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- Open-ended toys allow children to express their interests and their creativity freely, creating and problem-solving on their own, and building essential skills along the way.
- Some of the best open-ended toys create opportunities for advancing children’s social skills.
- Our list of the 25 best open-ended toys covers a broad spectrum of toys that should appeal to kids with different kinds of interests.
Children have vivid imaginations and will make such toys out of nearly anything available, including cardboard boxes, pots and pans, blankets and pillowcases. With open-ended toys, this desire to make up their world can build the cognitive skills that will benefit them for a lifetime.
What to Look for in Open Ended Toys
Avoid Single-Solution Toys
Experts recommend providing children with toys that allow them to choose how to play and avoid toys that indicate how they “should be” used. For example, jigsaw puzzles are great for mental development but have only one correct solution. Open-ended toys should have multiple possible combinations and outcomes. Look for toys that are more complex and open-ended than simple assembly.
Avoid Story-Based Toys
Many children’s toys are derived from other forms of story-based media, like action figures or play sets that are companion pieces to a movie. If a child has seen, read, or heard a story, it provides them with a script that their self-directed play will naturally follow. While children often love these kinds of toys, open-ended toys should not follow an already-known story or script. They should allow kids to make up original stories and use their toys in unconventional ways.
Look for Toys that Grow with Your Child
Many open-ended toys can be expanded over time with more pieces and different kinds of parts. They are an excellent way for the toy to remain engaging and challenging over time. It can also save money by adding value to purchases you have already made.
Look for Toys that can be Social
While open-ended toys are fantastic for a child by themselves, a toy that is suitable for two kids or more creates opportunities for collaboration, and building social skills. Open-ended toys are great ways to learn early lessons about communication, sharing, listening, and compromise.
The Big Creativity Can from Creativity for Kids has over 100 different craft components for hours of open-ended play. The included supplies, such as air-dry clay, feathers, pipe cleaners, felt, pom poms, googly eyes, and more, promote creativity, imagination, and problem-solving. It’s also a great group activity to develop social skills and collaboration.
- It develops problem-solving, imagination, and critical thinking skills required for success.
- Suited for ages 4 right up to 15 years
- Images on the outside are deceiving because those are not the images your child will need to create
The Kaskey Kids Baseball Guys contain a complete set of baseball action figures and promote imaginative play.
- Set includes two complete teams, a realistic felt baseball field, a scoreboard, and accessories.
- Comes with a convenient storage bin for fast cleanup.
- Effortlessly combines with other toys and playsets to further expand the imagination.
- Invites social play
- Set is not the highest quality
These adorable, colorful counting and sorting bears from Legato stimulate all kinds of imagination and activities. Bears can be played with, counted, and sorted, for a wide range of learning possibilities and open-ended fun.
- The set includes 60 colored bears, 6 colored cups, and large tweezers
- Comes with an eBook with 20 educational activities using the bears
- Comes with a storage container
- Teaches math and motor skills
The award-winning Magna-Tiles 32-Piece Clear Colors Set is the original 3D magnetic building set that sparks hours of creativity in children. They develop math, science, and spatial skills.
- The set comes with 2 large squares, 4 right triangles, 8 equilateral triangles, 14 small squares, and 4 isosceles triangles.
- The pieces are safe and durable for years of open-ended fun.
- 32 total pieces aren’t enough to build anything very tall or complex
ZOOB sets are expandable and compatible with all other ZOOB sets and are a fun way to promote principles of engineering and construction.
- This kit includes 125 colorful ZOOB pieces, enough to make the crown, pterodactyl, or DNA model.
- The set comes with instruction guides for 20+ creations.
- The durable pieces can all be stored in the included bin.
- It can be difficult for smaller kids to put together and pull ZOOB pieces apart
The classic wooden building blocks from Melissa & Doug have seen generations of children enjoy hours of open-ended building and playing. These blocks provide years of creative, open exploration and expression.
- It is a set of 60 natural, smooth-sanded hardwood blocks
- Teaches children shapes, stacking, and construction
- Comes with a handsome matching wooden storage tray
The Mighty Maze Maker from Maze O has won the Tillywig Brain Child Award and the 2017 Hot Diggity Award. It promotes STEM skill development with hours of imaginative, open-ended play.
- Children assemble the 52 different pieces to make mazes
- The set includes activity cards, or kids can build their own unique mazes
- It’s not a huge issue, but kids need to supply their own marble, toy car, or action figure to solve the maze.
The Hape Basic Builder Toddler Wooden Play Set improves dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and spatial relationships while boosting imagination and creativity.
- The wooden set includes 42 pieces, with nuts, bolts, and a wrench
- The set comes with a building guide to help children make a wide range of vehicles, buildings, and even cute animals.
- Non-toxic and child safe materials
- Set doesn’t include enough pieces to make more than one object at a time
Sun Art Paper is a great way which will not just get kids engaged in making their own crafts but also involve them in nature and the outdoors as they hunt for flowers, leaves, and other shapes to use on the fun sun paper.
- This set includes 15 sheets of sun paper and a transparent acrylic sheet to hold the composition in place during exposure.
- An excellent introduction to principles of photography and light science as well as arts and crafts
- The paper is thin and won’t create lasting, archival works of art. This set is best viewed as an experiment and learning opportunity.
This pipe block Tubation play set from Quercetti offers endless ways to build a pipe maze. Not only is construction fun and engaging, but children can take their constructions into a bath to find out which path the water will take or use a marble or ball to trace the tube maze.
- This 40-piece set has 4 different types of interlocking tubes for endless variation and hours of open-ended discovery.
- Safe and durable non-breakable pieces
- No negatives to point out
- This set promotes problem-solving and motor movement
- Set includes 4 interlocking base plates, 14 square pillars, 13 six-way axles, 28 gears, and a handle
- It comes with an activity guide.
- Doesn’t come with a bin or storage container, and pieces scatter easily and are painful when stepped on
The jumbo building blocks set from Goobi is an open-ended toy that is fun and engaging even for toddlers and has been recognized as Product of the Year, Creative Play of the Year, and other honors.
- The large pieces, magnetic attraction, and vibrant colors encourage interaction, construction, and a massive variety of open-ended play.
- Made of durable ABS plastic, is BPA-free and non-toxic, and certified safe.
- Pieces are large, and magnets are weak, making the toy fun for toddlers, but not something that will grow with them over time
This substantial musical instrument set gives kids so many ways to express their creativity and enjoy music while developing motor skills and coordination at the same time.
- Set has 16 different pieces, and is big enough for several kids to play together
- It is made with smooth surfaces and high-quality materials. These beginner instruments are safe and durable
- Some parents may not want a house full of kids playing percussion instruments as it can get a bit noisy
The Brackitz Inventor: Educational Construction Set has pieces that connect anywhere, at any angle, so the only limit to what your child can create is their imagination.
- The 28-piece set includes planks, connectors, and rotating pieces, to build 2D patterns or 3D objects. It also comes in 44-piece, 100-piece, and 170-piece sets.
- The pieces are certified non-toxic, BPA-free, lead-free and phthalates-free, so they are fun and safe for children.
This Magnetic Blocks Set for Kids includes all the necessary pieces for two different vehicles, but the easily connected magnetic pieces can be assembled to make all kinds of shapes, patterns, and objects.
- The set includes 56 pieces necessary to make two vehicles.
- The set also includes an instruction book
- They come with a storage bag for fast and easy cleanup
- Magnets are strong and durable
- No negatives to point out
- This set has no small parts, and no lead or plastic, and the lacquer finish is water-based and non-toxic, so it’s safe for even small children.
- Available in multiple color schemes
This Brain Blox Wooden Building Blocks for Kids is a giant set with endless opportunities to build different structures.
- Set includes a staggering 300 pieces
- Comes with a canvas drawstring backpack for cleanup and storage
- These blocks don’t need connectors of any kind to build amazing structures
- Safe, natural, and made from sustainable New Zealand pine
- Not all pieces are exactly the same, which can affect the stability of tall structures
The Mega Bloks Deluxe Building Bag has blocks that assemble and come apart easily, to help kids make nearly anything they can imagine.
- Has an attractive storage bag
- Set includes 150 Mega Bloks, in classic colors and some new shapes.
- Big blocks have rounded edges and are friendly for small hands
- Predominantly 1×1 pieces, which reduces possible connections and configurations
These Magna-Tiles 02300 Solid Colors connect and come apart easily, making it simple and fun for small children to build and create.
- 100 Piece Set has 100 brightly colored tiles with two sizes of squares and three kinds of triangles, for organic or abstract shapes.
- Tiles stick together easily and provide enough stability for tall towers and stacked structures, but also come apart easily
- Magnets may be too weak for tall or complex structures
With the Tegu Travel Pal Hummingbird, kids can use the fun and appealing wooden blocks with hidden magnetic connectors to make their own travel pal or anything else they can think of.
- The appealing graphics and colors are fun
- Blocks are made with safe, non-toxic finishes and sustainably sourced hardwoods.
- Not enough pieces to create many different designs than the intended model
With the Kids Magnet Toys Magnet Building Tiles kids can build anything they can imagine, and the translucent tiles add beautiful luminosity
- Set includes 120 pieces of magnetic tiles in bright, appealing colors, and includes two car bases for vehicles, as well as window shapes for buildings
- A large number of shapes and sizes give versatility in possible structures
- Magnets may be too weak for tall or complex structures
With the Fantasy Fort Kit Pretend Play Construction Building Set, kids can build their very own fantasy fort, exploring principles of design and construction as they build their play structures.
- The durable, 22 x 22-inch panels connect easily with the included double-sided Velcro connectors and carton building clips to provide support and create a fun fantasy fort.
- Assemble the pieces to make their own storage container and simplify cleanup
The Learning Resources Gears! Gears! Gears! Machines in Motion set was a finalist in the 2019 Toy of the Year Awards. This set allows kids to make machines and vehicles, with action and interactivity, and make something new every time.
- Special parts include a wrecking ball, propeller, and wheel treads for a wide variety of machine and vehicle action.
- Has 116 pieces in total
- Instructions can be complex and difficult for children to follow
This DIY Card Crafter from ALEX Toys allows kids to explore arts, crafts, and their individual creative expression. And they will be making one-of-a-kind gifts and keepsakes at the same time.
- Set includes everything you need to make 12 unique, personalized greeting cards.
- This giant set of over 250 pieces includes paper, washi tape, stamps, stickers, pens, twine, and other supplies.
- May be too complicated for small children
The Kahootz Spirograph is a classic open-ended toy that has fascinated children for decades. It’s a great way to create beautiful, unique designs and learn at the same time.
- This deluxe set includes 19 wheels, 2 rings, a rack, spiro-putty, 3 pens, a guidebook, and design paper.
- Everything packs into in a convenient storage and travel case
- Works well with your own ballpoint and art pens
- Some inks may smear during the process
The toys above should foster a child’s imagination and personal expression. You might be surprised at what they’ll think up!
For More Ideas
- See our Best Educational Toys for 4-Year-Olds.
- See some of the Top Interactive Books for Kids that Encourage Creativity and Play.