Young baby playing with a single shape puzzle

What are open-ended toys? Are Montessori toys open-ended?

You’ve possibly heard the term ‘open-ended’ toys… but what does it mean? And are they better? Are Montessori toys open-ended? These are the questions we are going to try and answer today.

What are open-ended toys?

Open-ended toys encourage creative play. There are no rules. No set way to use the toy. Instead, they can be used in an infinite number of ways. Children have the freedom to explore open-ended toys and play with them as they choose.


Here are some examples of open-ended toys:
-  Building blocks
-  Arts and crafts
-  Dolls


As an example, building blocks can be used in a number of ways. Children might build a tower or a house, or they may not build with them at all! They might use them to make a trail around the house (which you will most definitely step on when you least expect it – ouch!). Basically, they can be used for imaginative and creative play.


Are open-ended toys Montessori?


No. Montessori toys are the exact opposite, or what we call ‘close-ended’ toys. They have a specific purpose – a task or problem that the child needs to work through to solve. These types of toys give children a great feeling of satisfaction as they learn to master new challenges. They also encourage a high level of concentration as children become engrossed in learning a new skill. And once they eventually do solve it, children love repetition and so we find they continue to practice ‘solving it’ over and over again. The key to selecting a close-ended Montessori toy for a child is to ensure that the toy challenges them in a new skill but is not so tough that they lose interest.


Are open-ended toys better?


The short answer is no. Long answer… in my opinion, neither open-ended nor close-ended (Montessori) toys are better. They each serve a purpose. As we discussed above, close-ended Montessori toys are great for helping children master a new skill by allowing them to focus on completing a challenge. Open-ended toys however give children the freedom to be creative and use their imagination. Children over the age of 2 especially love engaging in this. They both fulfill different needs of the child and therefore are appropriate at different times.


We practice Montessori in our home. Can we have open-ended toys?


That’s up to you, but if you want my opinion… of course, you can! I believe it’s all about balance and exposing children to a wide variety of situations and learning opportunities. There are tons of Montessori influencers out there though who follow strict practices at home, including no discussion of fantasies and make-believe (i.e. no fairies, dragons, leprechauns, or magic potions). And maybe that’s where your Montessori journey takes you. It’s up to you. I’m not here to restrict you to only buying Montessori materials. Instead, I’m here to introduce you to an education system that has shown time and time again the amazing skills and accomplishments babies and toddlers can achieve when presented with the right resources at the right time.

Til next time folks.

Chrissy @ Love Little Moon

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