My little baby is almost 5 months now. Five months. He grows SO fast.
He’s at that stage where he likes to explore everything by putting it in his mouth. His giraffe squeaker, his security blanket, teddy, my fingers, his fingers. Everything.
To help him explore, discover and play, I have a little basket of open ended toys for babies.
There are only 4-5 different toys, and I switch between them so he can play. And chew on them 😀
I’ve made a list of my favorite open ended toys for babies at every stage of their development.
You don’t need all the toys on this list. Generally, less is more, because too many toys can be overwhelming for both you and your child. These are just some of the ones I’ve been particularly happy with for both of my boys.
What are open-ended toys for babies?
If you’ve never heard of open-ended toys before, let me explain.
Open-ended toys for babies are toys that encourage imagination and curiosity. Put simply, they let your baby do the thinking and learning.
There’s no right or wrong way of playing with them. That’s why they’re called open ended. They are designed to inspire creativity and curiosity, and babies can play with them from they’re 1-2 month old.
The opposite of open-ended toys are close-ended. They do the play for your baby.
For instance, when your baby pushes a button on a toy and it plays a certain melody, the toy is entertaining your baby. That’s close-ended and it’s passive play.
While close-ended toys are great in some situations (like in the car, if they’re sick, etc.), I’ve never bought them for my kids when they were little. I prefer toys that encourage independent play for babies.
Examples of open ended play
For babies, open-ended play might be cuddling and exploring the feel of a teddy bear.
For toddlers, open-ended play is building with Lego or Play-Doh. Open-ended play is play without rules; it takes a sandbox approach to play, where anything is possible and the only limits are those of your baby’s curiosity and creativity.
Why is open-ended play so important?
And what’s the harm in letting your 9 month old baby listen to a song on the iPad?
None at all!
They should do that, too.
But if you want to encourage independent play which promotes creativity, learning and health (and gives you a break), you’ll want open-ended play.
When your baby plays with an oBall for instance, they explore what can be done with it.
Can they put their tongue through the holes? Can they hold it with both hands? Does it make a sound when they shake it?
The wonderful thing about open-ended play is that it fosters creativity and curiosity. All you need is to give your little one an open-ended toy and watch them explore the possibilities.
Read next: Why independent play is important for cognitive skills and health
What are the best open-ended baby toys
Although your baby may not yet be crawling or talking, their mind is still a sponge that is desperate for engagement and learning.
The best open-ended toys for babies are safe and soft; they engage the senses and encourage curious play. Here are some things to consider when selecting the best open-ended toys for babies.
Plastic vs wood
Personally, I prefer wood over plastic. Wood is a more environmentally-friendly product, for one thing. It’s natural. But wood is also stronger, softer, smoother, and more satisfying for your baby to touch and hold.
Battery-powered toys are fun but they have obvious limitations. No batteries means no time limit, and also an overall lower cost for you. Balls, soft toys, and building blocks don’t require batteries.
Best open-ended toys for babies
With all of these details and considerations in mind, let’s look at the best open-ended toys for babies that you can buy right now. These toys are separated into age groups, right from day one to twelve months.
When your baby steps into toddler-hood, you’ll need more advanced toys, which I’ve made a list of here: 12 open ended toys for toddlers that promote creativity