What are the best open-ended toys your kids will grow with? We’ve been there. Baby number one, we bought all the things. When baby number two came, we bought some of the items. We had started giving things away when we were ready for baby number three. We need open-ended toys your kids can continue to use as your family grows.
With three children and a lot of experience with toys, I am here to show you the best open-ended toys for kids.
As a mom of three, I’ve had a chance to see what one-year-olds love and what five and eight-year-olds still play with!
Children can use the same toy in many different ways for years.
Now that right there is gold. We want our toys to grow WITH our children as they explore new play methods.
Checklist for Open-Ended Toys
- Exploratory – Encourages exploration. Does this roll? Stack? Attach? How can I make these two pieces fit together? Do they even go together?
- Hands-On -Your preschooler can feel the parts, and they move! Sometimes they even have a fantastic texture. This play will engage your preschooler’s senses.
- Unlimited Play – There is no official start or end to the game. Preschoolers manipulate the object(s) in endless amounts of ways. This play encourages curiosity, creativity, and problem-solving.
The Best Toys for Kids
Choosing the best toy for kids can be a daunting task.
Here are the BEST toys for kids of every age and stage.
Why Open-Ended Toys are Great for Kids
These toys encourage creativity, imagination, and discovery. They are also exploratory and hands-on; your child grows with them over the years. Toys on this list align with why the AAP believes play is important!
Open-ended toys are more child-directed than toys that tell you what and when to push to activate the play.
As a parent and an educator, I have seen the endless possibilities and ways children play with these toys.
Open-Ended Toy List
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This is the first on our list because this is one of our most used toys.
We use magnetic tiles Every. Single. Day. My youngest likes to transport them from the living room to the refrigerator, and my oldest two create parking garages for their matchbox cars. When we head out of town, these come with us!
(100 piece set is sold out, so I added the 64-piece set)
This light table has been used nonstop for the last seven years. My boys play with magnetic tiles here and build the most creative sculptures.
It is the perfect height for multiple stages, ages, and friends!
Several years ago, my seven-year-old received this camera and hadn’t put it down. Since then, all three of my boys have owned this camera and taken it on hiking trips. We come home and download the new pictures on the computer.
Keep in mind this kid’s camera has games that can be locked in parental settings. Directions are in the owner’s manual. It also comes in a variety of styles. I have noticed my boys lose interest in the games when it becomes less of a battle.
This wheelbarrow has been a big hit with all three of my boys. They find ways to use it in outdoor play every day and no longer have an excuse to leave their belongings in the backyard. (wink, wink)
The colored tape makes a unique open-ended toy. Unlimited possibilities to decorate cardboard boxes, use on paper, or other creative ideas in everyday play.
Ready to upgrade your sensory play? Use this standing sensory bin in addition to your current sensory table or on its own. Investing in a table like this has been a game-changer for us!
Did you know that balance can help improve reading development? The vestibular contributes greatly to reading eye movements, eye-hand coordination, balance, motor planning, etc. Sometimes I catch the boys wobbling back and forth, and other times the board is flipped over to make a hideout for stuffed animals or a slide. This wooden balance board offers many ways to play!
This wooden block set is a must. Block play encourages creativity, explores balance, tests spatial awareness, and reinforces weight. Sadly, schools do not get time to integrate as much block time as they have in the past. Allow your child to share in the joy of block play!
Hands down, this toy is one of our favorite open-ended toys. The boys play with these at home, and we take them to restaurants and on road trips. Plus Plus comes in two sizes; however, I will always prefer the big size.
Gear up imaginary play with these play scarves! Each large scarf measures 35 x 35 inches. Use for blankets with dolls or stuffed animals, twirl and dance, costumes, movement, and so much more—a true example of open-ended toys that children can use for years.
You know we love these counting bears! For under three, stay close because they are small, or save for your child’s age. Use these counting bears for imaginary play, color sorting, counting, patterns, and more. These were necessary for my classroom and continue to be so at home. These counting bears make a terrific addition to open-ended play!
These jumbo droppers are the best for our outdoor play! These are perfect for little hands to strengthen small muscles, which will help with handwriting, opening snack containers, and other self-help skills.
From color sorting to stacking, we cherish these lacing beads. The colors are bright, vibrant, and inviting to use. You will notice these lacing beads used with my preschoolers in many Breakfast Invitations.
One of my favorite things with my five-year-old is picking out Hot Wheels. We’ve been doing it for years! He checks out the little details and ensures the selected car is just right. Get started with this collection.
I chose the fire engine because this is on our wish list. We currently have a recycling truck, a dump truck, and a helicopter. The quality is excellent and typically makes its way into imaginary play.
I love the simple creativity of this dollhouse. It is compact for small children and allows imaginary play. – Imaginary play is another thing that can be cut short once kids reach school age. Allow your children the time to dive deep into imaginary play and discover ways to express their emotions with this dollhouse. This dollhouse is wonderful for open-ended play.
Brio tracks are another winner here. They have come in and out of play over the past three years but never disappear.
Every time my boys take out their tracks, something new gets created. I have watched these tracks go from simple setups to endless twists and turns from the kitchen into the living room. These are something I will undoubtedly miss once they hit their teenage years.
Ready to introduce LEGOS and not sure where to start? We started with this classic set. It is the perfect collection of colors, accessories, and sizes to make ideas come to life.
My oldest received these Mega Blocks on his first birthday. Again, these are something they use daily. We keep our set in the bathtub. The boys build alongside the edges and create magical castles.
Our balance bikes are hands down one of the best gifts my boys have ever received.
We use these multiple times per week, and I have watched their balance and coordination soar because of it! They come in many different colors and are perfect for every young kid in your life.
Per my oldest’s request, this cart MUST be in my trunk every time we go grocery shopping. It is a must-have item.
Not only does it give my children the ability to explore imaginary play, but it also gives them a purpose at the grocery store. My oldest knows what we get and follows along, knowing what goes inside.
We ADORE our ice cream scoop set. Everyone that walks through our door is handed a menu and an ice cream. This set makes the perfect ice breaker for children to begin conversations with new family and friends.
The simplicity of this kitchen set is what officially won me over. There are no over-the-top lights or buzzers, just a classic kitchen where my kids can cook up a creative snack to offer their grandparents- who apparently will eat ANYTHING.
More Toy Lists:
Frequently Asked Questions
Open-ended toys have many ways to play. These toys allow children to engage in self-guided and self-directed play. It is up to the child to see the best use for the toy when playing.
Examples of open-ended toys are play scarves, magnetic tiles, wooden balance boards, blocks, and Plus-Plus. Most open-ended toys last for many ages and stages in life because they can be played with how the child sees fit.
There are several toys we will never give away. They are magnetic tiles, counting bears, wooden blocks, Plus-Plus BIG, and Legos/Duplos. I have watched my children play with these toys as toddlers and now as big kids at eight.