Open-ended play. Buzz phrase, or real thing? Of course, kids have a wonderful habit of turning objects into whatever they fancy. (The cardboard box rocket ship is your classic example.) But certain toys are designed to be prescriptive (or closed-ended) while others are designed to lend themselves to lots of uses (open-ended).

Open-ended toys are are often described as being 90% child and 10% toy, as they leave plenty of room for a small person’s input.

The benefits of open-ended toys are that they can be played with by different ages, so they last longer and kids can do more things with fewer of them - saving you money and minimising toy clutter. (Hooray!) Crucially, open-ended toys give children lots of space for freedom and creativity.

These are our 10 Best Open-Ended Toys For Kids, but there are lots more to browse in our Open-Ended Play collection too.

1. TP Toys: Indoor Wooden Climbing Cube

TP Toys: Indoor Wooden Climbing Cube

They'll use it as a tunnel, a den, a climbing frame or perhaps even a spaceship, but it will certainly be something different, one day to the next.

2. Jabadabado: Stacking Cubes Animal

Stacking Cubes Animal

Ten parent/baby animal figures and five stacking houses make for loads of play possibilities.

3. Smartmax


There are so many ways these clever magnetised pieces can fit together - budding engineers just love them.

4. Tender Leaf Toys Stacking Coral Reef

Tender Leaf Toys Stacking Coral Reef

Figures are an important part of open-ended play and we love the different coloured and shaped elements of this toy: they lend themselves to lots of different uses and stories (as well as being a fun stacking game).

5. Kid's Concept: Play Tunnel

Kid's Concept: Play Tunnel

We guarantee you will find your kid playing loads of different games in this tunnel, or maybe just lying in it to read!

6. Rainbow Eco Play: Mixies Blended Sand

Rainbow Eco Play: Mixies Blended Sand

This squishy eco-sand is great for sensory play and is made in an old cattle shed on a farm in Somerset, which we love.

7. Petit Collage: ABC Wooden Blocks

Petit Collage ABC Wooden Blocks

Blocks are a classic open-play pick and these ones have letters and cute illustrations on them too.

Ten children could be given the same open-ended toy and all 10 would find different ways to play with it, based on their interests, developmental stage, natural abilities & imagination.

8. KIDLY Label Silicone & Wood Rainbow

KIDLY Label Silicone & Wood Rainbow

Ever toy shelf needs a rainbow and this version has pliable silicone and sturdy wooden arches to mix up the fun.

9. KIDLY Label: Sensory Stacking Cups

KIDLY Label Sensory Stacking Cups

Perfect as bath toys, for printing in sand or clay, for stacking, balancing and even chewing!

10. Wobbel; Original Transparent Wobbel Board

Wobbel: Original Transparent Wobbel Board

One of our bestsellers, this curvy rocking board is great for balancing, den building, or using as a bridge, a battlement, or a place to nap!

11. Vilac: Under The Canopy Alphabet Shape Puzzle

Vilac Under The Canopy Alphabet Shape Puzzle

We love these letters that can be sorted, used as print pieces, as play figures, or as a puzzle and literacy aid.

12. Djeco: Introduction To Dough Classic

Djeco Introduction To Dough Classic

Dough is another open-play must and this set has fun a and easy-to-use extruder so they can experiment with lots of different shapes.

This is only for starters. There's a whole Open-Ended Play collection you can browse - but we hope this has given you a bit of inspiration for growing their open-ended toy box. If you need any advice on toys for any stage, or any help at all, our Live Chat Team is always here to help, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (but not bank holidays). Just hit that purple button, bottom right.

The same open-ended toy can usually be played with by a baby, a toddler, a preschooler and even beyond.

Further reading

Stories Of Play: 70+ Open-Ended Toys & Resources

Sleeping Should Be Easy: How to Encourage Open-Ended Play (And Why It’s Important)

Picture credit
Title image: Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash