Open-Ended Toys

Open-Ended Toys

Open-ended toys are some of the greatest toys. They have endless possibilities. A child can use his or her imagination to create and experiment. Every time a child uses an open-ended toy, he or she can create something different, or the toy can be used in a variety of ways (Lego blocks, dress-up clothes, blocks, musical instruments). These types of toys also save a lot of money because they can be used repeatedly, for years, at all different ages and stages of development. Children's small hands are comfortable and attracted to something that can be touched, used, taken apart, and put back together over and over again.

A common open-ended toy is called a manipulative. A manipulative is an object that is designed for a child to learn by “manipulating” it. While playing with manipulatives, a child learns concepts such as counting, stacking, sorting and deconstructing, matching, construction, patterning, categorizing, and comparing (building blocks of math). Manipulatives help develop and enhance fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. They help a child learn about measurable concepts like shapes, numbers, and symbols, in a hands-on and experimental way. Manipulatives are objects like textured links, sorting shapes, blocks, rings, balls, puzzles, or stacking toys. These are perfect for everyday play or just to dump in the tub during bath time for water play.

Open-ended toys are action figures, toy houses, play money, farm animals, trucks, Play-Doh and accessories, dinosaurs, and more. A small workbench with toy drills, saws, wood pieces, and screws for construction is great to rotate in and out. Another great item is a dual-combination board that has one side for magnets and the other side for felt board stories. Refer to Part III: Reading Area, page 136. The magnet board can be used with magnets to teach animals, shapes, and objects, or with dry-erase markers to teach letters or words. Children will also use the magnet and felt board pieces like figurines in pretend play.

Open-Ended Toy Suggestions

Infants and Toddlers
• Play kitchen with pretend food
• Stacking cubes
• Baby dolls
• Wooden blocks
• Mr. Potato Head

• Toy trains, tracks, cars, and trucks
• Blocks, magnetic tiles
• Magnetic letters and numbers
• Dress-up clothes (costumes, pieces of fabric for scarves, capes)
• Role-playing kits (doctor, veterinarian, firefighter)
• Pegs and peg boards
• Interlocking links and cubes
• Felt board and felt board story pieces
• Matching games (start with colors or pictures to matching and making words)
• Puppets and other materials for storytelling

Elementary-Age Children
• Dolls and dollhouse
• Action and superhero figurines
• Lego blocks
• Dominoes
• Card games
• Board games
• Military toys
• Make-believe (school, house, hospital)

The paperback version of Create a Home of Learning is available at Amazon, your favorite bookseller or

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