Is there a more universally beloved toy than LEGO? Truly, it’s a gift the entire family can enjoy. Oversized DUPLO blocks encourage concentration and creativity from the preschool years on; themed collections like Friends and Ninjago appeal to pre-teens; complex motorized kits let the budding teen engineer explore; adults can get in on the action with elegantly designed, statement-making sets worthy of display. (And of course, at any age level, if you lose a piece, you can just walk around without shoes until you step on it in the dark.)
These sets offer ample proof that LEGO makes a great gift, whatever the age of the recipient.
For adult architects
LEGO Architecture Studio
This definitely isn’t the jumbled box of multicolored LEGO you grew up with. A massive, monochromatic 1,200-piece set comprised of sleek white and clear bricks, this Studio comes with a 272-page book of hands-on design tips from some of the world’s most prestigious architects. There’s no instruction manual. There are no numbered steps to follow. There is only your inspiration and the bricks that will allow you to bring your vision into being.
LEGO Eiffel Tower
This 321-piece scale recreation of the most iconic structure in the Parisian skyline is one of the classiest sets in the gorgeous LEGO Architecture line. The matte grey bricks and subtle design touches result in a final piece that is less a model than a work of art.
For teen technicians
LEGO Mindstorms EV3
The most technologically advanced LEGO set ever combines more than 550 Technic bricks with a Wi-Fi-equipped processor that allows builders to construct their own walking, talking, programmable robots. Control them with the included remote or download the smart device app. Instructions are included for five different robots, but the only real limit is your creativity (and, presumably, Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics). If we could send one LEGO set back in time to our childhoods, it would be this one.
For middle school Minecrafters and Mallrats
LEGO Minecraft World: The End
The bleak landscape of The End, ruled over by the Ender Dragon and the Endermen, is a familiar (if feared) environment in the world of Minecraft. This moody 440-piece kit comes with a dragon and four Endermen “Micromob” figures. Your giftee’s imagination will soar as she heads into battle.
LEGO Friends: Heartlake Shopping Mall
This mall has it all. Four mini-doll friends hop into their convertible for an afternoon of shopping at this two-story mall with a revolving door, a sports shop, a bridal shop, a food court, a spa, and even a photo booth with a working flash. The charm of this set is all in the details—we love that the obviously very hip food court offers mini slices of wood-fired LEGO pizza.
LEGO Star Wars: Jedi Interceptor
Star Wars Episode VII is a year away, so there’s still plenty of time to relive the drama of the Clone Wars. Anakin and R2-D2 minifigs race off to save Senator Palpatine from General Grievous in this 223-piece Jedi Interceptor, and, trust us, all of those words make sense to Star Wars fans.
LEGO Ninjago: X-1 Ninja Charger
Usually ninjas are masters of silence and stealth, but sometimes you just need a really flashy car. That’s where the Ninjago X-1 Ninja Charger comes in. This 426-piece set offers two vehicles in one: the center of the car detaches to form a motorcycle with a launching mechanism. There’s also a minifig Ninjago and two evil ninja robots. (Evil ninja robots? Maybe this is the set we’ll send back through time to our childhoods.)
For elementary school engineers
LEGO City: Arctic Base Camp
Explore the frozen tundra with this 735-piece adventure set. The base camp features a fully equipped research lab complete with a conveyor belt, computers, a microscope, and, most importantly, a coffee maker. The attached hanger houses an exploration vehicle, a sled and a team of dogs, and snowmobiles for those dangerous trips onto the ice to collect samples (but watch out for the polar bear). In addition to a handful of explorer minifigs, this set also comes with a research assistant. You’re adorable, LEGO. Never change.
LEGO City: High-speed Passenger Train
Ah, the train set, the most highly coveted part of any LEGO collection. This modern version is tricked out with all the bells and whistles. The 600-piece set includes a motorized locomotive controlled via infrared remote, two passenger cars, three minifigs, and over eight feet of track.
For preschool playtime
DUPLO My First Train Set
LEGO love starts early, and it starts with DUPLO. This set includes 52 oversize pieces that build into a three-car train with sound effects, a depot and refueling station, and more than five feet of track.