Inside: What are open-ended toys, what are the benefits of open-ended toys and a list of the best open ended toys for 18 month old children.
Open-ended toys provoke creative and imaginative play as well as encourage fine motor skills, gross motor-skills AND problem-solving skills.
It’s amazing to see how such simple toys can provide endless hours of play!
So, if you are ready to jump on board and ditch all of your close-ended toys, come along with me as I share some of the best open ended toys for 18 month old children.
While these toys are geared for 18 month olds, they will also make some of the best toys for your toddlers, preschoolers and school-aged children.
Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s get browsing through this list of best open-ended toys!
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What are open-ended toys
Susie, from Busy Toddler categorizes toys into two categories: “open and done toys,” and “open-ended toys”.
“Toys that talk to kids, ask questions, sing songs, light up: those are “One and Done Toys”. Those toys don’t teach, they don’t inspire, they don’t grow with our children.
Susie recommends filling our home with open-ended toys that encourage independent, free play.
Our story with open-ended toys
Last September, when Lennox started attending his play-based preschool, we met his teacher Mrs. Jo and her amazing philosophies about early childhood education.
One of the philosophies she implements is the theory of loose parts. In sum, loose parts consist of random elements in a child’s environment that provoke open-ended, independent play. Loose parts could range anywhere from rocks to scarves, to buttons.
Read more: 21 Loose Parts Outdoor Activities To Do With Your Kiddos Today!
What I love most about loose parts, besides infinite play possibilities, is that it promotes social-economic behavior and inclusiveness among children. “Loose parts encourage communication, collaboration, negotiation, risk-taking and conflict resolution.” (Daly and Beloglowsky)
These social-economic behaviors encouraged by loose parts transcend cultures and language barriers because they are items found everywhere, and they do not hold economic value.
This facet is essential in our bilingual household.
We raise Lennox in Spanish at home, using the MLAH approach, and I was nervous about how he would be able to communicate in school. However, seeing him interact with other kids in his class in a nonverbal way over loose parts is extremely fascinating.
We started implementing loose parts in our home in the fall, but first, we detoxed our home of open and done toys.
Letting go of one-and-done toys does not mean that we threw away all of our toys.
We donated some. Then, we sorted the rest and added many open-ended toys to our collection.
Today, Lennox plays harmoniously (most of the time) with his open ended-toys and loose parts.
Implementing loose parts play and adding open-ended toys has changed the way Lennox plays. He plays for hours at a time, and he even looks forwards to his nap time to have the ability to be creative and imaginative all by himself.
In addition, I find myself purchasing fewer toys and saving a lot more money!
It also causes us to get out in nature more, in an attempt to find ways to use our loose parts and open-ended toys!
Below are some of my most recommended open-ended toys for preschoolers!
The best open ended toys for 18 month old: building toys
I am going to start this list off with our favorite open-ended toys, building toys!
Building toys are a great option for little kids and older kids. What’s great about building blocks is that they can be played with by one child, or multiple children.
In her article 10 Things Children Learn from Block Play, Derry Koralek emphasizes the importance of block play in early childhood question. She explains how block play fosters:
- Problem solving
- Continuity and permanence
- social and emotional growth
One line of Koralek’s article that stood out to me as a bilingual parent, is a quote from Karen Nemeth that says “blocks offer many ways for young dual language learners to explore, express, and demonstrate what they are learning across languages”
Below are some of our favorite household blocks and building toys. Lennox especially enjoys the magnetic tiles and can play with them for hours end.
Below are a list of recommended open-ended building toys:
- Tegu Magnetic Wooden Blocks
- Melissa & Doug Wooden Building Blocks Set
- Wooden Sorting Stacking Balancing Stone Rocks
- Duplo Legos
- Jenga Blocks
- Magnetic Building Sticks Blocks
Art & Musical Open-Ended Toys
Art supplies and musical toys are great for early childhood education. Keymonne Halllists the following benefits of the arts in ECE:
- Develops motor skills
- Accelerates brain development
- Reduces stress
- Builds self-esteem
- Aids concept understanding
Benefits aside, musical instruments and artistic toys are so much fun. Watch as your child’s imagination soars are she experiences some fun, sensory play with the following open-ended toys.
Below are some of our favorite household art and musical toys.
- Wooden Musical Instruments
- Melissa & Doug Deluxe Standing Art Easel
- Melissa & Doug Double-Sided Magnetic Tabletop Art Easel
- Toy Musical Chicken
- Wood Egg Shakers
- Wooden Mini Guitar Musical Instrument
- Melissa & Doug Learn-to-Play Piano
Open- Ended Animals & Figurines
Animal toys and figurines are great open-ended toy for young toddlers. They encourage imaginary play and encourage fine motor movement in those little hands.
Furthermore, figurines promote language skills and increase vocabulary knowledge.
How will your toddler play with their figurines? It’s so fascinating to watch.
Maybe your toddler will sort them into categories, or colors. Maybe he will line them up according to size, small animals to large animals. Or, maybe your child will pretend play with them. So many options!
Below are some great figurine options for your one year olds!
- Forest Animals Baby Figures
- Beverly Hills Doll Collection
- Pretend Professionals Career Doll Figures
- Mini Dog Figurines
- Dinosaur Figures
- Safari Zoo Animals Figures
- Sea and Polar Animals Figurines
- Bugs Figures
- Farm Animals Figures
Check out how we use animal figurines in the beach sensory bin!
Open-Ended Floor Puzzles
Puzzles are great critical thinking resource for young children.
Some of the benefits of puzzle play are advanced cognitive skills, problem solving, fine-motor development, hand-eye coordination, social skills, and lastly, puzzles build self-esteem.
Keep a puzzle in your living room and rotate it out every few days to get your child interested in puzzle play.
Here is a list of great floor puzzles for preschoolers:
- Melissa & Doug Pets at Play Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle
- Wooden Animal Shapes Puzzle
- Montessori Shape Sorting Puzzle
- Melissa & Doug Farm Wooden Cube Puzzle
- Melissa & Doug Mix ‘n Match Wooden Bear Family Dress-Up Puzzle
- Toy Rainbow Stacker
Related: 13 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for Their First Year of Preschool
Open-Ended Transportation Toys
Transportation toys, similar to animal toys and figurines are seen so much in daily life that your child will really enjoy playing with them.
Join them with some of the earthly elements listed further down in this post and your child will be in play-heaven!
- Hot Wheels Cars
- Wooden train set and train table.
- Construction Vehicles
- Monster Trucks
- Airplanes Playset
- Miniature Wooden Toy Cars
Related: A Cars Color Learning Activity in Spanish for Bilingual Children (Free Printable)
Earthly Elements & Outdoor Toys
Earthly elements are not only sensory, but they also are sensory and promote fine-motor skills.
Add some toys, or even better, loose parts, and watch your preschooler go at it!
- This kids in Lennox’s preschool go CRAZY over this Jurassic Sand. It can be used indoors and outdoors! You can add it to a sandbox or even put it in a water table for some standing fun! Don’t forget the sand equipment!
- Kinetic sand is great way to bring outdoor elements indoors. It is sensory and will entertain your toddler for hours!
- Playdoh is another way to have some creative fun! Add in some playdoh tools and your child will be in sensory and fine-motor heaven! Maybe they will make a pizza, or a snake! Who knows?
Related: 50 + Best Christmas Gifts for 5-Year-Old Boys
Fine Motor Open-Ended Toys
Below is a list of open-ended toys that are great for fine-motor skills such as grasping and eye-hand coordination.
- These lacing beads are great for hand-eye coordination and grasping. You could also use them to sort and learn the colors. Your child can also get creative with them in their own way!
- See what your child will build with this fun wooden tool workbench.
- I don’t know about you. but my son has a fascination with anything with a clip or clasp. This wooden clip set would entertain him for hours!
Gross Motor Open-Ended Toys
Gross motor toys work the big muscles such as the legs and arms. Having a few gross motor toys will encourage physical activity and if you find the right toys, can provoke open-ended play all day!
Lennox loves his Micro Kickboard Scooter. He used to ride it all over the neighborhood looking for gas stations to “fill up the gas.”
Below are some more gross motor open-ended toys!
Household open-ended toys
This last section if for open-ended toys that are great for house and role play.
- This wooden play kitchen is great for indoors, or you could get a plastic toy kitchen and turn it into a mud kitchen outdoors! See if they can concoct a soup out of pinecones and leaves, or make chicken nuggets with rocks! You would be surprised how much a mud kitchen will inspire creativity!
- Don’t forget about the pretend food or the pots and pans to add to your kitchen!
- Melissa and Doug cleaning toys.
- Your child can pretend which profession they will love these 27 dress up costumes.
- Lastly you can’t forget about the favorites, baby dolls and the fun doll accessories!
Thank you so much for reading. I hope your child enjoy some of these open-ended toys! Let me know your favorites, or if something is missing in the comments below!!!