Seeing our children enjoy toys and dive into a new imaginative world is one of the many great pleasures of parenthood, but if we’re not careful it can quickly turn into a room full of unused toys and kids saying they are bored.
Children have thrived in their imaginative worlds since the first children were born. From rocks, to sticks, to dolls, to wagons… kids are always playing. Playing is an integral part of who they are and play a huge role in how they develop.
One of my favorite quotes is by Maria Montessori who said “Play is the work of the child”. This speaks volumes to the value that should be placed on our children’s play.
Play is so important to helping children develop but some of that has been lost with the ease and do-it-for-you nature of today’s toys. Popular toys today include lights, sounds, buttons, and screens. Children often play with these toys for a short period of time before moving on or seeming bored.
5 Reasons to Choose Open-Ended Toys
The phrase “open-ended” might sound catchy or like a fad, but in reality, these are simply basic toys. These are toys that require a bit of work to create a world.
These are toys that don’t make noise or light up. They are toys that exercise our children’s imagination muscles, making them work to create worlds of play and fun.
- Endless possibilities. These toys can be used to create anything your child can imagine. They can build a car in one minute and a castle in the next. When a toys does the work for the child, it is often played with for only a short time before abandoned to collect dust.
- They span the ages. These sort of toys are often timeless. They can be enjoyed by a toddling, one-year-old as well as a six-year-old.
- They engage our children and improve their development. Creativity, problem solving, design, fine and gross motor development… the list goes on and on. Toys that don’t do that work for the child help the child grow and develop. They can’t exercise these skills if they aren’t challenged to use them.
- Decreased ‘Over-Stimulation’. Even as adults there are times where the lights, noise, smells and sounds of the world around us are just too much. In children they will cry and fuss when this happens. Limiting toys with sound and lights can help decrease this in our little ones.
- Longer independent play times. It works I promise. When children dive into their worlds they can be lost for hours. Just last week Asher played uninterrupted, with just two Hot Wheels cars, for an hour because he was so engrossed in the world he had created with those simple cars. When our children create their imaginative world, they often stick with it for some time.
Examples of Open Ended Toys
There are loads of open-ended toys out there. Some will be made of more natural materials such as wood and cloth while others are plastic and may be bright in color. Personally, I like to keep with toys that do not make noise or have lights. I find it keeps the kiddos focused and keeps me from wanting to bang my head on the wall.
There is no need to get bogged down with the brand of the toy so long as they are providing the benefits listed above. Below are a few examples of the easiest and best open-ended toys for children.
- Building Blocks. They can be wooden, colored, plastic, big, or small. The important thing is they require a child to ‘do something’ with them and they are able to be used in more than one way. Children can build houses, cars, or castles. The possibilities are truly endless.
- People figures: Some might think these sorts of things only belong in a dollhouse but what about superheroes, families, or workers of the world? Our children can use figurines to pretend to be any role a person would take in the world. With these toys children can practice human interactions, improve their empathy, and work through handling their emotions.
- Vehicles of various types. Hot Wheels and Matchbox are a current favorite in our house but other great options include dump trucks, helicopters, planes and construction equipment. Vehicles pair nicely with building blocks and figures.
- Animals. At our home we love Schleich. They are durable, colorful, and realistic. They have lasted years of play in all conditions.
- Grownup-Life Replicas: Kitchen, felt food, cash register, dress up costumes, baby doll, baby caring supplies and so on.
More Holiday Fun Headed Your Way
Over the next couple of weeks, I invite you to come with me as I dive into my Holiday Toy Series. The series will include all of the following:
- Gift Guide for Babies
- Gift Guide for Toddlers
- Gift Guide for Preschoolers
- 25 Gift Experience Ideas that Will Benefit Your Child More Than Toys this Holiday Season