Top Open-Ended Toys that promote creative learning while encouraging communication, exploration, imagination, visual discrimination, and cognitive growth for a wide age range.
So What Are Open-Ended Toys or Materials? They are toys that can be played with in multiple and varied ways since they have a broad scope. These are toys that do not have an assigned purpose since it is up to a child to assign one. Top open-ended toys can be adopted and used in a limitless number of ways with no set intentions. These materials can be changed to suit a child’s imagination, inclination, and age.
Versus a closed toy offers a limited scope. Such toy is exciting for one day or one week and then is forgotten! These toys are limited with what they can offer a child.
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Limitless Ways to Use Open-Ended Toys
Open-ended materials are often described as 90% child and 10% toy since they leave plenty of room for a child’s input. For example, you can give the same toy to various children, and each child will find a different way to play with it based on personal interests and inclinations, developmental stage, natural abilities, and imagination. For instance, for a baby, stacking blocks is fascinating! In the process, they are developing hand-eye coordination, bilateral control, and spatial awareness. On the other hand, a toddler might build a more complicated structure, bringing pretend play to life. So, a child can build a castle, a house, a restaurant, or a dinosaur cave. Thus the same toy can be played with by a baby, a toddler, a preschooler, a kindergartner, and even beyond.
Open-ended toys encourage endless creativity and imagination. These materials foster brain development and cognitive growth since a child is activating a creative problem-solving mindset!
Quality Over Quantity
If you have a few good-quality open-ended toys, you would not need quantity! Some examples of open-ended materials are wooden blocks, a train set, play silks, magnetic tiles, animals figurines, sand, water, play dough, paint, etc. Open-ended materials support cognitive development because there are endless possibilities for the ways that these materials can be manipulated and used. In the process, children practice critical thinking as they experiment, build and create. Think . All these toys have a lot of play-scope for a child’s brain do the work! Avoid purchasing anything that has batteries or makes noise. Let your child say: “choo-choo” as s/he happily drives a train across the snowy fields of white felt.
Loose Parts a Win-Win
Open-ended environments and experiences encourage problem-solving and are child-centered. Loose parts win-win since children involve themselves in concrete experiences which leads to explorations that occur naturally, as opposed to adult directed. Anything natural or man-made that is completely open-ended would quilify if fits the definition below.
“Loose parts” is a term that refers to any material that can be carried, moved, stacked, manipulated or altered. Loose parts can include natural materials (e.g rocks, sticks, pine cones, water, leaves, acorn, sand, etc.) or recycled materials (e.g. cardboard boxes, milk or yogurt caps, fabric, buttons, feathers, milk or egg carton, etc.)
With open-ended loose parts, your child can make anything! For example, a magic potion from water, bio glitter and flowers, or snowy scene from cotton balls, or a fragrant soup from fresh leaves and pine.
The Wooden versus Plastic
Read HERE Green Doll House Pretend Play
With the current surge of beautiful, handcrafted, aesthetically pleasing wooden toys available in the market and the harmful environmental impact caused by plastic toys, parents are moving away from plastic toys in favor of wooden ones.
So why choose wooden toys?
- Wood is biodegradable and is more environmentally friendly. For even a better alternative, choose bamboo which a a fast growing sustainable resource.
- Wooden toys are timeless and durable.
- Wooden toys are pleasing to touch and hold as they are tactile and aesthetic.
Most importantly, the majority of wooden toys are open-ended, whereas a large proportion of plastic toys are battery-operated, sound, and light-flashing single-purpose toys that don’t inspire a child’s imagination or creativity. The huge down-side of cause-and-effect battery-operated toys is that they often limit the child’s imagination or interrupt a child’s focus. More often than not, these single-purpose toys get thrown out or forgotten soon after a child gets bored of or grows out of it.
And although I am a huge proponent of wooden toys, some plastic ones fall within the exception categories like LEGO, BRIO, animal figures, and magnetic tiles.
LEGO Plactic Ban Exception
LEGO The Best Investment In A Toy ~ details HERE.
BRIO Plactic Ban Exception
BRIO Toys – The Best Investment Ever! ~ details HERE.
Animal Figureens Plactic Ban Exception
Animal Tracks In Snow Playdough ~ details HERE.
Magnetic Tiles Plactic Ban Exception
Buy Magnetic Tiles HERE.
Our most played opne-ended “toy” in the household currently is Connetix Tiles. These colorful beveled transparent magnets foster creativity, imagination, and learning through PLAY! They are made from food-grade ABS plastic with an inverted design, making these magnets stronger and more scratch-resistant.
Storage and Display
Once you have collected the open-ended toys, do not hide them away! Make them available and visible to a child presented in a shallow basket at the player-lever. There is no sense in placing a basket on a shelf a child cannot see or reach. Let them play creatively and explore! “Play is the work of the child!”