The Gift of Open-Ended Toys

May 05, 2014
Open-ended toys are toys that allow the imaginations of children to soar to their highest peaks. They give children the building blocks to create the world that they want to live in at that moment, and they can easily make anything from a restaurant to the Batmobile.

At the early learning centre that I work in we only provide access to open-ended toys -- closed-ended toys are typically battery operated or have only a few ways of possibly playing with them -- and their imaginations go wild. I love seeing the things that they build and the scenarios that they create. 

Even in my own home I have provided my son with many open-ended toys. That's not to say that he doesn't have any access to closed-ended toys. When he was a baby he had a lot of fun playing with a little battery-operated walker that played music and animal sounds, and he recently has fallen in-love with remote-controlled cars. He even gets to play games on my iPad, but the majority of the time we encourage him to do art, play with his musical instruments, build Hot Wheels tracks with his Dad, and play with his toy dinosaurs.

It's good to have a balance of open-ended and closed-ended toys. When we look back at our own childhood's they were filled with making shoebox houses, mud pies and Lego cities, and I want to provide a similar experience for my own child.

Good ideas of open-ended toys include:

1. Animals and dinosaurs made from any kind of material. They don't have to be wooden -- find the elephants and other animals here.
2. Blocks of any kind -- wooden, plastic, milk cartons, tree stumps and branches -- find wooden blocks of all shapes, colours and sizes here.
3. Toys that can be manipulated in any way -- Lego, Tinker Toys, etc -- find the connecting rings here.
4. Cars and other vehicles -- motorcycles, dump trucks, school buses, etc. -- find the car here.
5. Clothing and other toys that encourage imaginative play -- babies, dress-up clothes, jewellery, fox tails :)
6. Play food and other kitchen items -- find the felt vegetables here.
7. Child sized furniture and toys -- find all sorts of rocking horses here.

Other good open-ended toys include any musical instruments, art supplies, and sensory things such as water, dirt, sand, and play dough.

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