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. By the time we were ready for baby number three, we had started giving things away. 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 the four-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 ways to play. You can find an entire list of toys broken down by category here.
Here is my 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.
- Open-ended – 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.
Here is the best list of open-ended forever toys for kids
These toys encourage creativity, imagination, and discovery. They are also exploratory, hands-on, and open-ended for your child to grow with over the years. Read more on why play is important!
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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!
We waited YEARS for this ball run and finally have it to add to our collection of magnetic tiles. This 92 piece set comes complete with clear fluted tubes, so you construct and watch the balls zoom! The boys love to make giant ball runs, and the mini ball runs using only a few tiles. Hands down, a toy in the top ten!
Several years ago, my seven-year-old received this camera and hadn’t put it down since. 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 that they are not allowed to play them.
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 that come up 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 every day 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.
Another winner that we received a few years ago. And you guessed it! The boys still play with this steam train. The train moves along the tracks and can stack with any other Duplos you already own. A fun set to explore motion.
You know we love these counting bears! For under three, stay close because they are small in size or save for when your child is older. Use these counting bears for imaginary play, color sorting, counting, patterns, and much 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 a large amount of Breakfast Invitations.
One of my favorite things to do with my five-year-old is to pick out Hot Wheels. We’ve been doing it for years! He checks out the little details and makes sure the car selected 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 go away.
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.
This school bus will be a great way to introduce the idea of riding a bus to all my children as they prepare for the next chapter. This school bus will also allow them to replay situations and explore something they may be nervous about through creative play.
Remember, with the balance board listed above; we learned how balance is part of the vestibular system in the brain and will help your child become a better reader? It’s true!
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.
This tool bench is another gem that has been in our home for over three years. The boys have used these tools countless times, both on and off the bench. It never fails to run for their toolbox any time someone is working on a project.
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.
Pin these open-ended forever toys for future use!