Have you heard of the Build & Imagine Sets Magnetic Play Sets? I hadn’t either until very recently. These sets are storytelling activities for children but in toy form! They also allow for open ended guided play as well as unstructured free play.
About a week ago I read an article about must have (low/no tech) kids toys and it mentioned a magnetic doll house called “Malia’s House”. I suddenly became intrigued and did a quick search for it which led me to the Build & Imagine website.
I loved their website and the magnetic playsets for story telling that they had come up with. So I decided to reach out to Laurie Peterson, the founder of the company.
I told her I was planning on writing an article about these amazing toys that allow for storytelling, vocabulary building, problem solving, fine motor skill development, social skills, etc.
But I mentioned that I would love to be able to actually see a set in person and let my children (ages 7 and 9 at the time of receiving the set) play with it. Laurie promptly sent me the Pet Portrait Studio set and my kids have been playing with it ever since!
One of the story lines they built with the panels was a dog park. They simply ignored the pictures on the panels and had a whole conversation between the characters about being at the dog park!
What Are Build & Imagine Magnetic Doll House Sets?
They are a novel idea (recommended for both boys and girls ages 4-8) that mix the fun of blocks with the creativity of a doll house into one amazing package and are a perfect example of a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Design, Math) toy!
My review of this toy was going to be positive (regardless of having seen the toy in person or not) from a language development and learning perspective.
However, having seen it in person, I can attest to its durability and quality. Each square/triangle panel is surrounded by a magnetic strip. They all connect to each other very well.
Our set arrived very quickly and the packaging is beautiful. It was like Christmas for my kids when they got to open it.
What’s In Each Set?
Each set varies with the amount of panels and magnets that you get, but they all come with several square and triangular panels that can be attached to each other via their magnetic edges. A variety of images/story scenes are on each side of the panels allowing for many different types of stories to be told.
In addition, you will also receive several characters that stand upright as well as 2 dimensional magnets (accessories) that adhere well to the panels and the upright characters.
Storytelling Activities Preschoolers & School Aged Children Will Love
Each of these story playsets focuses on a different theme, therefore each one is it’s own storytelling activity. But if you have more than one of these sets you can combine them to come up with some really creative and wacky stories!
Some specific skills a child can learn by playing with these magnetic dollhouses include (in addition to storytelling and story recall):
♦ giving and following directions
♦ prepositions (on, under, beside, behind, off, between)
♦ asking and answering questions
♦ early literacy
I would have loved to have had one of these sets (probably Malia’s House) while I was practicing as a Speech-Language Pathologist. The language building possibilities are endless!
If you are a Speech-Language Pathologist you will not regret adding one (or a few) of these sets to your toolbox!
Now let’s take a quick look at each set. I will also add some additional storytelling ideas that work well with these sets.
This is a 58 piece set that includes 2 wooden dress up dolls, 16 two sided story building panels (10 squares, 2 rectangles, 2 right-angle triangles and 2 roof triangles) and 40 magnetic accessories.
Some of the things you will find on the panels and magnets are a living room, kitchen, bedrooms, pool, door that opens and closes as well as pets, outfits and more.
If you want to add to the storytelling possibilities consider expanding Malia’s House with your own paper city and characters.
Head over to Made By Joel for some great templates!
Pet Portrait Studio
This 56 piece set includes 2 wooden dress up characters and 4 wooden pets, 10 two sided panels (6 squares and 4 triangles) and 40 magnetic accessories. You will find a painter’s studio, pet lounge, portrait studio, photo lab, pet adoption center, many pets, treats, clothes and much more on the story wall panels and in the accessory magnets.
Add some extra characters to your story with some toilet paper roll people! A Little Learning For Two has some simple instructions for how to make these.
Here are 2 short videos of my kids setting up their Pet Portrait Studio. They were being shy and didn’t want to talk on camera.
So unfortunately you won’t be able to hear some of the great stories they came up with.
Can you see how these sets can help with fine motor skill development? Some of the magnetic accessory pieces are quite small and stick well to the panels. So it will take some fine motor skills to manipulate these. This is also why I wouldn’t recommend this toy for children under the age of 3. Those little pieces can quickly end up in a toddler’s mouth!
Despite being the smallest set it still comes with 61 pieces! You’ll get 4 two sided panels, 2 rectangular and 1 triangular curtain panels, plus 52 magnet accessories. There are also 2 standing wooden dolls.
There are no limits to the stories that can be told with the fairytale theater!
The fairytale theater is a great starter set to get a feel for them. It is the smallest and also least expensive.
For some extra fun, try making story stones. Add some more characters and props to the theater. Happy Hooligans has some great instructions to help get you started.
Marine Rescue Center
The Marine Rescue Center pairs well with the Pet Portrait Studio for even more story lines.
But both sets work well on their own too. This set includes 48 pieces. There is one upright wooden doll and 15 double sided building panels (9 squares and 6 triangles)! And don’t forget about the magnetic accessories. There are 32 of those as well.
The StoryWall panels include scenes featuring a vet exam room, sea lion pool, otter pool, dolphin pool, fish kitchen, lab, underwater observatory, otter rebab tank, a working door plus much, much more!
Try adding some more props and characters with a storytelling basket!
Day At The Beach
This is another one of the smaller sets. But that doesn’t mean there are fewer stories to be told!
A Day At The Beach comes with 10 StoryWall panels, 40 magnetic accessories and 2 wooden characters. Some of the pictures you will see on the panels include: a thatch roof, an ocean wave, a surfing dog, workshop, surfshop, lifeguard stand, cafe and sandy floor panels.
A great extension activity for this set could be to make a mini magnetic fishing set! All you need are some small sticks (or a thin piece of dowling), string, a small magnet, paper clips and a few sea creatures cut out of paper.
Attach the string to the stick and the magnet to the string. Add a paper clip to each sea creature. Cast your fishing rod and reel in the sea creatures when the magnet touches the paper clip!
The Creativity Castle is a large set, similar to Malia’s House in size and price.
This set contains 79 pieces! You will receive 14 magnetic building panels, 63 magnetic accessories and 2 wooden characters.
Some of the scenes include a marketplace, throne room, weaving room, a dungeon, horse stable, kitchen, bedroom, banquet hall towers and a working drawbridge!
Just imagine all the stories that can be told with The Creativity Castle!
Draw & Build Dollhouse
This is actually the smallest set in the group (and also the least expensive).
The Draw & Build Dollhouse is a blank slate! And the panels have wipe off surfaces! So if your child makes a mistake it’s easy to fix.
And the stories that can be created with this set are literally endless. It can be a house for a while and then maybe a restaurant. Next it might be an undiscovered civilization on mars!
With this set you will get 4 square dual sided panels, 4 dry erase markers (I would suggest trying wet erase markers as there will probably be quite a few smudges with the dry erase ones and in my house this will inevitably result in tears), 4 triangle panels, a wooden doll with wipe off surface and a microfibre cloth eraser.
If you have any of the other Build & Imagine sets, try adding some of those magnet accessories. Or make the story even more outrageous by adding other building panels and characters.
Fine motor skills can also be targeted as your child gets to be the artist that creates the entire set!
Every Parent, Teacher and Speech-Language Pathologist Should Invest In The Build & Imagine Sets!
These magnetic dollhouses are so simple yet extremely effective for open ended learning, pre-literacy skill building, fine motor skill development, speech-language development, problem solving, social skills and many more!
As you can see, storytelling activities for children don’t have to be complicated or require intricate lesson plans. Your child will see this as a fun toy and will have no idea how many new skills they are learning!
This toy gets two thumbs up from me!
Make sure to head to the Build & Imagine website to learn more about the company and see some of the add on packs and bundles that are available.
*Image Disclaimer: All images used in this article are my own or are being used with permission from Build & Imagine*