Like most of you, our house runs on our toddler's rules. If she's happy, we are happy. While I have access to data, research and a team of experts on what to buy and give your baby when, I know many of you don't. So here's a list of open ended toys that we love - most of which are available on the website.
Let's start with - what makes a toy good ?
There are so many beautiful wooden, handcrafted wooden toys readily available in the Indian market today, coupled with all the negativity surrounding the environmental issues caused by plastic toys, there has been an overwhelming bashing of plastic toys in favour of wooden toys by our friends and family.
But for us it is not as much the material than the fact that they are open ended that have led us to fill up our playroom and curated these beautiful wooden toys on A Charmed Life.
Simply put, open-ended toys are toys that can be played with in multiple and varied ways. They are often described as toys that are 90% child and 10% toy as they leave plenty of room for a child’s input.
Open-ended toys encourage endless creativity and imagination. The same toy can usually be played with by a baby, a toddler, a preschooler and even beyond - as a parent I love this bit...because these toys are made to last in many ways.
So here is a list of toys that would make the Top 10 for us. All of them are tried and tested favourites of my little Shloka and are hence our fave suggestions for infants and toddlers. Most are available on the website and made of wood/ non plastic, barring one.
1. Play Silks -
Play silks are so versatile and can truly be used for anything and everything that you want it to be.
We’ve used our silks in sensory play with Shloka when she was a baby stroking different part of her body, waving them from side to side to help her practice tracking with their eyes and as materials in treasure baskets.
We’ve used them as dress ups, props for dancing with and for role play.
We’ve used them as backdrops for creating small worlds and so much more !
2. Animal Figurines
These were probably the first few toys that really encouraged my firstborn to delve into pretend play and role play.
We started our collection with zoo animals and farm animals as those were the ones she recognised and identified with most from the books we read. We’ve since amassed quite the collection ranging from forest animals to sea creatures. We have a few plastic ones for water based play - again these are worth investing in a good quality set that you may get on Amazon, but our favourites are the wooden animal figures that you may find here and here.
3. Peg Dolls
With its unlimited potential for creating stories about different roles and characters in every type of play you can imagine, adding peg dolls to your toy collection would undoubtedly be a worthwhile investment for encouraging language and literacy through play. We started with a set of 6 and then we took it from there...
We use them for colour-matching/ sorting activities and as a complement to construction play, representing and creating different roles and characters in imaginative and small world play, weaving fabulous stories in the process.
4. Rainbow Blocks - we have a bunch of these sets because they're amazing !
It is such a fabulous resource for construction play, shapes and colour exploration with natural light casting shadows. We are still learning our colours and these are a super fun tool to help. It’s also such a great resource to use with a light-box too. I maybe guilty of enjoying these as much as ms. S does.
5. Rainbow Pebbles
This set of 36 rainbow pebbles comes in 6 colours and 6 different sizes, as well as 20 activity cards. We use these to sort and match by colour and by size, to stack, to build, as loose parts for creating small worlds (roads, paths, hills, grass, lakes etc), transient art, filling and transferring (when my 1yo was at that stage), as pretend food etc.
I introduced these pebbles to Shloka even before she turned 1 and was still mouthing. To make it baby-friendly, I simply removed the smaller pieces that would be a choking hazard and only offered the bigger pieces. And of course, supervision is ALWAYS of paramount importance.
6. Set of Good Quality Building Blocks
We have so many alternatives on this one that it deserves a post by itself !
They all serve the purpose of encouraging children to build, construct, create, imagine, design, engineer, experiment, problem-solve etc.
7. Rainbow Planks -
We’ve used them to make roads, mazes, 3D structures and buildings, create patterns and designs, as loose parts etc a great addition for constructive play.
So simple and minimalist in design, yet offers so much in terms of creative possibilities and imaginative endeavours. Less IS more and it couldn’t be more perfect to describe this particular product.
A spin off of the original Grimm's Stackers, Shloka has somehow managed to come up with a thousand and one ways of using these on her own initiative so I know this is definitely one toy that will grow with her over the years and I honestly can’t wait to see what else she will come up with as she develops and matures in the years to come....
We have slowly added so many variants of Rainbow stackers because they are a beautiful open ended wooden toy.
9. The Curvy or Rocker Board is another amazing toy to add. We love this one from ALT Retail that can take upto 100 kgs weight so that means Shloka + Papa can enjoy themselves on it and is such a versatile and truly open ended toy !
Last but not the least - Magna tiles. I know they're plastic but these are a great investment to make and bring into the playroom !
I hope this list helps you out, these are all amazing toys that can be used in so many ways by kids across all age groups. As a parent my one advise is - buy them over time, the good ones aren't cheap but they are totally worth it. Buy less but best when it comes to these open ended toys. This is just a set of our current faves. Like you, we too keep adding and buying more tools that we come across and we will keep sharing our feedback on those along the way ! Happy playing !!!