Wonderful Open-Ended Toys To Encourage Creativity and Imagination!

open-ended toys | the fairy glitch mother

When it comes to choosing toys for our children, there are endless options available in the market. However, what I love most about open-ended toys is that they are an invitation to creativity. Unlike toys with a specific purpose or outcome, open-ended toys allow children to use their imagination and explore endless possibilities. The less a toy does, the more the child has to do, and this is a fantastic invitation for imaginative play. In this blog post, we’ll explore the benefits of open-ended toys and share some of our favorite brands and products. So, let’s dive in!

*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself, and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you; when you buy through the links, we may earn a small commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thanks!

In this post:

What are open-ended toys?

Open-ended toys do not have a specific purpose or predetermined outcome. Instead, they are often simple, with no batteries or electronics, and allow children to use their imaginations to create their own play scenarios. Some of these types of toys are often referred to as “loose parts”. They can include items such as blocks, balls, sticks, fabric scraps, and other materials that can be used in various ways.

Open-ended toys are an invitation for creative play, as they allow children to explore and experiment without limitations. They encourage children to use their imaginations, problem-solving skills, and critical thinking abilities. Since there are no rules or instructions, children can explore and create in their unique ways, promoting individuality and self-expression. (Although sometimes, seeing how other people play, and their creations might help spark some new ideas. It is great to see what others have done to get the creative juices flowing).

Some examples of open-ended toys include blocks and building sets, art supplies, dolls and figurines, play kitchens, outdoor play items such as balls and sand, and water play toys. These toys can be used in various ways, allowing children to play independently or collaboratively with others.

So open-ended toys are versatile and unstructured and allow for endless possibilities in play. They promote creativity, problem-solving, and individuality, making them essential to any child’s toy collection.

Close-ended toys vs. Open-ended toys

Close-ended toys have a specific purpose and can only be used in a limited number of ways. These toys often have a clear and defined outcome or goal. Examples of close-ended toys include puzzles, board games, and construction sets that have a specific design to follow. These toys can be great for developing problem-solving skills, following instructions, and achieving a particular goal.

On the other hand, open-ended toys are toys that can be used in various ways and do not have a defined outcome or goal. These toys encourage creativity and imagination, as children can play with them however they choose. Examples of open-ended toys include blocks, dolls, and art supplies. These toys can be great for developing creativity, imagination, and social skills, as children can collaborate and share ideas while playing.

Close-ended and open-ended toys have their benefits, and both types of toys can provide children with a well-rounded play experience. Close-ended toys can help children develop specific skills, while open-ended toys allow more exploration and imagination.

How did we get introduced to open-ended toys?

Our journey with open-ended toys began when my daughter received a Bilibo and Bilibo Minis. They were a gift from her godmother at 16 months old. At first, I was confused about what it was and how to use it. But my daughter quickly showed me that it could be anything she wanted it to be. We’ve used the Bilibos for so many things during the past six years: beds for dolls, baskets, shells, helmets, stepping stones, seats, rockers, car tunnels, and so much more.

A few years later, we discovered Grimms Rainbow and Grimms Rainbow friends; they were a gift for my son’s birth. Seeing how many ways we could use it beyond decorating a child’s room was amazing. This inspired me to write an article on “75 Grimms Rainbow Ideas – How to Make the Most Of It“.

Since then, we have continued incorporating open-ended toys into our playroom and daily lives. They have become wonderful invitations to play, create, combine, and connect and have sparked my children’s creativity and imagination.

Benefits of open-ended toys

There are many reasons why we love open-ended toys, but here are the most important benefits for us:

  • Encourage creativity and imagination: Open-ended toys allow children to use their imaginations and create scenarios and narratives.
  • Support problem-solving skills: Children must use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to figure out how to use open-ended toys in different ways.
  • Foster independence and self-directed learning: Open-ended toys allow children to play and explore independently without needing adult direction.
  • Provide opportunities for socialization: Children can use open-ended toys to play with others, fostering socialization and communication skills.
  • Can grow with your children: Open-ended toys can be used by children of different ages and developmental stages, meaning they can continue to be enjoyed as they grow and develop.
  • Promote fine motor skills: Many open-ended toys, such as building blocks and art supplies, require fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
  • Encourage language development: Children can use open-ended toys to create stories and engage in imaginative play, which promotes language development.
  • Spark curiosity and a love of learning: Open-ended toys allow children to explore and learn in an engaging and fun way, encouraging a lifelong love of learning. When there is emotion when learning, you build long-term memory. That is why we remember best what we learn when we play and have fun.
  • Builds resilience and persistence: Children must experiment and explore with open-ended toys to figure out how they work, which can build resilience and persistence.
  • Foster a sense of accomplishment and confidence: When children figure out how to use open-ended toys in different ways, it can build a sense of accomplishment and confidence.

The importance of choosing age-appropriate toys

Choosing suitable toys for your child is crucial for their overall development. Toys can help children learn and grow in many ways, but it’s important to choose age-appropriate toys that promote positive learning experiences.

Age-appropriate toys help children develop specific skills that are important for their stage of development. For example, infants need toys that stimulate their senses, such as soft toys with different textures and colors. Toddlers need toys such as blocks and balls that promote fine and gross motor skills. As children grow, they need toys that challenge their minds and encourage creativity, such as building sets and art supplies. Parents can support their child’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development by choosing the right toys.

open ended toys | the fairy glitch mother

In addition, suitable toys can foster a love of learning and exploration in children. When children have fun playing with toys that challenge and engage them, they are more likely to become curious and motivated to learn. Toys that allow for open-ended play, such as building blocks or play dough, can help children develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills, as well as boost their creativity and imagination. On the other hand, toys that are too simplistic or have a narrow focus may limit a child’s learning opportunities and hinder their development. It’s important to choose versatile toys that can grow with your child so they can continue to learn and explore as they age.

Toy Categories

In this section, we’ll be exploring different categories of open-ended toys that are perfect for encouraging creativity, exploration, and child development. These toys are not limited to a specific age group, making them versatile and long-lasting, and they can grow with your child. Whether you’re looking for building and construction toys, imaginative play toys, art and craft toys, or outdoor play toys, there is something for every child’s interests and abilities. So, let’s take a closer look at these different categories of toys and how they can benefit your child’s growth and development.

  • Building and Construction Toys (e.g., blocks, magnetic tiles, wooden sets)
  • Imaginative Play Toys (e.g., dolls, figurines, play kitchens)
  • Art and Craft Toys (e.g., play dough, paints, beads)
  • Outdoor Play Toys (e.g., balls, ride-on toys, sand, and water play)

Building and Construction Toys

Building and construction toys are excellent open-ended toys that provide endless possibilities for children’s imagination and creativity. These toys come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials, including blocks, magnetic tiles, and wooden sets. They are perfect for children of all ages and can help develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and problem-solving skills.

Blocks are a popular building toy that can be enjoyed by toddlers and older children alike. They come in different sizes, colors, and shapes and can be stacked, sorted, and built into various structures. Magnetic tiles are another excellent building toy for children of different ages. Again, they come in different shapes and colors and can be used to build different structures, from simple towers to complex geometric shapes.

Wooden building sets are also popular and can provide hours of imaginative play. They come in different sizes and themes, such as castles, farms, and towns, and can be used to create a wide range of structures. Building and construction toys are not only great for creativity and imagination but also provide an opportunity for children to work together, problem-solve, and develop their communication skills.

Flexible roads, train tracks, and toy cars are all examples of transportation toys that allow children to design and create their own roads and tracks. Children can use their imagination to build different layouts and configurations and can also add other elements, such as buildings, bridges, and tunnels, to enhance their play. Additionally, these toys can also be used for imaginative play, as children can create stories and scenarios as they drive their cars and trains along the roads and tracks.

These are our favorite building and construction toys:

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  • Grimm’s Rainbow
  • Connetix Magnetic Tiles – We love them. They are fantastic for big builds, and their pastel range is just dreamy
  • Grimm’s Large Stepped Pyramid
  • Grimm’s Semicircles
  • Just Blocks Lines
  • Grimm’s Lara
  • Grimm’s Stepped roofs
  • Waytoplay Roads – Use the code thefairyglitchmother10 for a 10% discount on their website (when not on promo)
  • Connetix Ball Runs
  • Duplo blocks
  • Cuboro Marble Runs – These are fantastic for children 5+ and adults. They are brilliant and we love them!
  • Track Connectors from Toy2 – These connectors help you link your wooden train tracks with your Duplo blocs, allowing you to have elevated tracks that are awesome. I got them after my child had stopped paying attention to trains and Duplos and it sparked a lot more play (we had a lot of both and it was a great way to inspire him to play with toys he already had but he had lost interest in).
  • Grapat Lolas
  • Train tracks
  • Lubulona cities

Imaginative Play Toys

Imaginative play toys, like dolls, figurines, play kitchens, and dress-up sets, are essential for young children’s development. These toys offer endless opportunities for imaginative play and creativity. They encourage children to develop their storytelling skills, emotional regulation, and social skills. Children can act out different roles and scenarios with imaginative play toys and explore their feelings. So they learn about the world around them in a safe and playful environment.

Dolls and figurines are excellent imaginative play toys, allowing children to create their own stories and characters. Play kitchens provide an opportunity for children to role-play and explore concepts such as cooking, serving, and sharing. Dress-up sets, including play silks, allow children to express themselves through costumes and different personas. These toys also help to promote self-awareness, empathy, and understanding of others as children take on different roles and explore various perspectives.

In addition to promoting imagination and creativity, imaginative play toys can also help children develop important cognitive and physical skills. For example, playing with dolls and figurines can enhance hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills as children manipulate small objects. Role-playing and pretend play can also help children develop problem-solving skills and critical thinking as they navigate different scenarios and outcomes. Overall, imaginative play toys are an excellent investment for children’s growth and development, providing them with the tools they need to learn, grow, and thrive.

These are our favorite imaginative play toys:

 | the fairy glitch mother

Art & Craft Toys

Art and Craft Toys are a fantastic way to encourage children’s creativity, self-expression, and fine motor skills. Whether painting, drawing, sculpting or creating something entirely new, art and craft activities provide children with a fun and engaging outlet for their imagination. With access to quality materials and tools, children’s creations can become more sophisticated, and their belief in themselves as artists can grow.

Some popular art and craft toys include play dough, paints, beads, and various kits, allowing children to make jewelry, keychains, and other small objects. Parents and caregivers can foster a love of creativity and self-expression that can last a lifetime by providing children with these open-ended materials and tools.

One great way to encourage creativity and foster a love of art is by creating a home art cart or station. Having a designated area with accessible art supplies allows children to express themselves and use their imagination whenever they feel inspired. Make sure to choose high-quality materials, such as non-toxic paints, markers, crayons, and a variety of paper and other surfaces to work on. In addition, consider including items like glue, scissors, and craft materials like pipe cleaners and pom poms.

Having an art cart or station also helps to promote independence and responsibility, as children can learn to put away their supplies and clean up after themselves. With the right tools and a little bit of encouragement, your child’s artistic abilities and self-confidence are sure to flourish.

Some of our favorite Arts & Crafts toys:

 | the fairy glitch mother

Outdoor Play Toys

Playing outdoors is essential for children’s physical and mental development. Outdoor play toys help children to get active, explore their surroundings, and build their gross motor skills. Some popular outdoor play toys include:

  • Balls: Balls come in various sizes and shapes and can be used for many games, such as catch, soccer, basketball, and dodgeball. Playing with balls helps children to improve their coordination, balance, and reaction time.
  • Ride-on toys: Ride-on toys, such as bikes, scooters, and balance bikes, are excellent for building children’s gross motor skills, balance, and confidence. They also provide children with a sense of independence and freedom.

  • Sand and water play: Sand and water play toys, such as sandboxes, water tables, and buckets, provide children with opportunities for sensory exploration, creativity, and problem-solving. Playing with sand and water helps children to develop their fine motor skills, spatial awareness, and social skills.

Outdoor play toys promote physical activity and help children connect with nature, learn about the environment, and develop a sense of adventure and exploration. Access to outdoor play toys at home or in the community is crucial for children’s overall well-being and development.

Some of our favorite outdoor toys:

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Some of our favorite brands

These brands are known for producing high-quality open-ended toys that encourage creativity, imagination, and independent play. Each brand offers a unique selection of toys that are perfect for children of all ages, from babies to young children. Whether you’re looking for building blocks, play silks, wooden toys, or outdoor play equipment, these brands have something for every child.

  1. Grimm’s
  2. Connetix
  3. Grapat
  4. Sarah’s Silks
  5. Waytoplay
  6. Moluk
  7. Just Blocks
  8. Cuboro
  9. Zonky
  10. Trigonos

1. Grimm’s

Grimm’s is a German-based company that specializes in handcrafted, colorful wooden toys. Their building blocks and puzzles are particularly popular and are known for their vibrant colors and unique shapes. The Rainbow may be their most famous toy, but they have so many wonderful open-ended resources for children.

grimm | the fairy glitch mother's toys collection
Grimms Wooden Toys

2. Connetix – Magnetic Tiles

Connetix is an Australian brand that produces magnetic tiles for building and construction play. Their tiles are transparent, allowing children to see their creations from all angles and encouraging imaginative play. I love their pastel range, the colors are so unique versus other brands, and their ball runs are wonderful.

connetix range | the fairy glitch mother
Connetix tiles

3. Grapat

Grapat is a Spanish brand that specializes in open-ended wooden toys, particularly loose parts and figurines. Their toys are designed to promote sensory exploration and imaginative play. We especially love their mandala loose parts, they are great for little ones and adults.

grapat toys close up | the fairy glitch mother

4. Sarah’s Silks

Sarah’s Silks offers a wide range of play silks, dress-up clothes, and other imaginative play toys made from natural materials. Their products are perfect for encouraging children to engage in imaginative play and storytelling.

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Sarahs Silks

5. Waytoplay – Flexible Roads

Waytoplay is a Dutch brand that produces flexible road sets for imaginative play. Their road sets are easy to assemble and disassemble, making them perfect for indoor and outdoor play under all weather conditions. We’ve even played inside pools!

waytoplay road - grapat bolets | the fairy glitch mother
Wautoplay road setup

6. Moluk – Bilibo, Oogis, and more!

Moluk is a Swiss brand that produces simple, elegant toys that encourage creative play and exploration. Their products are designed to be open-ended and inspire curiosity and experimentation. The Bilibo was their first creation, but they’ve created many more open-ended companions, like the Oogis, Nellos, Hix and more.

water toys - water play in green bilibo | the fairy glitch mother
Moluk toys

7. Cuboro – Marble Runs

Cuboro is a Swiss company that make fabulous marble runs from wooden blocks. The original CUBORO marble run system has been inspiring generations worldwide since 1986. It is a sustainable toy made from natural Swiss wood and guarantees lasting fun. They have a timeless design that will last for many years and encourage lifelong learning. Their marble runs are great for any age.

cuboro standard 50 | the fairy glitch mother

8. Just Blocks

Just Blocks is a Polish company that produces high-quality wooden blocks for children’s play. Their blocks come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are perfect for building, stacking, and imaginative play. What makes their sets unique are their flat blocks that are perfect for many types of builds.

 | the fairy glitch mother
Just Blocks

9. Zonky

The Zonky is a fantastic playsofa from the UK. There are different brands of play sofas, but this one was the best option for us. I loved that it wasn’t as big as other brands, and it fits well in our apartment. I love that it has two cuboid extra cushions that most brands do not have. And the yellow color is ideal for our home. You can turn it into so many things! It can be a house, a sofa, a cave, a rocker, a store, a table… anything you and your little ones can imagine! It is fantastic for imaginative play!

 | the fairy glitch mother

10. Trigonos

Trigonos is a Spanish brand that produces indoor and outdoor play equipment and educational toys. Their products are designed to promote creativity, cooperation, and problem-solving skills in children. We love our cubic meter!

 | the fairy glitch mother
Trigonos Cubic Meter

Where can you buy them?

You will most likely find Grimm’s, Grapat, and Sarah’s Silks in local stores where they sell Montessori, and Waldorf materials. In the biggest nearby city, you might have some that you can go in and explore.

You can find find Connetix, Waytoplay, Moluk, Cuboro, Just Blocks on their websites, other Toy stores, or even on Amazon.

If unfortunately, there aren’t any stores like this nearby, there are plenty of online stores where you’ll be able to find it. Aside from Amazon, I am sharing other web pages I have bought from while living in the UK and Spain (some are local, but others have international deliveries). Additionally, although I haven’t been there, I will also recommend stores from the US and Australia that I know are great.

Store with International deliveries

  • Babipur.co.uk – Their toy selection is terrific, and their customer service is fantastic. Although since Brexit, personally getting deliveries to Spain from the UK hasn’t been easy and, in some cases, returned to the UK – so if you are in Spain, I’d recommend you go to a local store.
  • Oskar’s Wooden Ark – They are from Australia, but they also provide international shipping to selected countries (New Zealand; United States; Canada, Singapore & South Korea) using Australia Post.

Store with delivery in the UK

  • Babipur – of course, you have Babipur. They are from the UK, and you’ll find the iconic Rainbow here.

Stores with delivery in Spain and Portugal

  • Jugar i Jugar – Their toy portfolio is beautiful. It’s a fantastic option if you are local. Their customer service is excellent. If you purchase before 2 pm, you get your delivery the next day.
  • Aupali – It is a store in Barcelona, located in the neighborhood of Sarrià, filled with surprising toys that you’ll love. If you are ever in town, I suggest you make a stop. They also have an online store that delivers to the whole Peninsula and the Islands.
  • mumuchu.com – Also a very nice online store; however, unfortunately only local.

Store with delivery in the USA

  • Bella Luna Toys – You’ll find the large rainbow and an extensive range of Grimm’s toys, Grapat, Olli Ella, and Sarah’s Silks. I’ve never ordered from them (I haven’t been in the US for years), but they seem very nice, have a lovely online store, and have excellent customer reviews.

Store with delivery in Australia & New Zealand.

  • Oskar’s Wooden Ark – Based in Australia, they also provide international shipping to selected countries (New Zealand; United States; Canada, Singapore & South Korea) using Australia Post.
  • Little Toy Tribe is currently shipping orders within Australia through their website. If you are from New Zealand, contact them through email with the list of what you’d like, and they’ll send a shipping quote. 

Store with delivery in Malaysia

  • Bueno Blocks – They are the Malaysian distributor for Grimm’s toys and have an impressive range of toys from them. They are a very kind family-owned business that wishes to bring these toys to families in Malaysia.

Unlocking your child’s potential: why open-ended toys should be a part of every playtime

Open-ended toys are an excellent way to foster creativity, imagination, and problem-solving skills in children. They encourage free play, which allows children to explore and learn at their own pace. Parents can help their children develop essential skills while having fun by choosing the right toys. Through play, you can also connect better with your children.

Parents must consider the importance of play in their child’s development and choose toys that support their growth and learning. Open-ended toys provide endless possibilities for play, and they can grow with your child, making them a valuable investment.

As parents, we have the power to shape our children’s futures by providing them with the right tools to succeed. So why not start by incorporating open-ended toys into their playtime? Let’s encourage our children to explore and learn through play and see its positive impact on their development.

Happy playing!*

P.S. If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy a more in-depth look at how we play with some of our favourite open-ended toys 😉

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Updated on: March 8, 2024

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