How Traditional Wooden Toys Encourage Open Ended Play

Much has been written about how traditional wooden toys are much better for the environment than plastic, but another big benefit is they are very good for Open Ended Play.

What are Open Ended Play toys and why do we want to encourage it? 

The best description of open ended toys are ones which encourage play which is 90% child and only 10% toy. So open ended toys are toys that can be played in different and varied ways, and by a diverse range of ages. They can be played with in different and varied ways, and by a diverse range of ages. They can be played with in a completely different way depending on the child's age, mood and interests.  

In contrast when we talk about a toy which is One and Done we mean the sort of toy which looks appealing but in reality does not engage the child. Many times this is because as a toy it effectively tells the child how it is to be played with rather than letting them create play themselves.

The worst One and Done toy we had in our house was a plastic dog which could swim. It was heavily advertised on TV during the build up to Xmas and became the one toy our daughter could not possibly live without. She was ecstatic on Xmas day when she finally got this wondrous swimming dog but by the time she went back to school it was lying forgotten on the floor of her room. Why? Well swimming was all it could do, and there is only so many times its entertaining to look at a dog swimming across a bath tub however many flashing lights you get at the same time. It was briefly resurrected in the summer to swim across a paddling pool but it was very soon completely forgotten.

The best examples of open ended play toys are seen all through history as they are the sort of toys which never go out of fashion. A ball is a great example of open play. It can be used for all sort of sport, football, cricket, rounders, etc but it can also be used for tag, bounced against a wall, clapping games and bowling as well as dribbling, bouncing and throwing.

Soft toys are also great toys for open ended play as they can be great companions in imaginative play, and occupy as many roles as they are needed for.

Its not that open ended play is the only way kids should play, puzzles are not open ended, they have just one purpose, but they encourage concentration and problem solving. Similarly, marble runs are great for fine motor skills and working out sequences. The issue is with toys which almost make the child a passive participant in play. Our swimming dog barked, flashed and swam while my daughter just sat back and watched. Toys like this are effectively closed – they do not encourage imagination or even play and the child quickly gets bored.

This is why wooden toys are always so popular with parents. Unlike many plastic toys they do not actually do anything. They don’t flash or make a noise or speak to the child. However they do encourage children to use their imaginations and to explore which means you have a happy and occupied child. Our wooden rainbow toy is the perfect example of a toy which encourages open ended play. It can be used in small world play, it can be built, and it can be knocked down again, it can be symmetrical and it can be used to create art. It can even be used to make a marble run.

As a toy company we love the concept of open play and have always loved it when people told us how our dinosaur toys have become such great companions in their children’s imaginative play.

We have always wanted to offer more toys which encourage open ended play so we were very excited when we finally found a partner for wooden toys who is both fair trade and upcycled and who was very open to developing our sort of wooden toys with us.

Going forward we aim to increase our range of wooden toys all based on open play so please watch out for new additions.

Do you have any suggestions you’d like to see? Please join the debate on our Instagram or Facebook pages

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