The Best Open Ended Toys for Kids

The Best Open-Ended Toys for Kids


Open ended toys foster play, creativity, and imagination. Here is a list of the best open-ended toys for kids, focusing on construction and pretend play.

The Best Open Ended Toys for Kids

When I look at which toys have received the most use and love in our house over the years, both by my two kids and by the stream of friends and art group members who have played with them, the clear winners are the open ended toys.

Open-ended toys are those that can be used in a variety of ways depending on the children, the day, their imagination, and desire. They foster play, creativity, and imagination.

Think building blocks, dress-up accessories, and animal figurines.

Open ended play and open ended toys for kids

In a NY Metro article on why simple toys prove to more beneficial for kids, Colleen Multari, says,

“Open-ended toys result in open-ended play. This type of play can evolve over time while also encouraging children to create and problem-solve as they explore the world around them.”

So today, as many of us are starting to think about holiday gift shopping, I thought I’d share a few of our favorite open ended toys. 

Note :: Most of these can be purchased from Amazon (I know we all like the Prime shipping), Imagine Childhood (amazing quality and mission), and Discount School Supply. I’ll even include some of best open-ended toys you can make yourself (you’d be surprised!).

The Best Open Ended Toys for Kids

We’ll start with building and construction, move on to pretend play and role play, then cover homemade toys.

Best Open Ended Toys for Kids - Construction Sets

The Best Open Ended Toys for Construction 

(besides cardboard boxes, sticks, stones, etc…)

Best Open Ended Toys for Kids - Construction Sets

The Best Open Ended Toys for Pretend Play

Best Open Ended Toys for Kids - Kitchen Pretend Play

Kitchen Play

Best Open Ended Toys for Kids - Kitchen Pretend Play

Best Open Ended Toys for Kids - Animal Pretend Play

Animal figurines

We especially like the quality of the Schleich animals.

Stuffed animals (we love the realism and quality of these plush animals)

Dollhouse and doll play

Best Open Ended Toys for Kids - Dollhouse Play

  • We had this folding wooden castle and it got SO much use over the years (there’s also a non pink version)
  • This fold and go wood barn has a handy carry handle and comes with animal figures
  • This wooden dollhouse comes with furniture and everything, plus the sections are all separate and can be assembled in any configuration (including 2-3 smaller dollhouses for siblings or friends)

Best Open Ended Toys for Kids - Car Play

Car and truck play

Dress Up and Role Play

(Our dress-up bin is filled with scarves of all kinds as well as thrifted dress up clothes. Crowns and wings have gotten a lot of play time in our home as well.)

Best Open Ended Toys for Kids - Dress Up and Pretend Play

Best Open Ended Toys for Kids - Doctor Kit and Cash Register

Best Sensory Play Ideas for Kids

The Best Open-Ended Sensory Play Ideas

(Many of these can be combined effectively with other toys, such as animal figurines, matchbox cars, kitchen play items, etc.)

Best Open Ended Toys for Kids - Homemade

The Best Open Ended Toys You Can Make Yourself

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A list of the best open-ended toys for kids, focusing on construction & pretend play. Toys like these foster play, creativity & imagination. #creativehome #play #playroom #parenthood #parenting #toys

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  • Reply
    November 28, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    Pretend play, art supplies and books are my girls favorites. My girls love their princess dresses and we have an understanding that building forts is permissible. Little dolls are also popular here.

  • Reply
    Talia van der Westhuizen
    December 13, 2016 at 1:40 am

    The toys that truly stood the test of time for my daughter is her tent and the melissa and doug best friends forever set. Her legos make an appearance every couple of months, and she continues to play with her littlest petshops in the bath tub.

  • Reply
    March 1, 2017 at 3:20 am

    I would like to add one more toy to the list i.e. arrowcopter. It is the best toys available at Whistle Copter that enhances creativity among children.

  • Reply
    April 3, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    I love the ideas of open-ended toys and give kids a great opportunity for imagination and creativity. Are these toys appropriate for 7-8 years old too?

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      April 4, 2017 at 11:59 am

      Yes, absolutely, Shirley! That’s the beauty of most open-ended toys! They can be used by different kids, at different ages, in a variety of ways. :)

  • Reply
    April 4, 2017 at 9:34 am

    Jean – a very thoughtfully researched list! We own almost everything in your list, and absolutely second your suggestions! I will be sharing your post!! Thank you for taking the time to curate this list!

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      April 4, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      You’re so welcome, Alana! Glad to have you second my suggestions!! :)

  • Reply
    Kristin Meunier
    April 5, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    Great list!!! Thank you for compiling these. I will definitely use this as a resource for our “minimilist” playroom. I would recommend adding the Gonge Hilltops or River Stones as well. They came be seats/baskets/obstacles/etc. They are fairly pricey, but I am going to invest in them soon. They have had GREAT reviews on a minimilist family blog that I follow.

  • Reply
    Roy Advika
    June 27, 2017 at 1:17 am

    This is a great article that has helped me understand the concept of Open-ended toys better. Thanks a lot for this informative post. :) Now I know what to gift my nephew for his birthday.

  • Reply
    Amelia Rebolo
    September 19, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    Hi! I love this article, I’m always looking for inspiration for my kids’ gifts etc. The image at the top shows a tent like structure around the kitchen and I would like to know how to make it! Do you know where to find directions?

  • Reply
    Isabel Coimbra
    February 3, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    Thanks. I’ve seen children pick things up from scratch to make beautiful inventions. Because all humans were made in the image and resemblance of God. God is our Creator and the First Artist of surpassing talent and power unending, never failing us, His Creation.

  • Reply
    Christine Sweet
    September 24, 2018 at 11:34 am

    Our kids LOVE Brain Blox! You get 100-300 (depending on which set you get) solid wood planks and there are sooooo many things you can do with them! My kids legit spend hours playing with these! You can get them on Amazon.

  • Reply
    Gotchoo Covered
    July 9, 2019 at 7:47 am

    I like your post and we are also supplier of cool toys for kids If you wants more then visit to our site
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