Getting Started with Open Ended Toys


If you are new to open ended play and open ended toys, the possibilities of what to buy are overwhelming. Googling and reading, and reading some more what to buy, what not to buy, and oh my it’s just a lot!

It’s alright! I got your back. I wrote this article to help succinctly pare down those massive lists into something you can digest. And purchase. For several of the options I list, I also have toys that are more affordable.

First, two questions for you:

Are you buying open ended toys to replace the toys you have?
Are you buying open ended toys to complement what you already own?

Let’s talk about question 1. Are you buying open ended toys to replace what you have?
Answering this question involves knowing what your children already own. Let’s start with an inventory. Go and inventory all the toys that your kids own.
I’ll give you a moment (or a few days) to make an inventory. A written list is best.
Now, besides each toy, mark the following:
– Is it plastic?
– Does it have batteries and make lots of sounds?
– Is it a push button toy (I.e. you press a button and the toy does the playing)?
– Does the toy annoy you?
– Does your kid like the toy (do they play with it)?
– Do you think the toy has play value for your child?

Now, you want to decide what you want to keep from this list. I recommend keeping toys that your kid loves AND do not annoy you. Some of the toys you keep maybe closed ended, like a puzzle, and that is OKAY!

Other toys you may choose to keep are plastic. There is nothing wrong with plastic stacking bowls. They offer the same function and play value as a set of wooden stacking bowls. You don’t need to replace them. Repeat with me, it’s OKAY THAT I HAVE TOYS THAT ARE NOT WOOD.

Once you have inventoried and questioned the play value of all the toys you have, place the giveaway toys in a pile. Sell them, donate them, put them in a Buy Nothing group – I encourage you to avoid the landfill. You can use the lists below to help you finalize whether to keep or giveaway toys.

I divided the lists below by age groups. This is not meant to be orthodox but loose guidelines. Some children may not use a toy for months, while others start using immediately. Some children may have development delays which means the toys may not be used by them for some time. And that’s okay too! Give them time.

The list offers a few different brands at different price points. I encourage to buy what you think your children will love along with a price point best suited to you. The options are left to right most expensive to least expensive.

Last thing, this article took 10 hours to write and pull the links. Some of the links below are affiliate – I may a little money should you choose to purchase through that link (any product). It comes at no cost to you, so please consider buying through the links. And consider following me on Instagram. My eternal appreciation to you.

The Open Ended Toy Guide

Open Ended Toys for 1-2 Years old
Stacking cups – Grimms (US/Canada) | Green Toys | Mushie (Denmark origin)
Cube Blocks – Grimms (US/Canada) | Uncle Goose | Melissa and Doug
Large Balls – Grimms (US/Canada) | Grapat | Hobby Stores
Rings/Coins – Grapat (US/Canada) |
Basic puzzles – Melissa and Doug (fish and pets puzzles, farm animals, ) | Tender Leaf Toys
Animals – Ostheimer (US/Canada) | Holztiger (US/Canada) | Predan | Dadakacraft | Schleich | Safari Ltd
Carrying Doll – Dinkum Dolls | Minikane | Corolle
Small cars/trucks – Grimms (US/Canada) | Mama Made Them | Green Toys | Melissa and Doug
Push toys – stroller/pram – Moover (found many times at Home Goods) | Plan Toys | Melissa & Doug
Pull toys – Hape | Plan Toys Puppy |
Bucket and shovel – Green Toys | Leftover food containers (Free!)
Art supplies – large crayons – Stockmar 8 crayons, Stockmar 24 crayons, Stockmark 16 crayons, , paper (here and here), paint, stamps (here, here, and here), wow water books , colored pencils – Lyra 12 pack,
Bonus:
Large block set – Grimms Basic Block Set 1 (US/Canada)| Haba Basic block set | Wooden Story

Open Ended Toys for 2-3 Years Old
Connectix Tiles | Magnatiles | Picassa Tiles
Duplo
More advanced puzzles – Melissa and Doug |
Small dolls + few furniture pieces – Plan Toys (here, here, here, and here)| Hape (here, and here) | Tender Leaf Toys (here, and here)
Trains – Brio | Haba
Animals and trees – Ostheimer (US/Canada) | Holztiger (US/Canada) | Predan | Dadakacraft | Schleich | Safari Ltd
Push Toys
Bucket and shovel – Green Toys | Fiskars at Amazon | Home Depot
Nesting boxes – Grimm’s | Plan Toys | Melissa and Doug
Art supplies – crayons, paper, stickers, scissors (supervised! For the older ones), play dough
Peg dolls – Grimms (US/Canada), Grapat (US/Canada), Dixie and Bee, Jen’s Pretty Pegs
Music toys – Plan Toys | Natural Baby Company selection

Bonus:
10 Cylinders (more Montessori but can last years)
100 board (Montessori but a basic counting device that lasts years)
Extra block sets Grimms (US/Canada) | Bauspiel | Raduga Grez | Ocamora
Indoor climbing – Large Pikler and ramp | Wobbel board
Build your own fort – Nugget

Open Ended Toys 3-5 Years Old
Advanced block sets – Grimms (US/Canada) | Bauspiel X-blocks, Lucent Cubes, Waffles | Lego- Duplo
Advanced puzzles (okay, technically not open ended,but great to have) – Djeco Aero Airplanes | Mudpuppy double sided black/white and colorful puzzle (at amazon)
More dollhouse pieces – Plan Toys (here, here, here, and here)| Hape (here, and here) | Tender Leaf Toys (here, and here)
More animals and trees – Ostheimer (US/Canada) | Holztiger (US/Canada) | Predan | Dadakakraft | Schleich | Safari Ltd
Tracing board for letters – Mirus Toys | From Jennifer| Kid-O Magnetic
Alphabet blocks – Uncle Goose (uppercase and lowercase on amazon), Uncle Goose,
World mat – Urban Outfitters
Loose Parts (mandala pieces, coins, rings)- Grapat (US/Canada)
Trucks/cars – Fagus | Bruder | Plan Toys | Melissa and Doug
Bucket and shovel – Green Toys | Target | Home Depot
Doll – Dinkum Dolls | Minikane dolls | Corolle
Small dolls – Maileg | Calico Cats | Zooble
Lacing cards – Wee Gallery | Wren & Mae Creations | Melissa and Doug |

Art supplies
Peg dolls – Grimms (US/Canada), Grapat (US/Canada), Dixie and Bee, Jen’s Pretty Pegs

Bonus:
100 board – Mirus Toys
Measuring weights set – Erzi
More block sets – Grimms (US/Canada) | Gluckskafer (US/Canada) – Rainbow Building Slats, Rainbow Bridge, Yellow Sunray Stacker| Uncle Goose – Constellation (amazon or Modern Rascals) | Uncle Goose Bugs (amazon or Modern Rascals) | Bauspiel Color Street (US/Canada)|
Indoor climbing – Large Pikler and ramp | Wobbel board
Build your own fort – Nugget
Loose Letters (for creating words) | CVC word groups collection.

Balance Bike/bike – balance bike – Banwood or Strider

Open Ended Toys for 5 Years old and Up
Legos or Magnatiles/Connectix Tiles
World Mat
Trucks/Cars
More animals and trees
Small dolls
Circuit board
Basic tool set (real tools) – Home Depot | Lowes

Bonus: Sumblox math blocks , wobbel board , balance bike – Banwood or Strider … and more of everything

I hope this list helps you get started with open ended toys. Please check out my other posts on the world of open ended play, Montessori, and wooden toys.

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