Firstly, what is open-ended play? It’s the type of play that allows your child to use their imagination and decide how they want their playtime to unfold. This doesn’t mean that you need a room stacked with different options, but rather a few toys that have endless possibilities.
A prime example is building blocks. Each time your child plays with them, they can garner a new learning and play experience. One day they build a castle and play imaginary house, the next day it can be an airplane to zoom them into imaginary locations. A minimalist toy such as this allows them to decide what kind of experience they want out of their play, and pushes their ability to imagine a world outside of their current environment.
Most of these types of toys transcend age barriers. When a two year old is playing with building blocks, they are developing their fine-motor skills and learning shapes. When a 5 year old plays with the same blocks, they are learning mathematics and the early stages of physics.
Open-ended play also allows your child to problem-solve and figure things out for themselves. When the nature of this kind of play is shared with their friends, it stimulates social development and interaction. Instead of sitting side-by-side playing, the children have to communicate how their imagination is dictating their playtime.
Not all open-ended toys have to be bought. A lot of household items can be used as well. Cardboard boxes, toilet paper roll holders, blankets to make forts and a simple crayon and paper are all items that spark creativity, problem-solving and imagination. This kind of play is also a great way to get parents involved and create some bonding time. Sit with your child while they play, explore and explain what they are doing. Help them build a fort in the lounge, get into character for a dress-up session or tinker around with peg boards. Let your child set the scene and help expand their imagination.
Some open-ended toys to try:
- Building blocks
- Dress up clothes
Toptots Early Learning SA