25 Open-Ended Toys That Will Last for Years

Open-ended toys make great gifts! They often can outlast other toys with more bells and whistles.

You can’t always tell on Christmas day which toys will be the winners.   Sometimes the toys that allow open-ended play are what get played with the most over the long haul. Toys that only do one thing can get boring quickly. That’s because kids can play with open-ended toys in multiple ways. So as the kids get older, they interact differently with the same toys.

A gift guide to open-ended toys - this is the kind of toy that kids will play with for years. Lots of Christmas gift ideas for toddlers, preschoolers, and big kids.


I’m often amazed when I look into our playroom and see the kids playing with toys that I know we’ve had since they were toddlers. That’s the beauty of toys that allow open-ended play.

So if you’re searching for the perfect gift for a sweet toddler, a bright-eyed preschooler, or even an imaginative big kid, I’ve got you covered. Here are 25 suggestions for toys they’ll play with for years.

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Open Ended Toys – Building

The toy my kids play with the very most is Lego sets. If you’re just getting started, LEGO Classic Medium Creative Brick Box is a great way to begin.

We get to play with old, wooden tinker toys when visiting grandparents. Some of them are splintered, but the kids don’t care. They can play with them for a long time and not get bored. The new Tinkertoy Super Building Set is made of plastic, but the fun is the same, minus the splinters.

The cardboard bricks we got when Liam was a toddler are still going strong now, seven years later. They get turned into walls around the Lego world my big kids have created, and who knows what else. I recommend this Mondo Bloxx 20 Pack Cardboard Block Brick Set.

While putting together this list, I asked a few fellow twin moms what their kids love. One of the suggestions I think I’ll be putting on our own list this year – a marble run!

We got an earlier version of this Mega Bloks Wagon when Liam was a toddler. It got played with all the way up until the girls were about 4 or 5. At first, it was all about putting blocks in and stacking blocks. Later, it was involved in lots of pretend play (so it was hard to know which category to put it in here!)

For big kids (ages 6 and up) who love to build, a ZOOB 250 Piece Building Set would be a ton of fun. I love how the pieces have so many interesting functions. This STEM toy is on our own list this year as well.

K’nex. They have instructions for basic builds, but also leave lots of room for creativity. The K’NEX 35 Model Building Set is a good place to start.

Open-Ended Toys – Pretend Play

We have a play tent theater very similar to the Pacific Play Grocery Store/Puppet Theater Tent shown above. We love it! You can take it down when it’s not in use. When it’s up, it encourages open-ended play.

Folkmanis Puppets are a great choice to go with your theater, or on their own. I am impressed with the quality of the 2 we own.

A wooden train set is another toy that stands the test of time. All 3 of my kids have enjoyed playing with our set, which is similar to this Fisher-Price Thomas the Train Wooden Railway Coal Hopper Figure 8 Set. They still use it alongside their Lego creations.

Boy or girl, every child should have a play kitchen. Ours was played with every day for a good number of years. There are large and beautiful play kitchens out there, and if you have the budget for a classic wood one, go for it. But a small plastic one was adequate for my 3 kids. They did okay sharing it most of the time. If I were buying again today, I’d choose a Step2 Lifestyle Fresh Accents Kitchen.

For kids who love pretend play, plastic animals can provide a lot of open-ended fun. They’re also great to take places. They don’t take up much space for the amount of play they provide. We found that the TOOB brand animals are high quality. These Safari Ltd Wild TOOB With 12 Great Jungle Friends are a great place to start your collection.

My twins received a Dalmatian Vet Kit when they were about 3, and still play with it now at age 6. This set is another great portable toy.

Playing dress up is all about open ended play. These Melissa & Doug Top This! Role Play Hats look like a lot of fun.

I know the Black And Decker Junior Power Tool Workshop is supposed to be a toddler toy, but we still have ours. It was much loved as a workbench.

Now, in its old age, our workbench serves as a library check out station, a table for our Learning Resources Cash Register, a room divider, and a fort holder-upper. The cash register also got used at our lemonade stand last summer. The neighbors were entertained!

Finally, the Melissa & Doug Folding Horse Stable invites kids to imagine all sorts of farm scenes. Ours has provided hours of fun over the past couple years.

Open-Ended Toys – Outdoors

Riding on a Lil’ Rider Wiggle Ride-On Car, you can be a police officer, a bad guy, a firefighter, or a coasting ninja – wherever your imagination takes you. We own two of them. My kids play with them pretty much daily on the deck and the sidewalk. They work well on both surfaces, as well as indoors on hardwood or tile.

Not much beats a sandbox for outdoor open ended play! Our Step2 sandbox has held up well over the years. The Step2 Naturally Playful Sandbox is big enough for several kids and has a tightly fitting cover, and will look nice in your yard.

We had this exact Step2 Arctic Splash Water Table until the girls were about 5. It was still in excellent condition, and we probably could have used it another year. Early on they liked it as a water sensory play station. Later, we put all our plastic marine mammals in it and had lots of fun pretend play.

If you have space for a playhouse, the Little Tikes Cape Cottage is an excellent budget-friendly choice.

Open-Ended Toys – Creative

It’s easy to have open ended play with creative toys as long as they aren’t for making anything too specific.

An engaging set of play dough tools lets kids use their imagination for hours of entertainment. Don’t you love this Playskool Play-Doh Fun Factory Super Set!

You can encourage coloring and writing with a fabulous assortment of markers. Keep them organized in a Crayola Telescoping Pip-Squeaks Marker Tower.

Sidewalk chalk is fun for outdoor play. This set has a wide variety of colors. You could also make your own sidewalk chalk paint – a great budget option.

You can keep all your kid craft items organized in a Creative Options Grab N’ Go Craft Organizer. I love that the drawers pull completely out, so you can put just one at a time on the craft table. Fill it with fun crafty items like pom poms, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, and jewel stickers.

There you have it. Twenty-five awesome open-ended toys! I hope this has made your shopping a little easier.

If you’re still looking for more gift ideas, there are 75+ more gift guides linked up here:

You might also like my gift guide 15 Under $15: Perfect Gift Ideas for Young Girls


  1. My kids have many of these toys and love them. That cash register gets lots of play in our house. The workbench was a popular toy when the kids were toddlers. I picked a water table just like that one up at a yard sale years ago. We have used it for so much. We often fill it with something like rice or beans and the kids play in it in the winter when they can't get out to the sandbox.

  2. You have some great classic toys here. We have had many of them in our home. The cash register seems to be an enduring favorite.

  3. I LOVE our water table, that thing is amazing in the summer! Building toys are great and have so many possibilities. And kitchens are so popular by 1 years old, its an amazing gift!

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