Best Open Ended Toys for Kids: Encouraging Creativity and Imagination

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Best Open Ended Toys

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Are you eager to find toys that spark creativity, imagination, and endless play possibilities for your child? You’re not the only one. Open-ended toys, which can be used in a myriad of ways, have gained significant attention for their ability to foster independent thinking and creativity.

Thankfully, the toy market offers a plethora of open-ended toys designed to inspire limitless play scenarios and enhance cognitive development.

As an expert in child development and toys, I’ve assembled a comprehensive guide spotlighting the best open-ended toys for kids currently capturing hearts and imaginations.

Let’s explore this selection together, leading you to toys that promise to unlock a world of creativity and boundless play for your child.

Best Open Ended Toys

Let’s delve into our handpicked selection of the best open-ended toys that promise a combination of learning and entertainment like no other.

Best Wooden Blocks

Melissa & Doug Wood Building Blocks

Bring home the joy of classic, hands-on play with the Melissa & Doug Wooden Building Blocks. This 60-piece, natural-finished, smooth-sanded hardwood block set is your child’s passport to screen-free, imaginative play.

These blocks do more than just entertain; they are a fantastic introduction to early math concepts like shapes, parts-to-whole, and sorting, while promoting hand-eye coordination and teaching patience. The blocks come in a beautiful wooden crate, ensuring easy and tidy storage.

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What We Love

  • The 60 natural-finish, smooth-sanded hardwood wooden blocks are beautifully crafted and ideal for stacking, building, and hands-on creative learning.
  • The blocks are packaged in a handsome wooden crate for easy storage, which is very convenient.
  • These traditional unit blocks help to develop hand-eye coordination and teach patience, making them a great value for the price, and a class favorite open ended toys for kids.

What We Didn’t Like

  • The blocks are not painted or colored, which might be a turn-off for kids who prefer more colorful toys.

We recently purchased the Melissa & Doug Standard Unit Solid-Wood Building Blocks for our 4-year-old daughter, and she loves them! She spends hours building towers and castles, and we love that she’s learning early math concepts like shapes and sorting. The blocks are very well-made and feel sturdy, so we’re confident they’ll last for years to come.

The only downside is that they’re quite heavy, so we have to be careful when our daughter is carrying them around. It’s amazing how many things she can create with the same toy (from pretend food to princess castles!), its just a great open ended toy and relaly good for independent play.

Best Magnetic Toys

MAGNA-TILES Classic 100-Piece Magnetic Construction Set

Step into a world where shapes, colors, and imagination fuse to create unlimited architectural masterpieces. With 100 vibrant, translucent, and magnetically-connecting geometric shapes, this MAGNA-TILES set is not just a toy, but a gateway to learning through play.

A symbol of safety and durability, each piece is designed to endure countless hours of creative construction. Ignite your child’s imagination and see where their creativity takes them with this extraordinary open-ended toy.

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What We Love

  • The set includes 100 translucent geometric shapes in six different colors, perfect for building all sorts of cool structures and designs.
  • The tiles are made from high-quality, non-toxic plastic that’s free from BPAs, phthalates, and latex, making them safe for little hands to play with.
  • The tiles are compatible with all other MAGNA-TILES sets, so you can add to your collection over time and keep the fun going.

What We Didn’t Like

  • The set is a bit pricey compared to other magnetic tile sets on the market.
  • The tiles can be a bit tricky to separate, especially for younger children who may not have the strength or dexterity to pull them apart easily.
  • The set doesn’t come with any sort of storage container or carrying case, so you’ll need to find a way to keep the tiles organized when not in use.

We recently purchased the MAGNA-TILES Classic 100-Piece Magnetic Construction Set for our three-year-old daughter and it has quickly become one of her favorite toys. She loves building all sorts of structures with the tiles, from simple towers and houses to more complex designs with arches, domes, and bridges.

One thing we love about this set is the quality of the tiles themselves. They’re made from a sturdy, food-grade plastic that feels durable and long-lasting. The magnets are strong enough to hold the tiles together securely, but not so strong that they’re difficult to separate.

Another great thing about this set is the variety of shapes and colors included. With squares, triangles, and several different types of triangles, there are plenty of options for building all sorts of designs. The translucent colors are also really fun and add an extra element of visual interest to the finished structures.

Best Construction Set

PicassoTiles Hedgehog Block Tiles

A tool to stimulate color recognition, counting, sorting, and a robust sense of geometry, these blocks lay the foundation for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math skills in an entertaining way. With the power to create over endless designs from the 120-piece set, children’s imagination and creativity are boundless.

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What We Love

  • The bristle shape blocks are easy to connect and disconnect, making it easy for children to build more creative designs and improve hand-eye coordination.
  • The 120-piece building block set can create more than 20 creative designs, which can help children acquire a strong sense of color, structures, geometrical shapes, and architectural design at an early age.
  • The toy is perfect for families or groups to work together to design and build the structures, fostering teamwork and family bonding.

What We Didn’t Like

  • Some customers have reported that the pegs on the blocks break off easily, which can be frustrating for children who want to build bigger structures.
  • The set does not come with a storage container, which can make it difficult to keep the pieces organized.

The bristle shape blocks are easy to manipulate, and the variety of add-on pieces offer open-ended play opportunities. We have enjoyed watching our children improve their hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills while working together to build structures.

Best Creative Art Toy

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Art Easel

This feature-packed easel comes with a dry-erase board, chalkboard, child-safe paper cutter, and convenient clip grips and plastic trays. It is a playground for your child’s fine motor skills, offering the perfect surface for their first letters and words.

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What We Love

  • Provides a creative, screen-free play option for children
  • Helps build fine motor skills
  • Easy to assemble and height adjustable

What We Didn’t Like

  • Contains multiple small pieces and is not intended to use for any children under three years of age
  • Paper, paint, cups, paint brushes and chalk sold separately

The Melissa & Doug Deluxe Art Easel is a fantastic way for children to create art with paint, chalk, pens, crayons, markers, and more, all at one convenient station. It features a bi-fold wood frame with two art stations, one on each side, which allows two children to work at one time. The easel is also designed to let children experiment with several different art media: on one side is a chalkboard, on the other is a dry erase board, and in between the two easel sides is a dowel for holding a paper roll.

The easel includes sturdy clips that can hold oversized individual art papers onto the easel’s surfaces. Our kids art easel features a sturdy wooden frame, is easy to assemble, and folds flat for easy storage. It’s height adjustable, and it ships in Certified Frustration-Free Packaging.

Best Balance Board

Gentle Monster Wooden Wobble Balance Board

This versatile toy transcends conventional play, morphing into a swing, a bridge, a racetrack, a lounge chair, and so much more based on your child’s imagination.

It not only stimulates the vestibular system, crucial for overall development and learning, but also strengthens posture muscles and hones balancing skills. With its sturdy design, it’s perfect for both children and adults, supporting fitness, yoga, or simply providing fun.

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What We Love

  • The board can be used in a variety of ways, encouraging imaginative play and physical activity.
  • It helps develop important skills like balance, coordination, and posture.
  • Made from high-quality, eco-friendly materials, it’s a safe and durable toy that can be enjoyed for years.

What We Didn’t Like

  • .It’s a bit on the pricey side compared to other open-ended toys.
  • It may not be suitable for very young children who are still developing their balance and coordination.

We recently had the chance to try out the Gentle Monster Wooden Wobble Balance Board, and we were impressed with its versatility and durability. Our kids love it, using it as a rocker, a balance board, and even a makeshift slide and everything in between. It was also great for yoga and stretching exercises, and we found ourselves using it as a seat aid during long work sessions.

One thing we really appreciated about this toy is how it grows with your child. It can be used by toddlers as young as 18 months, but it’s also suitable for older kids and even adults. We also appreciated the attention to detail in the craftsmanship – the wood is beautiful and unique, and the lacquers are eco-friendly and safe for little ones, this will definitely help with physical play and gross motor skills!

Best Peg Dolls

Natural Unfinished Wooden Peg Dolls

This set of 40 maple wood peg dolls are simply stunning and whilst they might look like simple toys, don’t be fooled, peg dolls are a classic of open ended play. The charm of the peg dolls lies in their simplicity, allowing your child’s imagination to take flight.

These made in the USA, high-quality birch and maple turnings come in five distinct shapes and sizes, representing men, women, angels, boys, and tots, perfect for a diverse array of arts and crafts projects. This set is not only versatile but also safe, featuring untreated, unfinished, and absolutely non-toxic wood.

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What We Love

  • Versatility: The Natural Unfinished Wooden Peg Dolls are the perfect canvas for creativity. Children can paint, color, or decorate them in any way they like, allowing for endless customization and they really encourage imaginative play.
  • Durability: Made from solid wood, these peg dolls are robust and durable, able to withstand rigorous play sessions. This longevity means they can be enjoyed for years, and even passed down to younger siblings.
  • Promotes Fine Motor Skills: The act of painting and decorating the dolls can help children develop their fine motor skills, aiding in hand-eye coordination and precision.

What We Didn’t Like

  • .Lack of Variety: While the simplicity of the Natural Unfinished Wooden Peg Dolls is part of their charm, some children might crave more variety in shape or size to create a broader range of characters or scenarios.

Best Play Scarves

Scarves are perfect for musical play, kindergarten, dance groups, magic tricks performance, or decorating your bag, just some great all round pretend play toys. They are a great addition to your daycare, childcare, or preschool.

Juggling Scarves

Perfect for a wide variety of activities, from dancing and juggling to sensory play, these scarves can also double as dressing accessories or bag decorations. They are washable, fade-resistant, and hypoallergenic, making them perfect for long-term, safe use. This affordable pack provides a fun and colorful way to enhance your child’s hand-eye coordination and color recognition skills.

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What We Love

  • The bright colors of the juggling scarves are appealing to kids and meet various needs.
  • They are made of thin and skin-friendly fabric, which is soft, lightweight, breathable, and comfortable to wear.
  • The scarves are washable and fade resistant, ensuring long-term usage and great to include for any sensory play.

What We Didn’t Like

  • The scarves are thin, which may not be suitable for rough play.

We found the Juggling Scarves to be a great way for kids to develop their hand-eye coordination and color recognition skills. The scarves are lightweight and compact, making them easy to take anywhere. They are also suitable for all seasons, so you can use them year-round.

Best Budget Open Ended Toy Set

38 PCs Wooden Rainbow Stacking Toys Set

This captivating set invites children into a realm of endless exploration, bolstered by brightly colored blocks and diverse shapes. Crafted from high-quality wood and painted with eco-friendly, non-toxic paint, these blocks promise both durability and safety, sparking joy and learning in equal measure.

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What We Love

  • Promotes Creativity: The bright colors and varied shapes encourage kids to explore their imagination and come up with creative structures.
  • Enhances Motor Skills: The set allows kids to develop balancing and stacking skills, fostering their problem-solving capabilities.
  • Suitable for Group Play: This toy is a great addition to family game nights or group play, promoting teamwork and cooperation.

What We Didn’t Like

  • No Storage Solution: Similar to other sets, it does not come with a storage solution, which might make organization a bit challenging.

Adding to its charm, this set promotes collaborative play, making it a fantastic addition to family game nights or group play sessions. Children will learn the essence of teamwork as they work together, transforming simple blocks into grand masterpieces. Despite the lack of a storage solution and guided instructions, the set’s versatility and open-ended nature ensure limitless possibilities for play, keeping children engaged for hours on end.

Ultimately, the OY Life Wooden Rainbow Stacking Toys prove that quality doesn’t have to break the bank. With its affordable price tag, top-tier materials, and educational benefits, this set earns its place as a top choice for a budget open-ended toy.

Best Starter Lego Set

LEGO Classic Medium Creative Brick Box

From toy trains to tiger figurines, children can bring their wildest ideas to life. The set includes windows, toy eyes, 18 tires, and toy wheel rims, all ready to be arranged on a green baseplate. The included container doubles as convenient storage for tidy playtimes. Perfect for kids aged 4 to 99, this set promotes imaginative play and creativity. And the best part? It’s compatible with all LEGO construction sets, meaning the possibilities for fun are limitless!

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What We Love

  • With 35 different colors and 484 pieces, there are endless possibilities for building and creating.
  • The set includes windows, toy eyes, and lots of toy wheels, which add to the fun and offer even more opportunities for creative construction.
  • The plastic toy storage box is convenient and helps keep all the pieces organized

What We Didn’t Like

  • The set may not be challenging enough for older kids or experienced LEGO builders.

Our family had a lot of fun playing with the LEGO Classic Medium Creative Brick Box. We spent hours building and creating different structures, vehicles, and animals. The variety of colors and pieces kept things interesting, and we enjoyed experimenting with different combinations and designs.

One thing we appreciated about this set was that it encouraged imaginative play and creativity. Without any specific instructions or guidelines, kids are free to use their own imagination and come up with their own unique creations.

The storage box was also a nice touch, as it made it easy to keep all the pieces organized and in one place. However, we did find that some of the smaller pieces were a bit difficult to fit back into the box once we were done playing.

Best Figurines

Schleich Animal Toys

Immerse your child in a world of wild adventure with the Schleich Wild Safari Animal Toys. This realistic animal figures set includes a wide range of African forest animals – from a towering giraffe to a roaring lion, a cheetah on the prowl, a swinging chimpanzee, and even a plodding warthog.

These action figurines are not just playthings but gateways to endless stories and imaginative adventures.

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What We Love

  • Wide Range of Animals: The set includes a diverse array of African forest animals, enhancing the scope for imaginative play.
  • Realistic Details: Each figurine is made with great attention to detail, making the animals appear lifelike and adding to the immersive experience.
  • Encourages Imagination: These toys are not just for fun but also stimulate imaginative thinking and storytelling, fostering creativity in children.

What We Didn’t Like

  • Price: The cost might be slightly high for some buyers, considering it’s a toy set, but these are very high quality figures designed to last years!

The Schleich Wild Safari Animal Toys set is a fantastic collection that brings the thrill of African wildlife into the hands of your child. The realistic detailing on each figurine is commendable and it’s sure to ignite your child’s imagination, transporting them to the wild plains of Africa. Not just a source of fun, these toys promote creative thinking, storytelling, and an appreciation for wildlife.

These toys are made to last, ensuring your child will have them as companions for many adventures to come. Despite a few drawbacks such as the lack of interactive features, the set stands out for its realistic detail and variety of animals. If you’re looking for toys that not only entertain but also stimulate your child’s imagination and creativity, the Schleich Wild Safari Animal Toys set is a worthy investment. Let your child explore the wild world of Africa and go on exciting adventures right from the comfort of your home.

Best Loose Parts Collection

Wooden Loose Parts Set

This is a versatile collection that includes 81 pieces with 7 distinct shapes and 27 different colors. The set inspires creative play, with a multitude of combinations that can spark a child’s imagination.

They help children hone their fine motor skills, color recognition, and hand-eye coordination, making learning a colorful and fun experience.

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What We Love

  • Diverse Shapes and Colors: The play set comes with 7 different shapes in 27 colors. This variety encourages creativity and keeps children engaged for longer periods.
  • Educational Value: This toy set not only provides fun but also helps children develop essential skills like fine motor control, color recognition, and hand-eye coordination.

What We Didn’t Like

  • No Storage Solution: The set does not seem to come with a storage solution, which could make clean-up and organization challenging.

The Large Set Full Rainbow Color Style Wooden Loose Parts Sensory Play Toys set impresses with its vibrant colors and diverse shapes, appealing to children’s natural curiosity and desire for exploration. The multiple pieces and shapes provide endless possibilities for creative play and construction. Children have been found to enjoy making unique designs, combining colors and shapes in different ways each time they play. The added benefit of developing fine motor skills, color recognition, and hand-eye coordination makes this set a fantastic educational tool as well as a source of fun.

The tactile feel of the different woods, combined with the array of colors and shapes, stimulates multiple senses, making playtime both engaging and beneficial for overall development. The durability of the materials used also ensures that this toy set can be enjoyed for years.

Buying Guide

When it comes to buying open-ended toys, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you choose the best product for your child. First, read our very detailed guide as to what is an open ended toy, and what is open ended play, so you have a good idea of what you want. Here are some features to look for:

Material

First and foremost, consider the material of the toy. Opt for toys made from safe, non-toxic materials that are durable and easy to clean. Wooden toys are a great option as they are sturdy, long-lasting, and eco-friendly.

Age Range

Make sure to choose a toy that is appropriate for your child’s age range. Toys that are too advanced or too simple can lead to frustration or boredom. Check the recommended age range on the packaging or product description to ensure a good fit.

Versatility

Look for toys that can be used in multiple ways and encourage creativity and imagination. Open-ended toys should be able to be played with in a variety of ways, allowing your child to explore and experiment.

Size

Consider the size of the toy and whether it is appropriate for the space you have available. Large toys may not be suitable for small apartments or homes, while smaller toys may get lost or overlooked in larger play areas.

Price

Finally, consider the price of the toy. While it can be tempting to go for the cheapest option, investing in a high-quality open-ended toy can provide years of play and learning opportunities for your child. Look for toys that offer good value for money and will provide long-term benefits.

FAQS on Open Ended Toys

What is open-ended vs closed ended toys?

Open-ended toys are those that can be used in a multitude of ways, encouraging imagination, creativity, and critical thinking. They have no predetermined usage or final outcome, allowing children to decide how to play with them. Examples include blocks, art supplies, and loose parts like rocks and shells. Conversely, closed-ended toys have a specific use or goal. For instance, a jigsaw puzzle is a closed-ended toy as there is only one correct way to complete it. Such toys often have an end-point, and while they can be enjoyable and beneficial in other ways, they offer less scope for imaginative play.

Does Montessori use open-ended toys?

Yes, the Montessori method strongly advocates for the use of open-ended toys. Montessori emphasizes self-directed, hands-on learning, and the unlimited possibilities offered by open-ended toys align perfectly with this philosophy. They allow children to explore, experiment, and learn at their own pace, promoting independence, problem-solving skills, and a love of learning.

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