9 open-ended toys to inspire creativity in your child this summer

Your children will play with these again and again.

9 open-ended toys to inspire creativity in your child this summer

Summer offers the perfect opportunity to break from a hectic schedule and enjoy the simple pleasures (and scientific benefits!) of doing nothing with your kiddos. But summer days can be long, and toddlers can be demanding, and sometimes...mama just needs a break.

Luckily, there are so many benefits of unstructured play for little ones. Open-ended toys—toys that foster imagination and can be used in a variety of different ways—are the perfect solution for keeping your kids busy this summer while also encouraging creative play. These are the toys your children will play with for hours and come back to again and again.

Here are nine toys worth stocking up on for the summer!

1. For endless creations: Handcrafted wooden blocks

One of the oldest + most basic of toys truly remain one of the best. Wooden blocks are perfect for any age and just about any type of play, from building to pretending. We love the natural simplicity of these, the all natural materials, and the handcrafted beauty.

Wooden Story Natural Blocks with Tray (54 pieces)
$50.00, The Tot


2. For pretend play: Wooden grocery store

There's just something about a cash register that kids can't get enough of! One of the most played with toys we've ever owned, this freestanding wooden grocery store will quickly become a playroom staple. From stocking (and restocking) the shelves to pretending to be a cashier and so much more, you'll get years of fun out of this creative toy.

Melissa & Doug Wooden Fresh Mart Grocery Store
$189.93, Walmart


3. For budding artists: Paint sticks

Do you want all the fun of painting without all the mess? (Um, yes please 🙋🏽) These chunky paint sticks are colorful, go on smoothly, won't smudge, and are, most importantly, really fun! Young toddlers will find them easy to grip while older kiddos will love all of the endless opportunities for artistic expression.

OOLY Chunkies Paint Sticks (set of 12)
$13.00, Nordstrom


4. For sparking imagination: Pirate ship fort

These creative kits take the playhouse to the next level. The colorful (and durable, not to worry!) poles can be snapped together in endless combinations, or can be used with the fabric covers to make everything from tents to pirate ships. We found them perfect for indoor play (just make sure you have a large enough space) or even for outdoor use on sunny days.

Antsy Pants Large Build & Play Playhouse Kit, $79.99, Target
Antsy Pants Pirate Ship Cover, $29.99, Target


5. For playing house: Wooden doll house

Ummm when can we move in? This gorgeous wooden dollhouse will inspire hours of pretend play and is perfect for sparking your littles' imaginations on rainy summer days. (Or any day, for that matter.) We love watching how younger kiddos play and interact with the dollhouse differently than older ones do—there's truly something for everyone here.

Rulke Wooden Doll House with Balcony
$99.99, Target


6. For open-ended fun: Bilibo

Is it a seat? A balancing toy? A bowl? A turtle? Or is it all of those things? There are countless ways your toddler will interact with this toy, and that's why we love it. It's simple, beautiful, and full of endless possibility for imaginative play. It's also weather-proof, so you can take the fun outdoors this summer.

$26.95, Fatbrain Toys


7. For the kiddo on the move: Play tape

If your little one loves things that go, this is a must-have for hours of fun this summer. This tape is easy to use even for little hands, and won't leave marks behind on your walls, floors, or carpet. We loved watching our kiddos lose themselves in designing their very own world for all of their cars, trucks and trains. You may have a road running straight across your kitchen, but hey—there's really nothing we won't put up with in exchange for 30 minutes of uninterrupted play time, right? 🤣

InRoad Toys PlayTape
$7.70 and up, Amazon


8. For sensory play: Kinetic sand

Sensory play is a fun, easy way for your little one to explore the world around her—but we won't lie, it can be messy. But not with this magical sand! Kinetic sand sticks to itself, not to you. (Genius.) We love setting it up in a big plastic tub either inside or out and watching our littles go to town.

Kinetic Sand
$11.69, Amazon


9. For fine motor skills: Wooden puzzle + figurines

Toys with multiple uses are some of our favorites, and this wooden puzzle + play set is just right for all different kinds of play and for varying levels of development. The eco-friendly wooden animals can be stacked, fitted together as a puzzle, or used on their own as figurines for pretend play. They are also super cute, which doesn't hurt matters, either!

Petit Collage Wooden Puzzle Plus Play, Safari Jumble
$30.00, Amazon


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14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Detective set

Plan Toys detective set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


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