What are open-ended toys and why should I buy them?

What are open-ended toys and why should I buy them?

What are open-ended toys and why should I buy them?

Open-ended toys are toys that do not have a set purpose, they can be used in many different applications and for a wide variety of things. There are no right or wrong answers, no “talking” or sounds that are made from the toy, and the only limit to use of the toy is the limit of imagination.

The opposite of an open-ended toy is a close-ended toy, which means that it only has one thing that it does. Most battery-operated toys are examples of closed-ended toys, they only do certain things, and it is hard for children to imagine that they can do anything else. An example of this is a toy that asks children to do something or “talks” to them while they are playing and describes itself as one thing. These toys can often be marketed as helping your children learn colours, letters or numbers, but there is limited proof that these toys actively engage and teach children anything. The play that children engage in with close-ended toys is passive, they are often waiting for instruction, rather than creating their own narrative.

Open-ended toys promote imaginative play in children, as well as having a wide range of other benefits. Open-ended toys provide many developmental learning opportunities for children. They allow children to create a story, imagine a scenario and design play structures around the narrative they want to create. Learning colours, developing language skills and understanding foundational mathematics skills occur more often in unstructured play with open-ended toys because children can create and practice these real world skills in an environment where the pressure of having the right answers is removed.

A good mix of open-ended toys


What do open-ended toys do for my children?

Open-ended toys have so many wonderful benefits for children, they promote creative thinking and they allow children to problem solve. Open-ended toys can be used in many different variations of play, as well developing children’s schemas. A schema is a developmental mode of learning, where your child might keep repeating behaviours such as putting items in bags, or they may build houses that enclose toys, or they may engage in a lot of trial and error when pushing cars around. There are different development schemas that children will go through and having a good base of open-ended toys will support this learning.

Providing your child with an environment rich in open-ended toys allows them the choice of what they want to play with, how they want to interact with the toys and which skills they develop and enhance.

Playing with open-ended toys, allows children to learn a wide range of skills in a no-pressure environment. Creativity and imagination are learned through using toys in new ways. The brain is also calmer and more focused when playing with open-ended toys, as there is no dopamine overload that can occur with battery operated toys.

Open-ended toys will allow your children to concentrate during play naturally, which is great for when they go to school, as it will help their focus develop. All these benefits gained from open-ended toys lay really great foundations for learning when your child starts school.

Do open-ended toys have to be wooden?

 No, open-ended toys are not necessarily always wooden toys, and not all wooden toys are open-ended.

Wooden toys are a better environmental choice, often lasting a long time and being heirloom toys, as well having a less environmental impact than plastic toys. Some common open-ended toys are blocks, building platforms, cars or trucks that don’t require batteries to operate, peg dolls or figurines, trains, Duplo or Lego, loose parts and animal figurines.

Building Blocks


All of these toys can be used in different applications, you can combine them together to make large play scenes, or you can use them individually. The material that they are made from doesn’t impact on their usage, but can impact on cost of the toy, quality of the toy and environmental impact to make the toy and once the toy is disposed of.


Open-ended toys help children learn through play in a multitude of ways. From language development to foundational mathematics, there are so many skills and developmental milestones that are enhanced through playing with open-ended toys.


Do you have other questions about open-ended toys? You can always reach out to us on which open-ended toys may be the best for you and your children.

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