For the in-betweeners - kiddos who aren't babies any more but who aren't preschoolers yet - play is all about learning and exploration. Toys and tools that promote problem solving, creative thinking and that leave lots of room for self-directed play will tend to provide a lot more value in the long run than the "once and done" battery powered devices that force a much more prescriptive style of play.
The best open-ended toys will grow with your toddler, supporting developmental milestones long after the holiday decorations have been packed away. The toys on this list can be played with in ever-evolving ways as your child navigates playtime with growing confidence and curiosity.
The original Rock Blocks are handcrafted in a small family woodshop and painted in a range of gorgeous shades with naturally-sourced paints and dyes. Each rock is unique, showing the grain of the wood and encouraging tactile play with irresistible textures. Your toddler will be inspired to approach these blocks in nearly endless ways; sorting by shape and colour, integrating them into sensory play, and eventually mastering the fine motor skills and foresight required to build a sturdy tower of two, three, four or more teetering blocks.
Erzi Play Food
Kiddos in this age group are beginning to explore pretend play, observing and mimicking the routines and patterns of their parents and caregivers. Erzi's beautiful food sets are an excellent way to encourage this sort of applied imagination play, and we are especially fond of the cutting sets that add a tactile element of interactivity to playtime. We have a huge selection of Erzi fruits, vegetables, baking ingredients and sweets, as well as cutlery and cookware that will give your in-betweener everything they need to open a pretend grocers' shop or prepare a feast for the whole family.
Browse our Erzi play food collection here, including the Fruit Salad Cutting Set that includes a chopping board, knife, strawberry, two-part apple, three-part banana, and two-part kiwi fruit (suitable for children 12 months and up).
HABA 3D Arranging Creative Stones
Ideal for kids 2 years and up, HABA's 3D Arranging Stones set are some of the best blocks on the block. The product comes with a set of laminated cards featuring geometric designs - ranging from simple to challenging - that your young explorer can duplicate themselves. Children in this age range will be delighted by the creative possibilities of these geometric blocks as construction materials; the varying lengths can be combined and recombined endlessly to create 3D structures!
Grapat Wood Coloured Nins - Carla
Spain's Grapat are renowned for their colourful and simple open ended "loose parts" and Montessori-inspired materials. This Carla set collects some of their most popular pieces together in one box, with 12 Nins (peg people), 72 rings and 36 coins. Grapat designed this set as an early introduction to important cognitive concepts: logical-mathematical thinking by classifying, grouping and matching elements though colours and/or shapes. Through exploratory play, children 18 months and up will develop their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. No two kiddos will use these materials the same way; the first pedagogical proposal is just a launching point for hours of divergent play. There's a very good reason why Grapat's wonderful pieces are cherished by families around the world, and we are certain that your family will love them as much as we do.