20 Toys for Creative and Open-Ended Play
Every year, we get rid of more and more toys that are just taking up space and swap them out for toys that encourage creative and open-ended play. Who has time for a bunch of toys that can’t be played with because there pieces are missing, or toys that get played with for a week and then are tossed aside never looked at again? I definitely don’t and I’m sure you feel the same way.
We work hard for the money we spend on our children’s toys. We want them to be enjoyed and played with longer than a week or two. Since weeding out the toys that do and do not not get played with, I’ve been able to limit my kids toy collection to toys that truly promote creative, open-ended play. It has limited the chaos that toys tend to create and our children play so much better by themselves, with each other, and have better play time in general. Their creativity and imaginations have sky rocketed because of it.
What are open-ended toys?
Open-ended toys are those that can be used in countless different ways. They aren’t designed to be used for a single type of use. They don’t play music or light up, and your kids won’t become tired of playing with them. Your children’s imaginations are the only limits when it comes to open-ended toys.
Most of the toys that are in stores today do all the playing for our kids. All they have to do is push a button and countless songs, phrases, and lights go off for the next five minutes. There is no room for imagination. Everything is programmed to do a specific thing, at a specific time, when you push specific button. It’s extremely limited. The same goes for brand or character specific toys. They already have a gender, likes and dislikes, a whole story behind them. With plain dolls your child can make them boy or girl, change their likes and dislikes as they choose, and freely be able to tell a different story every time they play with it. Just remember, the less a toy does, the more versatile and beneficial it is for the creative mind.
Keep the amount of toys limited.
There are many toys that can benefit children, but to actually get those benefits, you have to limit the amount of toys that are in your home. When we keep a smaller amount, it’s easier to choose what to play with, there is more room to play, it’s easier to clean up afterwards, and it’s not overwhelming their senses.
Have you ever noticed that when you have playroom full of toys or bedroom full of toys your kids still find themselves bored quickly and easily. There are more fights and cleaning up is a nightmare for both the parent and the child. Having less means less clean up, more engrossed play, extended amount of play, and less fighting.
When you’re evaluating the toys in your own home, remember to keep a manageable amount. Having just 4-6 items is all that is needed and is much more manageable for a child. Building sets are the only exception I make, we have wide variety that we keep in rotation.
Here are my favorite toys for creative and open ended play:
Classic Wooden Blocks – Some of our favorites are Grimm’s, Melissa and Doug, and Kapla. These blocks have consistently held up to some major beat ups. Wooden blocks are definitely a much better option then foam blocks, which were destroyed in our house in no time.
Joinks – These are really cool because you can make all sorts of crazy, innovative shapes. We don’t own these….yet. We are looking forward to purchasing them soon though!
Peg People – These are so basic and simple yet our kids still LOVE them. They get played with on a consistent basis and they get some great imaginative play out of them.
Wooden Arches and Tunnels – We currently own the Grimm’s Rainbow Blocks. They have been turned into bridges, tunnels, houses, marble runs, buildings, rockets, motorcycles, the list goes on. They have proved to be a fantastic investment that our kids still play with all the time.
Magna Tiles – The things that can be built with these bad boys are literally endless. They are awesome and will make a great addition to your children’s toys.
Legos – Who doesn’t love legos? We currently own DUPLOS and LEGO Juniors because our children are still fairly young and one likes to try and eat everything. These are probably the most well known open ended toy that you can get and rightfully so, kids never get tired of them!
Balance Board – I have been eyeing these for a couple years now. It can be used for rocking, yoga, step stool, slide, balancing, tunnel, foot rest, bridge, ramp for cars. Your imagination is the limit. I can’t wait for my kids to get theirs!
Animal Figurines – Kids love animals. We prefer wooden ones such as the holztiger brand which are hand made, hand painted, non-toxic, and amazing quality. Although from everything I’ve heard the Schleich brand is amazing as well. Kids can intertwine these with all of their creative play or play with just the animals.
Dress Up Clothes – General dress up clothes are a great option for your aspiring chef, artist, firefighter, or superhero. Just remember not to go crazy. From personal experience, I have found the more options the less my kids played dress up. Keep it simple and it will provide hours of fun.
The Fort Magic Kit – Another one we don’t currently own but are excited to purchase when our kids get a bit older. It comes with instructions to build a multitude of things such as an airplane, horse and carriage, spaceship, and submarine. You can also just build whatever your mind wants to create!
Marble Run – Marble runs are a classic toy that spark so much innovative and creativeness in our minds. We are looking forward to purchasing one for our own kids in the future. Even my husband and I will more than likely end up playing with it as well.
Doll House – Buying a doll house that is made for open ended play is key. Avoid brand specific and even gender specific ones. Ex: pink, purple, barbie, or frilly doll houses. Even a doll house can be used as more than just a house. If you have a boy he can use it as a firehouse, police station, or a garage for his cars.
Art Supplies – Drawing, painting, and crafting are always an excellent source of entertainment for kids. Having a wide variety of materials is key. Even bringing in natural materials found in your backyard such as sticks, leaves and rocks are a fun addition to art supplies. We always have plenty on hand for when they have the urge to create masterpieces.
Modeling Clay – I personally prefer modeling clay over Play dough. It’s not near as messy and it doesn’t dry out near as fast. My kids really enjoy playing with modeling clay, creating figurines and play scenes.
Kinetic Sand – Great for fine motor skills and sensory awareness. It’s less messy than regular sand and provides hours of fun for little ones. Even our 12 year old still likes playing with kinetic sand.
Baby Dolls/Accessories – Just a basic doll with a few accessories is sufficient. Again, you don’t want to overdue it on the amount of dolls and accessories. A diaper, cloth, blanket, and stroller are enough. If you want a bag to put everything in that’s handy as well.
Nesting Bowls – Nesting bowls are great for learning different sizes and the order of things. They can be used to play restaurant, tea parties, caves, pools, etc.
Vehicles – Both my daughter and son love to play with cars and other play vehicles, They have races and build obstacle courses with their blocks, and arches to drive them through. There are lots of options with play vehicles to provide lots of fun.
Tegu Blocks – We LOVE Tegu blocks. They are magnetic and you can build so many things you wouldn’t be able to with just regular blocks. What my kids really like is the north and south poles of the magnetics and making them move without them touching.
Playstand – If you have the space these are a fantastic addition for creative play. They can be a store, bookshelves, lemonade stand, house, whatever you want. They are an investment but they will definitely occupy your little ones for hours. They will also last for years to come and could be a nice piece to hand down to family members or friends.
All of these toys are ones that we personally own and LOVE or are on our wish list to purchase in the future. These are toys that will spark imagination, inspire creativity, and can be used by your kids in an endless variety of ways. These are toys that will consistently get played with – probably even everyday and will last for years.
What are your kids favorite toys? What toys do you like for open-ended and creative play?
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