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.

Small Business Black Friday & Cyber Monday Deals

It’s here! Black Friday sales are here! And so are some great deals from small businesses. These are all the ones I know, if you have a company I should, comment below or instagram me @bindisandbottles.

As always, many of the links below are affiliate. This means I make a tiny commission if you buy something through the link. It costs you nothing but helps pay my hosting bills and to keep writing. Thank you for the support!

Danny & Luca – 20% off over $100 purchase. Few items left, subscriptions are sold out though. There will be a restock in a week or two.

Oompa Toys – No sitewide sale but some products are on sale. They have Grimms, HABA, Petit Collage, Wee Gallery. Use my referral code to get $10 off a $50 or more purchase.

Lollipop Sky – Grimms blocks, the dwarf village, pink pebbles, stacking boxes, fire and earth, and large rainbow are available.There are also some Holztiger and Ostheimer left too. Be sure to use my referral code and sign up for the newsletter to get a coupon code.

Dearest Diapers – 20% off with DDBFSALE20, some exclusions. Grapat bowls and nins still in stock, Glückskäfer, Grimms, car seats and lots of other brands.

Meenal Patel Studio – 15% off eligible orders, free shipping on most products. I love Meenal’s illustrations and books. An Indian American, her stories resonate with children of color and anyone who loves a good story.

Orlando Wooden Toys – Etsy – Free shipping on all purchases. Sale currently on, date ending unknown. Know for their elements stackers, rainbow stackers, and vehicles. Can come finished or unfinished.

Mirus Toys – Free shipping – last day for US orders is Dec 2nd for Christmas delivery; International guarantee deadline passed. The prettiest Montessori and Waldorf perpetual calendars you’ve seen.

Happy Tree Store – 20% off wooden toys AND free shipping. Trees, rainbows and lovely open ended wood toys from Russia is hot. Be sure to confirm ship out date to arrive to you by Christmas.

TheWoodPeckerFactory – 10-15% off, free shipping on most products. Great collection of wooden animals.

Wooden Caterpillar – 10-20% off and free shipping on most. German toy shop on Etsy. They have a massive collection of wooden animals. Particular favorites are the animal sets and trees.

Heir Loom Kids USA – Made in the USA wooden toys. They have a few classic Montessori toys: the stackers and shape puzzles along with custom name puzzles, and push toys.

Your Little Doves – Current 20% off sitewide with code SHOPSMALL (exclusions apply). Special Black Friday products will be 50% off (cannot be stacked with sitewide code). Also, you can use my discount code for $10 off (ymmv)

Studio Yali on etsy – Indian goddess peg people! Looking to add diversity and a little mythology to your wooden toy collection? Studio Yali has divine goddesses like Durga, Saraswati, and Lakshmi. You can also buy peg dolls wearing different Indian outfits.

Jens Pretty Pegs – Free shipping for most purchases. Jen’s hand-painted pegs are TO DIE FOR. Seriously, if you want beautiful peg people, go to her.

The Natural Baby Co – 15% OFF STOREWIDE* Fri., Nov. 29TH(12:01 AM ET) Through Mon., Dec. 2 (11:59 PM ET). *Excludes Jellycat, Grimms, Veer, Lilly & River, Wobble. GroVia 20% Off. Sale Category 50% Off. Referral code here should give you free shipping. Gluckskafer, Ostheimer, and more.

Rose & Rex – Sale over. My referral code with give you 15% off. They have WaytoPlay (though check pricing), Gluckskafer, and Grapat.

LOVEVERY – Sale over but plenty of things around!

Sanskar Teaching – Needing to learn Gujarati? Or freshen up? Enjoy 50% all week on the long and short classes. Use code HALF

Dyper – Not toy related, but diapers! Not any old diapers, bamboo diapers that are compostable. They can go in a home compost or be sent off for composting. (I’m not sure if they can be used in the city compost bin. Still, a way more environmentally friendly than any other company.

Why and Whale – 15% off sitewide with BLACKFRIDAY.

I also want to mention Nest.ca as a lovely store too. They aren’t doing Black Friday sales per se, but they have fantastic service and great prices.

That’s all for now! Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for supporting me!

/Preeti


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The Holiday Wooden Toy Gift Guide

It’s that time of the year to shop for the loved ones, and little people, in your life. To help support small businesses, I have put together my favorite products from Etsy and other small retailers (though a few are from Amazon for sheer convenience).

As I am part of several wooden toy and open ended play groups, these products come highly recommended.

This Christmas gift guide is ALL about wooden toys. It’s difficult to shop at, and find, businesses that foster a more environmentally friendly, sustainable method of production. Most of the toys listed below are made in Germany, Poland, Russia, and Thailand by small businesses.

This list *isn’t* about the big box manufacturers, it’s about the small, family grown companies that want the toys to last generations.

Skip the beeping and batteries, the branding, the fast fashion and return to the simplicity and elegance of wooden toys.

Share this list with your friends and families needing advice on what to buy for Christmas.

Also check out the Montessori toys & development small business list (coming soon) and the desi/South Asian toy and book lists (coming soon).

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate. It doesn’t cost a penny to you to click and shop, but I get a small commission by purchasing through the links below. This help fuels my sleep-deprived mom of 3 self with caffeine, fruit, and nuts.

Please note that some of these sellers are overseas so shipping times may vary. Also be sure to communicate with the seller if you want a custom order or need rush shipping.

Jen’s Pretty Pegs

It’s ridiculous how cute these peg dolls are. You can buy ready made peg people or have Jen custom make dolls to look like you. Exclamation point!

The Blockbuster Brands of Wooden Toys

Grapat – Made in Spain

Gluckskafer

Grimms – Made with love, and by hand in Germany, Grimms wooden toys is by far the powerhouse of the wooden toy world. Loved by children in endless open ended building of ball runs, peg people, and whatever landscapes a wooden block can bring, the Grimms toys are loved.

I own only a few Grimm’s toys, but expansion is on my horizon. The toys have a higher price point, but if you want quality, know the source of the materials, handmade items, then they are worth every penny.

We LOVE the large rainbow, 1001 nights, building boards, and semi circles. I plan to buy the stepped roofs, large stepped pyramid, moon houses.

Ostheimer – Made in Germany by hand, the gorgeous wooden animals and people are treasured in households across the globe. There’s something magical about holding a handmade wooden animal.

Holztiger – Also a German company making wooden toys by hand, Holztiger is a household name. Available at a more economical price point than Ostheimer, Holztiger animals are uniquely special.

Tegu – Tegu opens the world of wooden builds through magnetic play. Each wood piece have magnets on the ends and can connect with each other. Safe for one year olds and up, Tegu toys hit the stride with 3-6 year olds. While they are on the pricy side, they have good resale value and can be used for years. Like Lego, the Tegu block sets can be combined and built to make massive creations or pocket sizes bits.

Plan Toys Made in Thailand, these wooden toys are made from rubberwood, a renewable resource.

Happy Tree Store

You guessed it, they sell wooden trees. Different shapes and sizes and colors, pair them with wooden blocks, a cityscape or roadway, and the kids are good to go.

The Wood Pecker Factory, based in Romania, also sells a variety of wooden tree toys and wooden animals that have a striking resemblance to a certain German brand.

Myers Natural Rainbows

These rainbows are SO popular that as soon as they appear for sale on Etsy, people snap them up. These toys are made in the USA and are oh so gorgeous. Like Grimm’s rainbows and Ocamora rainbows, Myers have a special place in people’s hearts.

Skandico Toys

Skandico Toys is a Russian toy shop with a focus on blocks and puzzles. Their colors are from Germany and the wood is lime wood, a popular tree used for block making. They have several block sets so they worth investing if you want to keep the same color scheme.

outside everywhere

A made in the USA shop, outside everywhere features lots of different wooden animals. Some are highly detailed in painting while others are simplistic. You’ll find favorites for sure.

White Stork Wood


An up and coming woodworking shop from Russia, their whale, penguins, and ducks have phenomenal detail. Some of their products are one faced painted, so may disappoint if you want them painted on all sides.

Lapps Toys

Want a ball run that is made from wood AND made in the USA? Look towards Amish country and you’ll hit the spot.

Russian Nesting Dolls – ROSTOK Toys

Paint your own Russian Nesting Dolls. These are beautiful and are worth the price tag and the shipping. I have a couple sets and love them…now to just finish painting them!

Star and Moon Stacker – Timber Wolf Concepts

Teaching children how to balance, this stacker will delight little ones (2+ years old). Made in the USA wooden toys.

Wood Toy Car – Timber Wolf Concepts

From the same toymakers as the star stacker, these wooden cars are handmade and perfect for little roadways.

Weather Peg Dolls

There are several peg people artists on Etsy that make weather inspired dolls. My favorite designs are from Artistically Playful, Goodfaith Toys, Daniellasunflower, BettySkyla.

Daniella Sunflower
Goodfaith Toys
Betty Skyla Toys on Etsy
Artistically Playful weather gnomes on Etsy

Wooden Animals

wooden dinosaurs with magnets

wooden vegetables



More toys to be added to the list!