Tips for playing with Open Ended Toys

We love open ended toys.  They are the toys that's don't need batteries, they aren't structured, they don't have a 'game with rules',  they don't 'do anything'. The start of play is wherever you like and there is no end. 

They are Imaginative toys.

Open ended toys wait for you to sprinkle a little bit of imagination on them and then they come alive!



open ended toys | Grimms rainbow| Lucas loves cars


So, what if you struggle with the imagination part ... where there is nothing to sprinkle?

It's ok, it happens.

It could be those days when you are so tired that you have forgotten your own name.  Or maybe you did not grow up with open ended toys and you didn't learn about finding your imagination.

We often hear parents who say "I have no imagination for those toys" or maybe it's "I love those toys but don't know what to do with them".

Well we are here to help you with some tips to help you and your child unlock your imaginative play ... and you will love the open ended toys forever!


We have used the beautiful Grimms rainbow as our open ended toy for this example, but these tips work for ANY toy.


1  -  Turn it upside down.

Or maybe turn it 90 degrees onto its side instead of completely upside down.  

Changing your perspective or changing how you look at the toy can introduce so many new ways to enjoy a toy.

If I turn it upside down does that mean it sits differently?

For the rainbow it opens up play with balancing the pieces or rocking them and the shape of the inside is different.




2 - Does the shape remind you of something else? 

When a rainbow is set up it's a rainbow. Or could it be a mountain, a ramp or a bridge?   Turn it over and then it could be a boat, a rocking chair, or bed for a doll.

Turn them on their side and they can be fences, or a grand stand for the racetrack



3- Can you use it to make shapes?  Circles, squares, numbers or letters?

Cars, mandala pieces, rainbows, so many toys are a great resource to use for shape recognition.

The rainbow makes a lot of O shapes.  Big ones and small ones. Which leads us to the next tip ...


4 -  Size sorting.

Line them up.  There is something so satisfying to have things lined up.

Longest to shortest.  Biggest to smallest.

Is this one bigger than that one?


5 - Colour matching.

Red with red and green with green.  This is an activity that can be completed over and over in so many different variations!   

Wanting inspiration?  Colour match your toy cars, pom poms.  Play a game where they have to find something from their toy box that is the colours of the rainbow.  Something from their wardrobe in the rainbow colours.

Everything has a colour and the rainbow is the perfect spot to start.  All the primary and secondary colours are ready to be matched.



6 - Add some other toys to the mix and see what happens. 

Add people.  Have a wooden toy, add some felt.  Have a big toy, add some small pieces. 

This is actually my favourite thing to do. I can actually feel my imagination open up when I have the different toys.   My favourite is adding people or animals,  I know how they move and I want them to have a little adventure.



7 - Ask questions.   

Did you notice that in all those tips there were questions?!

Where are they going?  What could this be?  What does this look like...

Your imagination in the answer to the questions ... when you build a story or create a world where before there was none.


grimms rainbow open ended play ideas | Lucas loves cars


8 - You can't get it wrong.

This is the most important tip.  There are no rules!

Don't feel like there is a right way or a wrong way to play.  Your play will be different to the play of other people.  Your dinosaurs can be dinosaurs or hungry caterpillars.  You can be as weird or ordinary as you like.

Just have fun.



- Helle.


Helle owns Lucas loves cars. Working with toys since 2012, she has played with toys for a long time and is very picky about which toys make the list. Like a spoilt child, she will have a tantrum if the toy doesn't work and will play for hours if she finds it engaging and fun. Or until someone tells her it's time for lunch.