Toys can be wonderful tools to help kids grow their imagination, learn to problem solve, build important motor skills—and keep them occupied. Not all toys are created equal though, and open-ended toys tend to far exceed and outplay one-and-done toys, making them a great option for your play space.
Open-ended toys usually do not have a defined way of playing with them and can be incorporated into play in a multitude of ways. They tend to have less bells and whistles (and batteries) and are often very simple.
These toys typically have one function and are often played with for a little and then left for something else. Many times these toys come with a lot of flashy features, like lights and sounds, that can be very tempting for kids and adults.
The perks of picking out open-ended toys are that they can entertain your kids for years to come and can often be handed down to younger siblings and cousins. This allows you to buy less—a win for the planet, your play space, and your wallet—while prompting them to engage in more imaginative play.
We have a mix of both types of toys in our playroom, as many were gifted or begged for by my persuasive children in the toy aisle. And I think that’s perfectly fine! But, when I build my holiday list, I am always very intentional about purchasing options that will inspire my kids’ imaginations or spark creativity. These ones tend to have less plastic and more sustainable materials. I tend to look with the lens of less is more, knowing my kids have more than their fair share. I’m also starting to sprinkle in experience gifts instead of things now that they are a little older. This could be a good option for families who want to avoid acquiring more stuff.
I loved the conversation my cohost Chrissy Kissinger had with psychotherapist Nancy Colier on the Raising Healthy Families with Moms Meet and KIWI podcast. It’s all about how to not keep up with the Joneses this holiday season. Listen here.
KIWI’s Top Open-Ended Toys for Imaginative Play
As you browse the toy aisle or online marketplace this holiday season, be mindful of a toy’s durability, versatility, and ability to help your child’s development. KIWI recommends green and sustainable options, non-toxic materials, and opting for non-plastic varieties.
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A Big Thumbs Up for Building Toys
Simple wooden blocks and magnetic tiles offer endless possibilities for open-ended play. Whether your child builds a village, the tallest tower ever, a garage for their play cars, or even uses them as imaginary food (as my son does), these will keep them occupied for hours, day in and day out.
Earthtiles Wooden Magnetic Tiles by Big Future Toys
A sustainable alternative to the popular plastic magnetic tiles (Amazon)
Handmade from upcycled, sustainable hardwood (Amazon)
Nurturing Play Options for Emotional Development
Whether you want to encourage your kids to be more gentle or instill empathy and caring into their growing minds, these toys offer the opportunity to role play and practice caring for others.
Eco Baby Dolls
All natural rubber, non-toxic, biodegradable (ecobabydolls.com)
small foot wooden toys Urban Villa Doll House
An heirloom wooden option made from sustainable practices that can be passed down (Amazon)
Kimicare Jumbo Safari Animal Figures
Lifelike animals that can be popped into any imaginary world your little creates (Amazon)
Dramatic Play All Day and Everyday
This type of play can encourage creative problem solving, foster social skills, and opens your kids’ world to the art of storytelling.
PlanToys Doctor Set
Uses sustainably crafted wood and formaldehyde-free glue (Amazon)
Sarah’s Silks Giant Playsilk
Can be a cape, a picnic blanket, a dance prop, and anything in between (Amazon)
Fine-Tune Fine Motor Skills and Inspire Creativity
These skills are the building blocks towards reading, writing, and independence in general for a child. Let your littles get messy and see what fun it produces!
Melissa and Doug Deluxe Standing Easel
Offers three different mediums to practice your art (Amazon)
Helping Hands Fine Motor Tool Set
Sensory play and strength building in one (Amazon)