Multipurpose Toys That Inspire Creative Play

By Alexandra Whiting   |  

How to spark your kids' big imagination with open-ended toys and gold nugget ideas of fantastic play, even if it’s not your thing.

Most schooling systems teach us to value literacy and numerical knowledge in young children, and sure, it’s impressive when a two-year-old recites the alphabet, but research shows it is actually your child’s imaginative and creative play that is more likely to have a greater impact on their future learning. “Imagination supports learning and the acquisition of knowledge,” says Susan Irvine, QUT Associate Professor in the School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education. This process is two-fold: children draw on their prior experiences to create play, like a train ride into the city, and then play expands their understanding of the experience as they explore more of it, like pretending to be the driver, or imagining the train can fly. “When play taps into the imagination of other children and adults, the possibilities for exploration and learning are endless.”

Now, you don’t have to be Chilli and Bandit to support imaginative play (you’re not the only one that feels inadequate next to the Bluey parents). You can encourage creativity by asking questions, “where does this train go to?”, undertaking trial and error with them, “shall we see if it can fly?” This also lets them become comfortable with failure and trying again, and exercises their creative thinking. Another way to encourage imagination is by setting up their play with open-ended toys.

Melbourne-based, has just released, a series of minimalist soft-decor ‘play shapes,’ designed to ignite imagination. Oversized and lightly padded, they are perfect for rolling, climbing and gentle flip flops. “We love everything about open-ended, creative play. It was always a dream to extend our playmats with complementary products that would have the same philosophy – pieces that looked good in your home, but have a multi-purpose and can be used for a very long time,” says Ashleigh Pike, co-founder, “ Imagination is the only boundary with That is the beauty and ethos of this collection. A child is never too young to play and explore the world around them. Our play.shapes provide a perfectly bold, and sensory playspace right from birth as babies hands gently touch the fabric and get used to different sensations. For older babies and toddlers, there are specific things to do with the shapes, like creating an obstacle course, practising balancing, life-sized Jenga, creating visual statues, or using them for yoga poses.”

Jnr.Life in-house Occupational Therapist, Anjelee Khosla says the shapes are great for physical development but also enable fine motor development and imaginative play. “They offer a foundation of play and invoke a language of collaboration and sharing. watching the children moving around such big pieces allows them to develop negotiation skills. Given they are soft, the children can build and knock off the pieces, providing opportunities for regulation and emotional resilience. the environment dictates the behaviour so because the play pieces are soft, the kids can be calm and feel relaxed with the pieces, or they can still throw them around the room but they are soft so they can’t cause harm.”

“When play taps into the imagination of other children and adults, the possibilities for exploration and learning are endless.”

– Susan Irvine, QUT Associate Professor in the School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education

Multipurpose Toys That Inspire Creative Play

Jnr.Life Play Arc in Sunshine

Made for climbing, adventuring and developing, this oversized arc is densely padded and perfect for riding, rocking, stacking and climbing (inside, over and under). It helps stimulate motor and social skills and push the bounds of creativity for babies, toddlers and kids. Each arch is made from a pebble-textured fabric for an added sensory-experience.

Jnr.Life Oval Play Mat in Lemonade

These incredibly versatile play mats can be rolled up or down for use in playroom, bedroom or living spaces and can be kept as a gorgeous addition to grown-up interiors. The padding is cushioned and soft for tummy time and is tough enough to withstand the rolls, tumbles and sticky fingers of toddlers. For play mode, imagine it's a boat, an island or a beach for soft toys.

Olli Ella Holdie Dolls House

A dolls house that packs up and comes with you. This style of house can be many things: hospital, school, fairy headquarters... It's light enough for little kids to carry with them and create magic wherever they go.

Raduga Grez Fruits

The Raduga Grez wooden Fruits Set with nine pieces of ‘fruit’ shows that you can do toys differently. Engage your child in a new kind of play, showing them a love for healthy food, and the opportunity for them to take ownership of it when you’re cooking as a family. Play guessing games, hide them and go foraging, sell them at your stall or imagine them as a family of fruits living in a forest.

Raduga Grez Vanitas Building Blocks

Building blocks don’t have to be flat and straight. Nor do they have to just be blocks! This Raduga Grez set of shapes pokes at your little one’s creativity and ignites their imagination.

We Might Be Tiny Stampies

This stamp set holds so many uses. They allow for even young toddlers to make pictures in playdough or cookies, they can be used as paint stamps to create wrapping paper, story books or grand artworks.

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