As soon as you have kids you will notice stuff and more particularly toys piling up everywhere in your house. You will also find, that half the dolls, toy cars and teddy bears aren’t even used that often. The solution is simple but effective: Open-ended toys!
What Are Open-Ended Toys?
Open-ended toys are like the name suggests, toys that can be used in a million different ways and over many years. Instead of having just one or a handful of purposes, like many modern toys, an open-ended toy offers an infinite number of play opportunities. This is mainly due to its simplicity. Think about it, a simple cardboard box can be a car, a plane, a house, a castle, a monster, a tent, a robot and so forth, while a toy car is a toy car.
Simple toys or objects spark a child’s creativity and imagination. Instead of dictating how to play, open-ended toys are more like an invitation to enter the world of play, where anything is possible!
Open-Ended Toys and Sustainability
Regardless, of what they are made of open-ended toys are more sustainable than other toys, because they are used more often and over a longer period of time. So even, if you choose an open-ended toy made from plastic, it is better for the environment than a “single-use” plastic toy. It provides more value for a similar amount of energy being used during the manufacturing process.
That said, a lot of toy brands who specify in open-ended toys are conscious of the environmental impact and choose sustainable and responsibly sourced materials. Additionally, many of them manufacture their products in Europe in order to keep the carbon footprint as low as possible.
Choosing open-ended toys doesn’t just mean years of creative fun for your children, but it also is one of those things, we all can do to be kind to our planet!
Here are my 6 favourite open-ended toys to add to your child’s Christmas or Birthday list!
1. Grimm’s Wooden Toys
Let’s start with the brand that introduced me to open-ended and sustainable toys: Grimms Holzdesign! The best known Grimm’s toy and certainly one of the most popular in our house is the 12-piece rainbow. During playtime it can become literally anything: houses, bridges, see-saws, towers, roads, caves, animals and so so much more. It is a staple piece in our toy collection and is used in combination with all the other toys that are mentioned in this blog post.
Grimm’s toys are made in Europe (either Germany or Bosnia, depending on the product). The wood that is used is mainly alder, lime & beach, which is sourced from sustainable European forests. All this comes with a price tag of course. Grimm’s Toys are not cheap, but they are worth it. They can be used for so many years (even teens & adults enjoy balancing and stacking challenges) and since their quality is outstanding, they can be passed on to your grandchildren.
2. Bioblo Blocks
Following on from rainbows, the Bioblo Blocks definitely deserve a mention here! Their unique honeycomb shape allows them to be stacked meters high and in all sorts of shapes – almost defying gravity.
The texture and bright colours of the blocks are like a magnet for a child’s imagination (and to be honest also for mine as an adult). They are available in different packs. From 40 blocks for an affordable €26,99 up to a massive box of 340 blocks in 10 different colours for €149,99!
What I love most about Bioblo though is that they are made from sawdust and recycled drinking cups. Our box has been put to some really rough testing and I can attest to their superb quality and they come without an age limit. All my three children enjoy playing with them! With a box of these open-ended rainbow blocks, you are not just making your child happy, but also the planet smile!
3. Binabo – Construction Chips
These little construction chips from Tic Toys are something entirely new. The Binabo concept is very simple but allows for a lot of play possibilities – especially if your children love building and creating as much as mine do.
The slightly flexible pieces slot and click securely into each other. Making it easy to create all sorts of things. With a set of 60 chips, we have been able to make balls, games, a working crane, a boat, frames, houses and whatever else my kids come up with. I think the particular attraction of Binabo is the fact that they can build actual working toys with it.
The absolute coolest fact about those colourful little chips is that they are made from sugar (yes, SUGAR!!!) and wood! Blows my mind! Due to the size of the chips and especially the fine motor skills that are required to slot them together, Binabo is the perfect gift from 4 years on.
4. Biobuddi – Eco Blocks
This is my latest find and one I am so excited to add to our own Christmas list: Biobuddi! These chunky and sturdy building blocks click together and can be used in a million different ways.
You probably think they look just like LEGO Duplo – they absolutely do and they are fully compatible with Duplo blocks. BUT (and this is a big BUT) they are made entirely plastic-free and without the use of petroleum. Instead, Biobuddi blocks are made from Sugarcane – that’s it! Plant-powered Duplo-like blocks; it doesn’t get any better than this.
I also really like the price tag on these. A 40 blocks standard box costs just under twenty Euros, while you can splurge out on 100 pieces for €32.99! They also have differently themed sets like a farm or whale!
5. Magnetic Wooden Blocks
Wooden blocks are a staple in every toy box. Invest in a good set and it will last for generations and cater for lots of play fun. However, add some magnets into the blocks and you change the entire game.
We discovered magnetic blocks a few years ago and I have to say they are such a clever invention. When you think ‘normal’ wooden blocks offer lots of possibilities, you will be amazed at what is possible with magnetic blocks. Limitations of gravity are non-existent and any magnetic surface (eg. fridge, radiator, cutlery….) becomes part of the game. And all while learning about what magnetism is and how it works – Win/Win!!
Two Magnetic Brands for Sustainable Fun
These types of blocks have been very popular over the last couple of years, so you have some lovely choices. Tegu have specialised in magnetic wooden blocks and have a huge range of sets in different colourways. Especially the wheels have proven to be very popular to create working vehicles. All Tegu blocks are ethically made from wood sourced in sustainably managed forests in Honduras.
Another lovely brand that has recently added some magnetic blocks to their growing selection is Tender Leaf. The simplicity and colours of the Designer blocks appeal to children from a very young age. Especially since the magnets used are multidirectional, which means super easy magnet fun! Tender Leaf Toys are made from solid rubberwood, which is a by-product of the rubber industry. It is very durable and sustainable. I particularly love the fact that all their magnetic blocks seem to include a drawstring bag for safekeeping and travelling.
6. Wobbel Board / Das.Brett
Balance boards seem to be everywhere at the moment. Especially when you are active on Social Media, you will have seen them in one way or another. To break it down: they are a large sheet of bent wood. It sounds very unexciting, but is in fact one of the most versatile things you can have in your home!
Our wobbel board is a few years old now and has been used in so many different ways that I have lost count. It very often becomes a bridge, a road, a sea-saw, castle, boat, slide, ramp, table, cave, footstool, ladder, work-out tool and so so much more. Currently, it is used as a barrier to keep the baby out of the coal bucket 🙂 We have hardwood flooring so we opted for a wobbel with felt backing, in order to protect our floor, the board itself and our ears! If you have carpet, you won’t need to worry about that.
Very recently I have come across a very interesting alternative to the popular wobbel: Das.Brett! It pretty much works the same way only it is flexible. This bounciness adds another layer to the play value and allows for some really cool jumping fun for little ones and for adults, a very effective aerobic workout. Instead of felt, you can choose cork backing for das.Brett.
Both balance boards are made in Europe from wood sourced in responsibly managed European forests.
At first glance, the Toniebox might not fit in with the list of toys. It is not made from wood or looks like it can be used in an open-ended way. However, it is one of our most-used toys and to me, it is open-ended in its very own way.
The Toniebox is an interactive and screen-free audio player that allows children from 3 years to listen to their favourite audiobooks, songs or pre-recorded messages and stories independently. If you want to know more about how it works click here for a detailed blog about that.
What makes the Toniebox sustainable & open-ended?
What makes the toniebox sustainable even though it’s made from man-made materials ist the fact that it is really good quality and virtually indestructible. This means it can be used for many many years and by many different children!
Add to it the fact that with the ever-growing range of tonies you can customise it to your child’s age and interests and you have an open-ended audio player for all ages! The value you can get from this simple but genius invention is amazing. And as a little side note: My kids don’t just use the tonies to listen to music or stories, they also play with the figurines!
Play fun that lasts with open-ended toys
It is so so tempting to buy into the latest must-have toy craze, just to see their little eyes light up! After all, we want to spoil them and it’s only once a year. However, most of those must-have toys are meant to lose their attraction after a short time, after all, that is how they get you to buy another ‘must-have’ toy and make more money.
So instead of getting sucked into this fast-paced, plastic and disposable consumerist culture, opt to get something lasting. An open-ended toy is the gift that keeps on giving. Instead of just seeing those eyes light up on Christmas morning; you will see them sparkling with creativity and joy ALL YEAR ROUND!
Which open-ended toys are on your Christmas list?