Open-Ended Wooden Toys are Building Blocks of Creativity — Here’s Why

By: Renee

How Long Does a New Toy Last?

It’s disproportionate. 

Three weeks of your kid whining and cajoling and promising “I’ll be soooooo good.” Three days of you shopping around for the right fireman-firetruck-firehouse set at the right price. 

After all that, you deserve at least three months of mileage out of the newest toy. But after a few hours (or a full day if you’re lucky), it trickles out.

They’re bored of it, and want another toy. Sure, they’ll still take it out every once in a while, but the thrill factor is lost way too quickly. It can make a mom wonder… What if there was a toy that never got boring? How amazing would that be?

As a certified Mama, I can answer that question. It would be off-the-charts amazing. And as Mama of a super-creative bunch, I can  also tell you…

…the best never-get-bored toys are OPEN-ENDED. 

And some of the best open-ended toys are WOODEN. Kids think they want the toys in the glitzy advertisements with all the “bells and whistles” … but they end up enjoying the simple wooden toys so much more.

Don’t take my word for it, though :). Open-ended play has been the subject of many scholarly studies, and proven to be incredibly, unbelievably good for kids.

Top 4 Benefits of Open-Ended Play with Wood Parts:

1. Undefined toys nurture creative thinking and imaginative play

Unlike the trending new toy sets, wooden pieces have no ‘one way to play’. A bunch of wooden cubes can be an Egyptian pyramid today, and become the Freedom Tower tomorrow. 

The first time you take out the wooden toys, get on the floor and show them how much fun it is. The next time, leave ‘em to it. You’ll be wowed by the elaborate construction happening in your playroom. Towns, cities and entire worlds can be created with blocks and tiles and little wooden people… In fact, I’m willing to go on record that my kids can make anything.

Random shapes will also get your kids experimenting. Cheer them on while they balance one curvy, wooden piece on another and giggle with them when it falls. Take turns predicting the stability level of a block tower — it’s a fabulous opportunity to nurture that math-and-science streak.

At Woodpeckers, we’ve seen wooden wheels decorated as donuts, and wooden plugs mushroom into… mushrooms. So keep the options open — you never know what a wooden disc, or egg, or flowerpot can become!

In short: ❌One way to play ✔ Creative thinking.

2. Wooden toys and loose parts are super sensory-friendly

Dig your fingers into a bowlful of mini wooden balls. String wooden beads onto a piece of twine. Grip the chubby middle of a wooden peg doll. There’s something calming and soothing about it — especially for high strung kids. 

Lest you think sensory play is just “for fun”; it’s way more. For a couple of examples, stacking wooden cubes is superb for spatial understanding. Counting, measuring and sorting little stars and hearts in little wooden bowls is a great way to develop math skills.  

And of course there’s the mysterious link between wood parts and wonder-powers. Some of the “never gonna grow up” adults around here keep wooden pieces on their desks to play with while they concentrate on their adult tasks. 

In short: ❌Sweaty plastic ✔ Smooth, sensory surfaces 

3. Natural, wholesome toys bring brain cells to life

Ever watched a kid “watching”? You can practically see those brain cells dying. And when those habitual “watchers” come to play at your house, every thirty seconds, they’re asking “what should I do? I’m bored.”  They’ve learned to follow storylines and predict what’ll come next, but all the rest of their imaginative powers are lost. 

These days, dollhouses are “upgraded” with ringing bells and talking characters —  which is LIMITING the possibilities of the toy, not adding to them. In the olden days, kids made dolls out of corn husks. You don’t have to go that far, but you do want to give kids the space to play their own way. It’s healthy!

And the side benefit: kids who are used to open-ended toys and activities can keep at it for hours. They get deliciously lost in a happy, creative “flow” where time doesn’t exist. It’s super beneficial for developing minds, and also a wonderful breather for tired moms ;).

In Short: ❌Electronic overstimulation ✔ Wholesome occupation

4.  Beautiful wooden toys make an irresistible invitation to play

If you’re struggling with how to encourage open-ended play, try prepping a play area with wooden parts. There’s something about ‘em that begs to be played with. 

Also, I may be somewhat biased here, but not all “loose parts” are created equal. Wooden dicepeg dolls, and even dowel pins are a whole lot more kid-friendly than toothpicks and skewers. 

You can dye the pieces for a natural pop of color, or just let the gorgeous wood grain speak for itself!

Expand your home collection of inviting, open-ended wooden toys:


What’s your experience with open-ended wooden toys? I’d love to hear!

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