The Blog

What is an open-ended toy and why are they beneficial?

share it:

Open ended toys are toys that can be played with in multiple ways.

Check out the PedsDocTalk YouTube Video: Open-Ended Toys for more details on what open-ended toys are, the benefits, and my favorite open-ended toys for children over 12 months and under 12 months of age.

Have you heard of open-ended toys vs. closed-ended toys? Is that even a thing? In this post I explain the benefits of open-ended toys and which ones are my favorites for your baby and toddler. 

There are a lot of toys in the toy aisle and no, you don’t need them all.

At the end of the day, it’s not the quantity of toys but the quality of the toy.

What are open-ended toys?

Open ended toys are toys that can be played with in multiple ways. For example, five children could be given the same toy and all five of them would find different ways to play with it on different occasions based on their interests and their own individual cognitive development.

Open-ended toys don’t have an end goal. A ‘close-ended toy’ has a clear ending point and includes toys such as shape sorters, puzzles, books, etc. Open-ended toys are the opposite of close-ended toys in that they do not have a definite ending point—things like blocks, magnetic tiles, toy animals, etc. Keep reading for my favorites!

Both types of toys are important. Closed-ended toys can help kids feel a sense of accomplishment. My Ryaan loves puzzles and feels great accomplishing a task, but he also loves the creativity of an open-ended toy. 

It’s important to have a balance. It’s also great to balance these toys with the use of containers, which I explain in this YouTube video. I see so many parents beat themselves up over having the fanciest or best things, but really it is about how you utilize these items. Heck, you can even use things around your home! So, really—don’t think you need to break the bank when it comes to your child’s play things. 

What are the benefits of open-ended toys? 

Open-ended toys allow your child to develop cognitive skills/problem solving skills. With these toys, they have to figure out how to use it and play with it. Every play time is unique. It fosters creativity by learning how to play with it and make it work for them. Unlike electronic toys which are more cause-and-effect or stimulating, children can come up with their own ideas on how to play. 

Open-ended toys also encourage communication when played with a caregiver and they allow for more freedom as there are no rules. With an open-ended toy, the child just gets to play and be creative. 

Open-ended toys can help build more independent play. I discuss tips and tricks on how to build independent play in this podcast.

How long should you use open-ended toys?

Open-ended toys are the best for long periods of play while we get our own tasks done. With room for creativity, mess, and imaginative play, children can really get lost in their own little world with this kind of play. Also, open-ended toys are not electronic toys and although some electronic toys are fine, it can disrupt focus with the lights and sounds and lead to more distraction. Less distraction means more play time even alone! Remember, an open-ended toy is something where: 

  1. Your child can use their imagination to figure out unique ways to play with the toy.
  2. The toy is timeless in a way so it grows with your kid, which makes it even more financially useful! 

What are my favorite open-ended toys? 

These are in no particular order and not sponsored! Remember, these are for toddlers—maybe older than 12 months due to safety and cognitive abilities. These are just a few favorites. If you want my complete list of my top favorite open-ended toys, be sure to click the button below and watch my YouTube video!

  1. Our favorite – Magnetic Tiles or Picasso Tiles for toddlers. It’s like the modern version of legos and they can build to their imagination, sort colors, and really get creative.
  1. Kinetic sand. Kinetic sand is unique and offers endless hours of mixing, molding and making new creations. I also love kinetic sand because there is less mess and it feels very therapeutic to me. Kinetic sand is a great use of their hands and fine motor skills and imagination.
  1. Realistic toy animals—the definition on them is worth it. They can practice making sounds, learning the words of the animals, and playing make believe.  

Check out my Amazon storefront for all my favorite toys! 

P.S. – Check out all my recommended mom must-haves on my shop page!

Dr. Mona Admin

Hi there!

I’m a Board Certified Pediatrician, IBCLC, and a mom of two.

I know the ups and downs of becoming a mom and raising kids.

I help moms ditch the worry and second-guessing so you can find more joy in motherhood.


Subscribe to the PedsDocTalk Newsletter

The New Mom’s Survival Guide

Course Support

Need help? We’ve got you covered.

getting ready for baby

Preparing for Baby Checklist

Pregnancy and baby planning can be stressful – make it a little easier by downloading our Preparing for Baby Checklist!

All information presented on this blog, my Instagram, and my podcast is for educational purposes and should not be taken as personal medical advice. These platforms are to educate and should not replace the medical judgment of a licensed healthcare provider who is evaluating a patient.

It is the responsibility of the guardian to seek appropriate medical attention when they are concerned about their child.

All opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer or hospitals I may be affiliated with.