets based on different situations requested by members of my community on instagram!

If you’re looking for more information about unit blocks check out my What are Unit Blocks? post! Or if you’re still deciding if you want unit blocks or a different type of blocks you should read my Do I want Unit Blocks or something else? post! 

If you are looking for gifts to give kids who love block play check out my Gift Guide for Kids who Love Blocks post!

To create this list of recommendations I researched, purchased, and compared unit block sets from several leading block brands: Community Playthings, Constructive Playthings, Guidecraft, Everwood Friends,  Melissa and Doug, and (NEW THIS YEAR) Lakeshore Learning. You’ll see that I recommend Lakeshore Learning for open stock blocks this year as I was able to purchase and test some and they are a-okay. However I cannot recommend any of their sets since they don’t actually include any information of the specific contents of each set on their website. I also tested the Amazon Basics block set but they are NOT standard unit block size. You will not find them here because I DO NOT recommend them. 

Most of the information in this guide is the same as last year, not much has changed in the world of unit blocks which is probably good! You will however find some new tidbits of information and even a few new recommendations here as well as some discount codes which are new for the 2023 guide. 

Many of the links in this list are affiliate links; that means I may make a small commission if you purchase through the link. I earn commission from several of the block sets I recommend, so I’m not trying to steer you towards one brand or another because it’s more lucrative for me. I don’t accept payment in exchange for positive reviews, and I don’t let my relationships with brands sway my opinions.

This isn't your standard buyers guide.

In my humble opinion the best unit blocks are simply the ones you can afford to fill your shelves with and those that will bring your child the most meaningful block play opportunities. This guide isn't about which blocks are "the best" or which brand is the best. Instead, it's meant to help you determine which blocks are the best for you and your children.

What I look for in any unit block set

In general, what I think makes a good block set comes down to a focus on building a foundational understanding of fractions and multiples based on the unit. To achieve that, I look for these things:

  • A lot of single unit blocks
  • A good number of double units and quadruple units
  • A smaller number of little blocks
  • Mathematical design & dimensional consistency

Best block set to grow with toddlers/preschoolers

Constructive Playthings Small School Set

(Previously called the Half Nursery Set)

The best starter unit blocks set is the Small School unit block set from Constructive Playthings. There simply is not another block set available that gives as much attention to the basic shapes that should be the focus of any unit block set - units, double units, and quadruple units. This set includes more of these three types of blocks than any other set I’ve researched. It’s perfect for starting a collection, especially for kids 6 and under.

Constructive Playthings Small School Set

Use my code EVERYDAY23 to save 15% at Constructive Playthings

Best block sets for small space living

Budget Recommendation
Constructive Playthings Wood Unit Blocks Set- Super Saver

If you are limited on space but want to bring block play home I recommend the Constructive Playthings super saver unit block set. This set provides you with a good amount of basic unit blocks but leaves out some of the largest shapes, which will save you some space. Those big blocks are wonderful & favorites of many children, but if you simply don’t have the space, your children can still enjoy meaningful block play without them. Besides, you can always add them to your collection later on.

Constructive Playthings Super Saver Set

Use my code EVERYDAY23 to save 15% at Constructive Playthings

Budget Recommendation **NEW RECOMMENDATION**
Constructive Playthings Beginner Unit Blocks Set
- But get 2!
$79.99 each or $159.98 for two

If you want to create a sort of mini version of the small school set (which is my top recommendation) you can purchase two beginner sets from constructive playthings. This beginner set is superior to any other beginner set since even in it’s limited size it still provides enough large blocks to build a useful collection. Grab two and it’s nearly exactly the same block shapes you’ll get in the small school set but less. You still won’t get any quads but as I mentioned above, you can always add on later! 

Constructive Playthings Beginner Set - $79.99

Use my code EVERYDAY23 to save 15% at Constructive Playthings

Splurge Recommendation
Community Playthings Introductory Set

Community Playthings is the gold standard in unit blocks and their introductory set has all of the right stuff. It even includes 4 quadruple unit blocks! These will take up a bit of extra space but it’ll be worth it! You can stand them up in a basket! Their ship time is LONG so order early.

Community Playthings Introductory Set

Small Shop Recommendation
Everwood Friends 78 Piece Classroom set

If you’d like to purchase your blocks from a small shop check out the Everwood Friends 78 piece classroom set. Like my budget pick, it has a good variety of blocks, enough units and double units for meaningful play, and also includes some fun special shape blocks like intersections and arches. This set is definitely also a “splurge” but some may find it worth the cost because these blocks are exceptionally smooth.

Everwood Friends 78 piece Classroom Set

Best block sets if space is not a limiting factor

Budget Recommendation
Constructive Playthings School Unit Block Set

Previously called the Quarter School Set

The Constructive Playthings School Unit Block Set is a great set to build your block collection if you're ready to commit to block play and have the space. It's got most of what you'll find in the Small School set plus a bunch of other shapes that you'd probably end up adding to your set over time.

Constructive Playthings School Set

Use my code EVERYDAY23 to save 15% at Constructive Playthings

Splurge Recommendation
Community Playthings Quarter Classroom Set

Now, if cost is truly not a factor and you’re ready to commit some space to unit block play you could go with a 1/4 classroom set from Community Playthings. These blocks are of the highest quality - perfectly mathematical, hardwood maple, expertly designed as sets. The 1/4 classroom set will give you variety while still focusing the majority of the block count on the basic shapes (units, double units, and quad units). Their ship time is LONG so order early.

This set might be worth the splurge if you're after true perfection and consistency. I've measured every Community Playthings block we have and haven't found an inconsistency. That's not true for any of the other brands I've mentioned here.

Community Playthings 1/4 classroom set

Best block set if you'd like to start small

Constructive Playthings - Beginner Set

For such a small set of blocks, the Constructive Playthings Beginner Set does a great job focusing on the main unit blocks for the bulk of the set. This little set is a really perfect starting point if you would like to slowly grow your collection over time. You can also consider adding on 4 or so open-stock quadruple unit blocks to this set, I really think having those big blocks is worth the extra cost since they provide a chance for bigger block play and lots of maximum effort!

Constructive Playthings Beginner Set - $79.99

Use my code EVERYDAY23 to save 15% at Constructive Playthings

Budget Recommendation
Guidecraft Unit Block Set A

If you're wanting to start small with your unit block collection but you'd like to buy a less expensive set you could go for Guidecraft Unit Block Set A. Guidecraft blocks are beautifully made, but you may find some inconsistencies in their smaller blocks. These slight dimensional differences could effect balance and structural integrity in your child's block building, but they aren't noticable to the naked eye. The other thing that makes Guidecraft blocks more accessible is that they go on sale at other big stores like Macy's and Michael's Crafts so you may be able to find them at a super discounted price! I highly recommend adding some open stock double units and quadruple units to this set over time!

Guidecraft unit block set A - Use my code EVERYDAY10 to save!

Best block sets to grow your collection

Guidecraft Unit Block Set D or E
$329 - $549*

The fun thing about these Guidecraft sets is that they include some fun specialty shapes while still including plenty of unit blocks. I don’t generally recommend this set as the foundation of a collection because it is lacking in double and quad unit blocks. But if you already have the half nursery set or 1/4 school set from Constructive Playthings a Guidecraft set is a great addition because they include lots of the smaller classic pieces more experienced builders may find intriguing.

*NEW DETAIL* - If you’re looking to replicate our personal unit block collection this is the other “half” of our base set. We started with the Constructive Playthings small school set and added on Guidecraft set D later on. We also have several open stock blocks mixed in but these two sets comprise most of our collection.

*Guidecraft unit block sets can sometimes be found on sale at other stores such as Macy's and Michael's Crafts. This might make a Guidecraft the most affordable option for you! In that case you can always use the savings to supplement their sets with open stock doubles and quads from other brands such as Constructive Playthings.

Guidecraft Unit Block Set D - Use my code EVERYDAY10 to save!

Buy open stock blocks

Purchasing open stock blocks is a great way to add variety to your collection while being in total control of the block shapes and the budget. Find open stock blocks at Constructive Playthings or Everwood Friends. Some of my favorite shapes to add on to sets include:
large cylinders
quarter circle arches

Building & Roof Boards

Our most used “extra blocks” are the roof and building boards by Community Playthings. We have tried and tested roof and building boards from Community Playthings, Lakeshore Learning, Everwood Friends, and Community Playthings and while they’re all fine in their own way the boards we have from Community Playthings are completely superior. They’re grippier, more affordable, not too heavy but heavy enough that they’re sturdy and easy to build with. My kids use these EVERY DAY. They use them all and ask for more. And at only $4 each for roof boards I really could not recommend them more highly.

Community Playthings roof boards

Community Playthings big building boards

If you already have the Melissa & Doug Set...

The Melissa & Doug 60 piece Unit Block Set retails for $84.99 (but I hope you didn't pay more than $50 because it goes on sale constantly for up to 40% off).

This set does not officially make my recommendation list because the sizes of these blocks are super inconsistent. Some blocks in our set are up to 1/8 inch off in their "standard" measurements. However, it is probably the most accessible unit block set out there because it regularly goes on sale significantly.

This set is lower quality than any other brand I recommend (both the dimensions and wood quality are totally inconsistent in our set) and the variety in block shape is not ideal for a starter set, but if you are on a budget and want unit blocks, it could be a good way to get started, you might even already have this set at home.

To round out this set I suggest purchasing the following:
- 14-16 unit blocks
- 10 or so double unit blocks
- 4-8 quadruple unit blocks
- 4-6 large cylinder blocks
These can be purchased over time from companies such as Community Playthings, Constructive Playthings, Everwood Friends, and Guidecraft as open stock blocks and the cost will vary depending on where you choose to purchase them.

Melissa & Doug 60 piece Unit Block Set

My Favorite Block Play add-ons

**NEW** This year I’ve decided to create a separate block play accessory guide. You can find it here

Below are some of the recommendations I made last year which I still believe are excellent additions to unit block play. Find more ideas at the link above! 

Guidecraft Arches & Tunnels
These arches and tunnels are such a fun addition to block play. They are used constantly in our playroom. I love that they are all the same height because that helps make them architecturally useful for some really interesting block play!

Arches and Tunnels by Guidecraft - Use my code EVERYDAY10 to save!

Constructive Playthings Junior Hollow Blocks
These miniature hollow blocks are SO COOL because they are actually totally compatible with unit blocks! Their dimensions match up well with units which means they can be used seamlessly in unit block play! The ramps are especially well loved here! *For a budget version check out the Guidecraft Mini Hollow Blocks below.

Junior Hollow Blocks by Constructive Playthings

Use my code EVERYDAY22 to save 15% at Constructive Playthings

Guidecraft Little Bricks
Guidecraft Little Bricks bring so much fun to our small world block play. These tiny bricks are weighted and have an awesome feel to them. E and J LOVE to build with them and also love using them as accessories to their block play in construction sites and other block worlds.

Little Bricks by Guidecraft - Use my code EVERYDAY10 to save!

Thanks for reading the Everyday with E and J 2023 block buying guide. I hope you'll find it helpful in your block buying adventures. If you did find this post helpful please consider sharing it on social media! And if you have a question that wasn't answered here please comment on this post or send me a message on instagram! I'll be super happy to help you find the right blocks for your even more specific situation!

About Sami

Sami is a homeschooling mom and progressive educator with a special interest in learning through block play! She has her masters of science in childhood and early childhood education and taught in progressive education classrooms for over 10 years before leaving to stay home full time so she has had lots of experience observing and facilitating block play. Find her on instagram @EverydayWithEandJ