Essential Pieces for an Open Ended Toy Collection

Essential Pieces for an Open Ended Toy Collection

I’m always asked what our most used pieces are in our playroom and these pieces are always on rotation and would be the base if you want to start a collection of quality, open ended toys to educate your children for many years to come.

In our home we have a very ‘less is more’ approach when it comes to toys and with quality toys that are open ended there are so many ways you can use the same items in different ways which is the beauty of open ended play.

The thing I love about these pieces is how well they combine together which you can read more about below and throughout you will find many more ideas of how to play with them through links to some of my other blogs.


Loose Parts

Loose parts are the beginning of every open ended toy collection and they don't need to be bought pieces. They could be things you've collected from nature or lots of bottle tops you've collected.
With these you can do counting, pattern work, posting, stacking and so much more.

My favourites would have the be the Grapat Mandala collection but you can also view our full range of loose parts here.

Animal Figurines

Animal figurines can be used for role play and also in conjunction with blocks, flash cards, playdough, books and magnetic tiles to make animal enclosures, farms, matching games etc.

Children will enjoy talking and learning about the different animals, sounds they make, the way they move, where they live and so much more all through play!

We have the CollectA animal tubes which are a nice small size as well as some pieces of Ostheimer which are used for bigger small world set ups.

CollectA Animal Figurines in playdough - Little Toy Tribe


Vehicles and Tracks

Cars, Trucks, Buses and Trains are always a favourite among many children, as they can relate to them when they see them everyday life when out and about.

When they apply their play to things they have seen in real life during role play, it’s a big part of why they love them so much. Our girls love to build roads with the Waytoplay roads as well as make houses with their blocks and use the Grapat Nins as people.

Grimm's Red Truck - Little Toy Tribe

You can read a full comparison of all the Grimm's vehicles here to decide which ones are best suited to you. 

The Grimm's vehicles pair nicely with the Waytoplay flexible roads for small world play or we also have a range of BRIO train tracks if your child is more of a train lover.


Wooden Blocks

A good quality set of blocks is always a good idea as they can again be used for so much - the possibilities are truly endless.

The Grimm’s building sets are a wonderful texture to build with. They are dipped in a water based colour stain so they still feel like natural wood and are not slippery, unlike sets painted with gloss paints. These are slippery for children to build with and can lead to some frustration.

We leave our large block sets on the floor so they are open and inviting for the girls to play with.

Grimm's Large Stepped Counting Blocks in action




Balls and Pom Poms

Balls can be used to make simple games such as bowling and are great for learning about cause and effect. You can make ball runs using blocks, roll them all over the house, hide them inside things such as boxes and containers learning about object permanence.

We have both soft and wooden balls on the store here. I recommend the soft felt balls for children that are wanting to throw inside but the wooden balls are best for ball runs.

Pom poms are also great for fine motor activities when paired with tools such as tongs it can add more concentration and persistence to an activity such as colour sorting into a tray or jars.

We recommend the 1.5cm Papoose Felt balls with Explore Nook tongs (straight or curved).


Grapat Nins, Rings and Coins 

This is my all time favourite set as the Nins can be used as peg people for play in small worlds and the rings and coins are used most weeks here even though we do playroom rotations. I display them in different ways or make new activities with them. 

Just a few ways to play with the Grapat Nins, Rings and Coins is hanging the rings on a play gym using a piece of ribbon, making patterns (eg. red blue red blue), stacking them up high and knocking them down, sorting and so much more. The peg people can also be used in small world play.

Read this full blog post on how to play with just the Grapat Nins, Rings and Coins set here.

Grapat Nins, rings and coins - little toy tribe


 Magnetic Tiles

Connetix Tiles are by far one of the most used items in our playroom. Our girls enjoy making houses for their people, enclosures for the animals, garages for their cars, bridges, tunnels and so much more. We also talk about colours and reflections with them and look at how the colours mix up against the natural light outdoors or against a window.

Whilst playing with these, children are also developing skills such as hand-eye coordination, colours, fine motor skills, problem solving skills and learning concepts such as cause and effect.

Read some of our other blog posts about the Connetix tiles below:



Playsilks are one of the most versatile items for play despite being such a simple thing! They can be used for a simple game of peek a boo, to make a lake or grass for animals in small world play, wrapped to make a carrier for dolls or to wrap presents and that’s just a few.

Need some more inspiration read the blog about How To Play with Sarah's Silks.

Sarah's Silks Playsilks - Little Toy Tribe


Art Supplies

Through art children learn free expression and that they make marks when drawing. Our children have free access to the following items in their art and craft cupboard:

  • Pencils, crayons and pens
  • Paints (watercolour and washable poster)
  • Paper (for drawing) and magazines (for cutting)
  • Playdough and tools such as rolling pins, cutters and stamps
  • Dot Markers
  • Scissors
  • Stamps
  • Glue stick (less messy!)

View our full range of art and craft supplies here.

If you'd like to see how I organise our art cupboard you can also watch this video on my IGTV here.

micador Watercolour Paints - little toy tribe 



Puzzles help children with problem solving and they also find a lot of joy and satisfaction when they finish an activity such as a puzzle. We always have great conversations when doing puzzles talking about the pictures and what they are doing. I also find that I can hold my daughters’ attention longer by taking it in turns to put a piece in place. 

Ravensburger Puzzles - little toy tribe

I have always found the Ravensburger and Orchard Toys puzzles best as the pieces are individual meaning they only fit in one spot. I found that the Kmart puzzles have a repeating shape and that pieces can go in the wrong spot despite the pictures not matching. This can be quite frustrating for children learning to do puzzles as despite fitting they won’t be able to complete the puzzle. 

If you are starting to introduce puzzles to your child I recommend the Orchard Toys 4 in a box or Ravensburger My First Puzzle before moving onto the Ravensburger 12 piece puzzles.

The 12 and 24 piece Ravensburger puzzles come with a life size picture of the puzzle so it can be placed underneath for children to match the pieces before doing it without the picture.

See our full range of puzzles here.


Letters and Numbers

As children grow they will naturally start to show an interest in numbers and letters. We personally have the Alphadots and Number dots by Elle Collective and I'd also recommend a dice to begin playing number games.


Grimm's Rainbow and Semi Circles

These would have to be our favourites from the Grimm's range and they are also the pieces we started our collection with and I wouldn't change it. These two pieces work so well together!

The Grimm's Large Rainbow has endless stacking abilities and the Semi Circles add another dimension to play offering a solid base as it is stacked up.

The rainbow arches can also be used as tunnels or bridges in small world play and stacked with the Semi Circles makes perfect house for Nins or Friends (peg people).

Balance Board

Wobbel Boards are great for letting children burn some energy indoors and they are great for balance. Below are just a few ways the girls use ours almost everyday.

  • Wobbel with her legs really far apart - making it harder to balance but also a great challenge
  • Build Waytoplay roads up and over it
  • See how long she can rock cars on it for
  • Read books and relax on it
  • Rock her little sister
  • Use it as a table
  • Jump off it
  • Crawl underneath it
  • Put it on the couch and climb up and slide down it
  • Play peek-a-boo behind it
  • Use it as a stage for her dancing
  • Use it as a step in the kitchen

Read the full blog on how our girls have grown up wobbeling here.


Children should always have free access to books in their home and playspace to foster a love of reading. By reading to your children everyday you are widening their vocabulary and by reading just two books a day.


I hope this blog has helped you to understand the key pieces of our playroom and the things we use most often to educate our girls at home whilst learning through play.

Any questions always feel free to contact us, I'm always happy to help! 

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1 comment
  • This is a really great list! Our favorite is definitely cars and animal figurines. They just love them!

    holly on

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