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25 Open-Ended Play Gift Ideas (The Guide): Featuring Small Shops + Amazon!

Hi There, Friend!

My last post was all about Pretend Play and why it is so critical to healthy childhood development! In light of that post, I wanted to follow up with a open-ended toy gift guide! This guide will consist of small shop and box store ideas to appeal to all!

An open-ended plaything can be simply defined as a toy that has no “rules” and that is able to be played with in different ways – it should support a child’s imagination, not replace it. (How to Cultivate Pretend Play.)

The beauty of these kinds of toys is that they can be used in countless ways and in countless play scenerios. Open-ended playthings truly are the best “bang-for-your-buck!” As a small shop toy maker, I can say that many of us are committed to continue crafting toys that help our kids as they grow and develop. This is the beauty of shopping small and handmade!

And just a FYI, a lot of these ideas grow with the child so consider the age ranges below to be suggestions. But always be sure to reference the precise age range before purchasing for safety reasons.* 

**Some blog posts may include affiliate links to products that I love and trust (or links to similar items.) I may earn a small commission off of these links, but this does not affect the cost for you.**

Without further ado…

handmade doll, crocheted penguin, baby-friendly plush lion

Babies

  1. Small Shop: Opal and Fig
  2. Small Shop: Lewie and Berg Plush Crochet Toys
  3. Small Shop: Borrowing Color Baby-Friendly Plush Playthings
  4. Amazon: Wooden Stacking Stones
  5. Amazon: Soft Baby Dolls Set
  6. Amazon: Rainbow Wooden Semispheres
play silk, play mat, felt wand

Toddlers

  1. Small Shop: Feeding Pickle Activity Mats
  2. Small Shop: The Della Rose Boutique Wands
  3. Small Shop: Behold by Borrowing Color Play Silks
  4. Amazon: Waldorf Wooden Rocking Play
  5. Amazon: Wooden Animal Toy Trio
  6. Amazon: Loose Parts Play Set
  7. Amazon: Toddler Block Playset
peg dolls, hand made doll, plush playthings

Preschoolers

  1. Small Shop: Little Lu Beginnings Peg Dolls
  2. Small Shop: Urban Farm Dolls
  3. Small Shop: Borrowing Color Naturally-Dyed Plush Playthings(Releases November 21st at 8pm EST) 
  4. Amazon: Wooden Building Block Set
  5. Amazon: Nature Inspired Montessori Balancing and Stacking Blocks
  6. Amazon: Magna-Tiles
  7. Amazon: Climbing Cube and Tunnel
newborn doll, animal bonnet

School Age

  1. Small Shop: Kinland Co. Newborn-size Dolls
  2. Small Shop: Wildernaut Shop Animal Bonnets/Tails
  3. Amazon: LEGO Classic Large Creative Brick Box
  4. Amazon: Wooden Castle Dollhouse
  5. Amazon: Wooden Tool Toys + Pretend Play Toolbox 

I hope that this guide was helpful to you as you currate a play space in your home that encourages open-ended play!

It is important to me to support make-believe and independent play as much as possible, and I know it’s important to you too! Because of that, I always ensure that the plush playthings that I offer foster open-ended play scenarios that allow children to practice their social skills! That is the beauty of a 100% natural, non-plastic, non-battery operated toy.

Which Plaything is perfect for you?

Take the quiz below to find out!

Plush Plaything Quiz

Did you find this post about play helpful? You might want to take a look at my last post: How to Cultivate Pretend Play at Home (And why you want to!)

Well Friends, 

I hope that these ideas have helped you as you currate the playspaces within your home. If you want to find more inspo, follow me on Pinterest (I’ve been obsessed with pinning things lately!) and then join my group board Cultivating Creativity to share some of your ideas!

xo Alex

PS – I have learned so much from a Scholastic article that inspired these posts. Please check it out here!

25 open ended play gift ideas featuring small shops and amazon
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How to Cultivate Pretend Play at Home (And why you want to!)

Hello, Friend!

I don’t know about you, but when I stop for just a moment to watch and listen to my children play, I am captured by the magic of their imaginations. Their make-believe play reminds me of my favorite parts of childhood. It is SO important to me to preserve and guard this!

These days, there are few open-ended toys. The “gadgets” that are marketed to our kids as toys talk for them, play for them, and limit their imagination. More than any generation before, our kids are growing up in an environment of streaming services, tablets, social media, parents on devices, and peers that are tech-obsessed. How do we preserve childhood play in this climate? 

Why is play important?

Did you know that kids get to practice social and emotional skills through play? I mean, sure… that makes sense. But we don’t always consider how they get to “test” out scenarios and interactions with open-ended playthings.

We do it as adults too, right? We play out imaginary scenarios in our minds, practice what we might say to someone, etc. Kids do this through play! And what better way than with toys that allow the child freedom to imagine anything (open-ended toys!)

What is an open-ended-toy?

The best toys are made to foster imaginative play

An open-ended plaything can be simply defined as a toy that has no “rules” and that is able to be played with in different ways – it should support a child’s imagination, not replace it. (Read to the end for examples!)

Play helps develop problem solving skills!

Play also cultivates thinking skills in our kids! As they problem solve within their imaginary worlds, they learn to problem solve in the real world.

A child’s imagination provides a safe zone to trial different thought processes and outcomes. And beyond the “scenarios” that the child acts out, play also encourages problem solving and critical thinking skills between children! Arguing over a toy, wrestling on the floor, expressing their feelings to one another – all of these situations help to teach the child how to interact with others in the world, how to be kind, what personal boundaries are, etc.

How can I cultivate pretend play in the home?

We can all agree that imaginative play is critical to healthy childhood development! But now the question is HOW do we foster pretend play in our homes? Here are some ideas:

  • Turn off the devices
  • Keep non-tech related toys – books, puzzles, open-ended-playthings – in places that are easy to see and access
  • Store toys in “collections” (essentially keeping toys that work well together in the same space – dress up clothes with toy swords, train tracks with blocks, baby dolls with play food, etc.)
  • Store pots, pans, mixing bowls, and spoons in unlocked low cabinets for easy access
  • Leave out cardboard boxes for play before recycling them
  • Donate toys that don’t get played with (less toys allows for greater use of the imagination!)
  • Check out Waldorf and Montessori toy guides for more ideas!
  • Be more intentional to buy toys that support open-ended play instead of following fads! (And don’t forget secondhand resources!)

Open-Ended Toy Examples

What are NOT open-ended toys? Some might surprise you!

  • Video games
  • Puzzles
  • Board games
  • Lego sets (the ones with the instructions)
  • Art and craft kits
  • Stacking rings
  • Books
  • Shape sorters, etc.

None of these are open-ended. That doesn’t mean that these are bad, it just means that they have “rules” that must be followed to play “correctly” with the toy. A good way to think about it is if the play can be “completed” (like a puzzle, game, or book) it is not open ended.

What are examples of open-ended toys? 

I guess you can see from that last example where my hand-made toys fall. 😉 

My plush playthings are made to foster imaginative play. I’m committed to continue making toys that help our kids as they grow and develop. It is important to me to support make-believe and independent play as much as possible, and I know it’s important to you too! 

The plush playthings that I offer are meant to foster open-ended play scenarios that allow children to practice their social skills in the ways mentione above! That is the beauty of a 100% natural, non-plastic, non-battery operated toy. 

Which Plaything is perfect for you? Take the quiz below to find out!

Did you find this post about play helpful? You’ll want to take a look at my Open-Ended Play Holiday Gift Guide as the holidays draw close (Coming Nov 18th!) I will include a mixture of small shops and Prime items!

Collection of Plush Toys

Well Friends, 

I hope that these ideas have inspired you as you currate the playspaces within your home. If you want to find more inspo, follow me on Pinterest (I’ve been obsessed with pinning things lately!) and then join my group board Cultivating Creativity to share some of your ideas!

xo Alex

PS – I have learned so much from a Scholastic article that inspired this post. Please check it out here!

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Stamps 101: How to Carve and Use a Custom Stamp for OOAK Prints

Hey There, Friends!

On a scale of 1 to 10, how crafty are you? I’d say I fall somewhere in the middle. Now I know most of you would be shocked at that self-assessment. (Right?! You guys have surely been following along enough to know that my entire business revolves around crafting…) but hear me out!

I don’t often have “epiphany” ideas – most of what I create comes from a heck of a lot of research, trial and error, and failed attempts. Creativity has to be cultivated and a lot of that happens from being a student, learning from others around us, and trying new things.

Where am I going with this? I like to share a lot of BTS (behind the scenes) glimpses into how I make things and dye them on my Instagram accounts. And every time, you guys always show up in my DMs. I love having those “wow” conversations with you and I can’t tell you how many questions I’ve gotten about the basics of natural dyeing. I love it when creativity rubs off on people!

I want to create more content that enables YOU to pursue creative things too! A week or two ago, I asked you in an IG poll what sort of a free resource you’d like me to create and the majority of you said – a stamp carving/printing tutorial! (Don’t worry if you voted for something else – I’ll be creating more things in the future!)

Homemade stamps carved from potatoes

I’ve done some stamping in my shop and I’ve learned a thing or two from other artists too (have you seen the amazing block printing work of Jessica from Wild Fire Water or Graham Keegan?) 

For my project of stamping a kitchen flour sack towel, I used a mixture of the printing tools I own (because I have those around MY house) and things that the everyday person will have around their home. You can go all out and buy the professional tools of the trade – which I recommend for anyone hoping to stamp on a regular basis – or you can make do with things you have on hand! 

I really love the final results! Don’t you?

carving a stamp from a potato

Stamping is fun because you can play around with a large range of repeating and abstract patterns. Pinterest has so much inspo and I’ve saved a lot of it to my stamping board there! 

So… who is this tutorial for? It’s for anyone who wants to create one-of-a-kind prints on fabric and/or paper. (I’ll bet you have most or all of the supplies at home already!) Are you ready to get started? Click this link below to get my supply list and tutorial instructions!

Click the link above to download your guide, get carving, make some prints, and then tag me on social media so I can see what you create!

custom stamp of mother and child on a table with a candle and stamped bandanas

Well Friends, 

I hope that these creative ideas have inspired you to make something with your hands this month. If you want to find more inspo, follow me on Pinterest (I’ve been obsessed with pinning things lately!) and then join my group board Cultivating Creativity to share some of your ideas!

Happy Stamping!

xo Alex

STAMPS 101: How to Carve and Use a Custom Stamp Tutorial