We have been doing a little bit of an open-ended series this month! If you missed it, I recently did a blog post on the benefits of open-ended play, as well as created a helpful guide to buying open-ended toys. Now, I wanted to pull together the ultimate list of open-ended toys for toddlers and preschoolers.
I am the momma to an almost 4-year-old, and over the past 4 years I have learned a lot about play and completely changed the way I buy toys for my child. I am so much more intentional about what I bring into our play space now. I was so tired of buying toys that were played with a handful of times and then tossed in the corner. I started to research play, toys, etc. and was really intrigued by open-ended play. Now, I aim to buy mostly open-ended toys for our play space.
Open-ended play has so many benefits, but what I love most is that open-ended toys will typically grow with your child and many can be played with for years! No more throwing out toys every few months or wasting money on toys that are not played with! The thing with open-ended toys is they can be played with in a variety of different ways. Open-ended toys are also typically child-led, meaning the child is in control of the play and how the toy is played with!
So, today I wanted to share our absolute favourite open-ended toys, along with some that are on my wish list! Hopefully, within our list, you can find a few options that you think will be a good fit for your little one and will align with their interests.
1 | Magnetic Tiles
One of our most used toys, Magnetic Tiles! We love our magnetic tiles and we use them in SO many different ways. We have used them in the traditional building towers way, but have also used them on our garage door, in learning activities, to create marble runs, to make roads, to make little houses, etc.
The options are endless and so open-ended! I always recommend magnetic tiles to those that ask about our favourite toys.
We have tried multiple brands including the Picasso Tiles, Magna-Tiles, and Connetix. Honestly, all 3 are great. Picasso is the more budget-friendly option but has lower quality plastic than the other two (in my opinion). However, they are still great! I always say if you just have one child the Picasso tiles are probably perfect for you. If you have multiple kids or are purchasing for a classroom or home day-care, I would invest in the higher quality tiles as they will likely hold up better with lots of use.
Also, Magna-Tiles and Connetix are more options for add-ons and neat options. Ball runs, tiles with wheels to create cars, clear tiles, and so much more.
All the tiles do work interchangeably and we use all of ours together!
2 | Animal Figures
One of our other most used toys, animal figures! So open-ended and versatile, our bin of animal figures is played with daily. My toddler constantly has animals in her hands. She brings them in the tub, in the car, on walks, etc.
It has been so adorable to see how her play has developed as well. We have had some of our animals since my daughter was as young as 18 months, she interacted with them by learning to say their names and sounds, lining them up, pulling them out of bins and putting them back in, etc.
Now at 4 years old, she is setting up little homes and habitats for them, making them have conversations, using two animals to interact with each other, etc.
As her imagination grows, so does how she plays and interacts with her toys. That is why animal figures are a great investment, they grow with your child and will be played with for years!
3 | Wooden Blocks
A playroom staple! Wooden blocks can be played with in so many more ways than just stacking towers! My toddler has used her wooden blocks as houses for her dolls, food for her animals, roads, etc.
She also loves to stack them, line them up, build towers, and so much more. Our wooden blocks are pulled out very often and used in so many different ways.
We have had small wooden blocks in our play space for a few years now, but we just recently added some large wooden blocks and they are also such a huge hit!
4 | Play Dough
One of my personal favourites! I pull out play dough often because it is easy and it always keeps my toddler busy. It is always so fun to see how she will interact with the play dough. will she build something, make cookies, cut out shapes, use her animals in it? So many endless options and such a great way to promote creativity and imagination.
Often I set up a playdough tray and set it out to watch her imagination unfold. So fun to watch how she plays with it! You can see some of our playdough tray ideas here: 7 Inviting Play Dough Trays to Try With Your Child
We have also started making our own homemade playdough and it is SO much better than the store-bought stuff. So soft, and I just find it doesn’t stick to the table or surface the same way the store-bought dough does. The recipe is so easy and only takes about 10 minutes.
You can find our homemade playdough recipe here: The Easiest Way to Make Home Made Play Dough
5 | Flockmen
We have previously been gifted a set of Flockmen and I am so happy that we were. They are so much fun (for both my toddler and for me LOL), and they are so open-ended too! We have stacked them up, used them in a domino set-up, and Mia often just uses them as little people in her play.
A great little open-ended option to add to your play space! You can check them out HERE.
6 | Play Silks
Play silks, which are basically large silk scarves, have been on my list of “Things I Want for Our Play Space” for a long time. I know a popular brand is Sarah’s silks and if you just check out their Instagram page you can see how very open-ended they are.
7 | Wobble Board
We bought a wobble board when my daughter was 2 and she really grew into it in the past two years. She plays with it now at 4 more than ever! She loves to stand and rock on it, has used it as a baby doll bed, a road, a tunnel, a slide, and so much more.
It is so open-ended and really brings out her imagination. Not to mention it’s a great addition for indoor gross motor activity! We have this wobble board from Wood Wood Toys.
8 | Dolls & Accessories
I love watching my toddler play and interact with her dolls. Playing with dolls has so many great benefits for both boys and girls, but my favourite aspect is just how open-ended the play can be!
A doll can be fed, dressed, walked around in a stroller, put to bed, bathed, etc.
Also, dolls can be played with in a dollhouse. Your child can create scenarios and conversations between multiple dolls, or play dolls alongside a friend. They can set up the dollhouse, change the doll’s clothing, etc.
Lots of different ways to play with dolls and doll accessories! We have a few different dolls, but I love this one, from the photo above, because she can be put in the water, so is great for bath time fun!
9 | Play Kitchen & Accessories
Similar to doll play, having a play kitchen and kitchen accessories (like play food and pots and pans). Is great for open-ended play!
My daughter has used her play kitchen so often since getting it 3 years ago. It’s been a restaurant, an ice cream shop, and a coffee shop. She’s made soup, meals for her baby doll, washed dishes, and so much more. We also often will theme our kitchen for occasions. As you can see in the photo above, we have her kitchen set up for Halloween and have a spooky soup station!
We have the Ikea Kitchen which is pretty basic but does the trick. We also recently purchased this super cute little Fridge by HAPE. We also have lots of favourite kitchen accessories!
Here are a few of our favourites:
10 | Art Supplies
Having some simple art supplies on hand is a great open-ended option. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Think Paper, markers, crayons, paint, glue, Pom Poms, craft sticks, beads, etc.
Art allows creativity and imagination to really shine through. Giving your child some simple paper and paint is a great open-ended activity and one that allows them to freely create whatever their heart desires!
13 | Wooden Rainbow Stackers
Funny enough I bought a wooden rainbow for our playroom because I thought it would be a pretty decor item. Little did I know how much it would be played with. It gets stacked up, played with in small world play, It’s been a tunnel, and it’s been used in many different colour matching activities too.
We opted for a more budget-friendly one. I know there are many out there that are quite expensive but have more colours and arches. Knowing what I know now and that it is a well-played with toy, I would have probably opted for a better one! However, our budget-friendly option is great if you are not looking to spend too much!
14 | Lego
We have not ventured into the world of Lego quite yet, but we will once my daughter is a bit older. Lego is very open-ended and there are many ways to play and build with it.
15 | Pretend Play Accessories
Pretend play toys are really great prompts for open-ended play! These types of toys are great to have in your home and can lead to great play opportunities for many ages and stages!
So, there you have it! A few of our personal favourite open-ended toys!
If you are interested in learning more about open-ended play, make sure you check out these posts: