Looking to promote creativity? Here are 7 of the best open-ended toys to encourage imaginative, creative play

When it comes to toys that promote creativity, there is no shortage of options to choose from. While this is great – all that choice can make picking out the right toys a challenge, especially for any parents shopping on a budget.

We all want the best for our children, and as a result, we want toys that offer the most when it comes to educational and developmental benefits, giving them as much of a head start in life as we can. But with so many different toys out there, getting not only the right toys but the toys your little one wants to play with can be tricky.

In this list, we’ve included what are, in our view, the best open-ended toys that encourage creativity, helping your little one to use their imagination during play better while developing essential skills along the way. You’ll find toy options here for children of all ages, meaning that whether you’ve got a toddler on your hands or school-aged kids – there’s something here for everyone.

Before we do anything else, let’s stop to take a look at what makes a good open-ended toy.

What makes a good open-ended, creative toy?

So, what makes for a good, open-ended toy anyway? Well – to answer this, let’s start with a few questions:

  • How easily can your children play with a toy independently, without adult guidance or instruction?
  • What does a toy offer when it comes to versatility – can they be used in multiple ways? Or do they only offer limited play opportunities?
  • Will it grown with your child, being as fun now as it will in a few years from now when they’re a little older?
  • Is a toy challenging or offer enough in the way of variety to encourage critical thinking and play?
  • Do yourself a favor – skip noisy, battery-operated toys!

If the answer is yes to most of the most questions posed above, then a toy is likely an excellent option for open-ended, creative play. It will likely offer a wide variety of different play styles that will help to get your little one thinking and their imagination running wild.

On the topic of battery-operated toys – not all these toys are bad choices. While it’s true that many are, often offering very limited features and functionality which don’t do much to prompt creative play, others make great open-ended toys.

Things like musical instruments spring to mind. However, you’ll most likely end up regretting these purchases when you find that you spend much of your evenings trying to search for loud, obnoxious toys wedged behind the sofa with musical numbers running on auto-play!

7 best open-ended toys that promote creativity

So, without further ado – let’s jump right in! Here are our picks of the seven best types of toys to promote creative, imaginative play for children of all ages.

1. Easels, activity tables, and other art supplies

Perhaps the single best investment you can make for your child’s bedroom or playroom is to get either an easel or an activity table, giving them a dedicated space to make their own creative artwork or complete a few dinosaur coloring pages, or their favorite dinosaur coloring books.  

When buying an easel or activity table, one tip is to look specifically at those with adjustable options – as these will give you much greater value in the long run, as they’re able to grow with your child, making them usable for several years.

And it’s not just coloring pencils, watercolors, and crayons – there are plenty of great arts and crafts products, perfect for creative play, whatever age your children are. Things like dinosaur ink stamps and stampers, to dinosaur stickers and dinosaur stencils – these items are great, especially for younger children, who don’t yet have the required dexterity to pull of their own dinosaur masterpieces free-hand.

2. Wooden blocks, LEGOs, and other construction toys

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a type of toy that offers more when it comes to open-ended creativity than construction sets – which are all about giving children the freedom to build and create whatever they can think up. There are also a ton of other developmental benefits with these toys – they’re great for fine motor skills, with all the grabbing and stacking, and building hand strength, hand-eye coordination, and better balance.

You’ll want to consider age recommendations for this type of toy – as many of these toys present a choking hazard to younger children. But you don’t need to overthink it. Your child’s first building toy should be a set of wooden building blocks – graduating to large, age-specific ranges from popular brands like LEGO, such as their Duplo and Junior ranges. The regular LEGO we all know and love will then follow once they’re old enough.

If you’re really looking to maximize creativity, skip the usual dinosaur lego sets and kits – instead opting for brick bundles, giving your children an assortment of colors and sizes to build whatever their imagination can dream up. When it comes to promoting imaginative, creative play – this option is hands-down your best bet, offering much more than following a set of building instructions.

3. Play-Doh, modeling clay, and even slime

As a toy, Play-Doh is pretty long-lasting – being something kids love from a young age, as toddlers, all the way through junior school – which means as an investment, they’re great. They will offer much more value for money in the long run than many other age-specific toys on the market choose from.

And you don’t have to keep picking up expensive pots of Play-Doh either – it’s pretty easy to whip up your own patch at home, letting you replenish your stock when they start to dry up, harden, or turn into that yucky grey when all the colors have been mixed together after loads of play. Make sure you’ve got plenty of tools and accessories, like those you’ll find in any good dinosaur Play-Doh set – you might also want to look at other items around the house that are just as good, like a dinosaur cookie cutter set.

Besides Play-Doh – there are plenty of other, similar products that you might want to try to mix things up. Dinosaur slime and dinosaur modeling clay kits, while arguably not offering quite as much versatility as Play-Doh, are great alternatives that all kids love.

4. Realistic toy figures, plushies, and even puppets

These toys are great for all sorts of open-ended play – as well as more structured activities, like bedtime stories, where they can be used to bring your tales to life. When it comes to toys like these, they’re not really optional – no self-respecting dinosaur toy box would be complete without a staple of plush dinosaur toys

The more realistic the toy, the better – as these will add a layer of realism to your storytelling that you simply won’t get with cutesy, plush dinosaur toys. When it comes to realism, look for toy models and figures, like those from the Schleich dinosaur toy collection. These are some of the most accurate, both in terms of anatomy and coloring, of any on the market.

Another great option is puppets. Dinosaur finger puppets and dinosaur hand puppets can make great storytelling aids. This option is perfect for younger children, who some of the pricier, more accurate figures and models might not yet be appropriate for, given their age.

5. Train sets, car tracks, and toy vehicles

Train and track toys are great investments – being some of the most affordable, versatile kid’s playsets around. There are plenty to choose from, including popular themes and characters, like Thomas the Tank Engine, with other generic options, including everything from dinosaur train sets and dinosaur race tracks, to all sorts of other themes styles.

The great thing about these toys is that while they’re absolutely massive – being available in all shapes and sizes, large enough to take over an entire room – they’re pretty easy to clean up and put away, thanks to their use of large, detachable parts. It’s also worth considering any other track or train toys you already own, as you can find those that will be compatible – making these the best option to go for.

Be sure to check age recommendations with these types of toys, as while there are plenty of options for younger children; most will have small parts, making them suitable for kids aged three years and up. Generally, those for younger children will be made from wood, while other materials are typically found in those recommended for older children.

6. Playmats, tents, and tunnels

Turning any space into a fun, creative dinosaur adventure doesn’t come much easier than investing in dinosaur play mats, dinosaur play tents, and play tunnels. If you’re looking specifically for a kid’s bedroom, you might also want to look at dinosaur rugs. Several rugs feature scenes like those found on a play mat, making them a versatile bit of room decor.

These are also great if you’re looking for a way to keep your little ones active, burning off all those excess calories from sweets, chocolate, and other treats, helping to keep your little one fit and active throughout the year, with little to no real effort.

As well as this, these items are just as good for use inside as they are outside. This makes them perfect for use in the backyard during the summer months.

7. Mask, tails, and other dress-up items

There’s not much more that kids enjoy than playing dress-up! And if you’re little one is into dinosaurs, they’ll be spoilt for choice. There are all sorts of great dinosaur costumes and dress-up items to choose from.

Dinosaur tails, dinosaur masks, or even just a simple kids dinosaur onesie or romper suit. There are plenty of products you can pick up to create a dedicated dinosaur dress-up box for your kids.

This is one of the best ways to help inspire creativity during play, as well as one of the best value for money, as all of these items are inexpensive and will last for a long time, offering plenty of value in the long run. 

Final thoughts

Well, there you have it – our picks of the best open-ended toys for promoting creativity.

When it comes to picking out great open-ended toys, you want to avoid anything too rigid or limiting when it comes to play.

While things like dinosaur robot toys and other interactive electronic toys are great fun and some of the best dinosaur toys around, they don’t have a lot to offer when it comes to imaginative play, with their limited functionality soon getting old. 

This is where the classics win out over more modern toys – things like wooden blocks, LEGOs, and dress-up items – are great examples of just some of the options to consider.

Keep in mind age recommendations, and pick out toys that can be used independently, without requiring too much adult supervision or guidance – as this lack of guidance is where the creativity is found.

But above all else – remember that play is all about fun! There are no right or wrong answers, and every child is different, so mix it up with a few of these options and watch your little one and their imagination comes into their own.

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