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Top 10 Open Ended Toys for Imaginative Play

Top 10 Open Ended Toys For Imaginative Play

Open ended toys are so good for kids. These kind of toys have been described as 90% child and 10% toy because the child creates the outcome, rather than being dictated by the toy. Imaginative play toys help toddlers develop essential life skills, and learn to express themselves without being told how to play.

What is open ended play?

Open ended play is all about unstructured or flexible play. It allows children to create things using their imagination and creativity - an open ended activity, in other words. It encourages them to solve problems and ask questions. Children direct their own activities without setting any rules or restrictions. They become the ones in charge of playtime.

What are open ended toys?

So, what are open ended toys? There are close ended toys, and they have specific objectives to achieve. But open ended materials encourage endless creativity. Toys like dollhouses or building blocks allow children to play with no set outcomes. These toys will help them learn how to solve problems, expand their language, build friendships, and more.

So what kind of toys encourage this free form play? Look for toys and play materials that have lots of different uses and that will inspire creativity. Choose those that encourage mental or physical activity, too.

For recommendations on great toys that will inspire your little ones, and provide hours of play, read on!

Role play and imaginative play toys

10 open ended toys for your little ones

Here's a list of safe and non toxic toys that inspire endless creativity and imagination.

1. Wooden blocks or any type of building blocks

Wood blocks are classic open ended toys that have multiple uses. Children can use them to build castles, forts or whole towns. Kids can also use blocks with different textures for tactile stimulation.

The building blocks from Everearth and Plan Toys are perfectly sized for little hands. They're bright and fun easy to hold and explore. Some blocks, like these Everearth sound blocks, even make noises. All these eco friendly, wooden toys are great for sorting and knocking over, too.

Read more: Best Building Blocks for Kids

2. Stacking rainbow

These are also building toys. They're also some of the most versatile open ended toys you can find. Play with them flat, or create three dimensional objects. Little ones can use them to build houses, tunnels, mountains, bridges, walls, and more.

These creative toys for toddlers are truly multi-use and will last for years. Check out the Bigjigs Toys Wooden Stacking Rainbow, Janod Cocoon Rainbow Turtle, and Dëna Toys Silicone Rainbow Stacking Toy.

Stacking rainbow open ended toy

3. Role play toys

These toys allow children to recreate the world around them as they assume different roles. Your little ones can pretend to be a party host, a chef, a carpenter or doctor.

Be mindful of gender stereotypes when choosing toys. Let your kids, for example, know that mechanic or carpenter tool toys aren’t only for boys. Girls can be carpenters, just like boys can be hairdressers. 

The best toys for children are gender neutral, like the Everearth Tea Set, Hape Toddler Kitchen Set, Green Toys Tool Set, and Plan Toys Doctor Set. These fun toys help develop social and fine motor skills and encourage pretend play.

You can even offer musical toys for fun role play!

4. Dolls

Dolls, including peg people, can show children their unlimited potential to use their imagination. These can help them create interactive stories about characters and people, too. The Everearth Tree House is a lovely example of this, as is the Tender Leaf Toys Happy Folk Hotel.

This sustainable, open ended toy helps develop social skills with little wooden people of all colours and races.

Tender Leaf Toys Happy Folk Hotel for open ended play

5. Animal toys

Like dolls and peg people, animal toys have endless pretend play possibilities. Kids can go from creating a small world inhabited by animals to acting out a book’s story.

Check out Bigjigs Toys Farm Skittles, Apple Park Franny Flamingo Organic Plush Toy, Janod Pull Along Dog, Tikiri Ocean Buddies - Octopus, and Tender Leaf Toys wooden animals. These creative kids toys will entertain your child and encourage sensory development.

6. Balls

Balls are a great way to start engaging in open ended play. Depending on the type of ball, these simple toys are not only used for throw and catch games or dribble and chase. They’re also great for when your kids want to use them as a scoop of ice cream or any other round objects they can imagine.

The CaaOcho Rainbow Sensory Ball, Hevea Upcycled Star Ball, and Rubbabu Mini Balls are squeezable, flexible, and easy to grasp.

CaaOcho Rainbow Sensory Ball for open ended play

7. Play dough

The adaptable nature of this squishy sensory toy allows kids to let their imaginations run wild. Children can mould the play dough into different shapes and sizes. They can recreate everyday objects or invent something new out of their imagination. You might not recognise the shape, but your toddler will know exactly what they're trying to make!

Little ones will enjoy hours of sensory play with the Bio Dough Natural Play Dough Rainbow in a Bag. The dough smells amazing, and it's made with food grade ingredients, without synthetic fragrances. It's a safe choice for your children.

8. Waldorf balance boards

Also known as the Waldorf Kinderboard, this toy is best for imaginative play. Kids can use it indoors or outdoors as a tunnel, hill, hideout, slide, or wobble board.

Montessori open ended toys like Kinderfeets Kinderboard Natural are a great tool. Toys like these help little ones develop a sense of balance and stimulate their vestibular system. They’re also perfect for children who find it hard to sit still.

Kinderfeets Kinderboard open ended play

9. Wooden walkers and block carts

Walkers and block carts can become so many things during imaginative play. They can be a car, shopping trolley, pushcart, baby doll pram, teddy transport and so much more.

The Le Toy Van Petilou Rainbow Cloud Walker, Im Toy Walk and Ride On Cow Sorter, and Janod ABC Walker are wonderfully creative toys for kids. These multi functional walkers combine play, fun, and movement as your child learns how to walk. They can use the walker to carry treasures around the house, too.

10. Cars, trains, and other vehicle toys

Creativity toys inspire many ways to express a child's imagination. They can use toy cars to race around the house or play with train blocks to recreate a scene from their favourite movie. They can also reenact a naval battle or fight pirates using a toy boat.

The Hess Spielzeug Rolli Car, Viking Toys Mini Eco Chubbies, Everearth Sorting Train Blocks, and Green Toys Sport Boats are perfect for small hands to hold. They also help develop fine motor skills and problem solving skills. These are great for indoor or outdoor use, too.

Everearth Sorting Train Blocks open ended toy

Choosing the best open ended toys

Once you know what kind of toy you're looking for, you still need to bear in mind that the toys need to be age appropriate, as well as safe and non toxic.

And because we're all about sustainability around here, we'd encourage you to look for good quality wooden toys, organic cotton or even recycled plastic toys. To make sure they're ethical, choose a supplier that's part of the ICTI ethical toys programme.

More useful articles:

What is Open Ended Play and Why is it So Good for Toddlers

How to Avoid Toxic Toys

And of course, if you're looking for great toys, don't forget to check out the range at Hello Charlie.


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