Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Best Toys are Open Ended

The other day, my boys were running around playing Star Wars. This is their latest obsession. In my older son's case he is so obsessed that he claims he can't do his school work because he keeps getting Star Wars thoughts (I find it hard to argue with this kind of logic - Star Wars is more interesting than a day filled with French phonetic work sheets, but that is a whole other post). The great thing about it, though was what they were using as props.

Jedi robes? Check. Made out of the yellow capes I made them for Christmas two years ago. These capes have been superhero and villain capes, knights, kings, Narnians, pirates and now, Jedi knight capes since I made them two years ago.

Light sabers? Check. Well, the handles were made out of column blocks from the block set I bought them for Christmas three years ago. The laser part was in their imagination, which has the added bonus of not being able to actually hurt anyone (though from the number of "cut off hands" that I saw missing, you would never know it).

Open ended toys are toys that can be used in many different ways. They are, ironically, more "interactive" than toys where you push a button and the same thing happens repeatedly. The child must use their imagination and creativity to engage with the toy. These toys are not only the longest lasting, but they are the ones that really build brains, despite what toy marketers would have you think.

Here are some ideas for open-ended toys you might want to get your kids this Christmas. I've tried to list things that are suitable for all different ages:

- blocks
- animal and dinosaur figures (not branded characters, just animals)
- softies
- dolls, plus their blankets, strollers, and clothes
- balls, beanbags, beads, stackers,
- dress up clothes and accessories (doctor kits, badges, swords, hats, etc)
- art supplies (markers, crayons, scissors, scrapbooks, paints, stamps, stickers)
- open ended building sets such as lego, construx, or mega blocks
- play kitchens, food, pots and pans, dishes, tea sets, shopping carts
- playmobil or other sets of people with accessories
- cars, trucks, and trains with or without tracks to build
- cards, marbles, dominoes, high sky balls
- hockey sticks and nets, basketballs, tennis rackets and balls, and other sports equipment
- craft supplies for sewing, knitting, beading, card making, or crochet
- not to mention boxes, pipe cleaners, bits of string, recyclables, kitchen utensils and the other open ended things your kids will find for themselves around your house.

These toys will last your kids for years, get tons of play time, and help your child really build their brains and bodies. Pick some toys that are suitable for your child's interests and age and get them playing!


  1. Thomas' favorite toys are ones he finds. Like a pop bottle, a empty wrapping paper tube, and the old computer screen that he's claimed as his. I can only imagine the fun we'll have with him as he grows and wants to use his imagination more. Great gift ideas. We actually did go with open ended toys. :)

  2. Very timely writing Jill! I thought of your post this morning as Elijah was dressed up as Darth Vader. His costume was his regular black shirt and pants (school clothes) knight's breastplate and helmet, with a red blanket tied around his shoulders as a cape, black winter gloves and his lightsaber. Imagination is the best toy :o)




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