Open-ended play – the ultimate children’s activity

open ended play

Open-ended play is amazing. 

What could be more beneficial for your little one? It is the ultimate freedom from rules and boundaries when it comes to setting up activities for your little ones. From babies, through toddler hood to pre-schoolers, open-ended play is your ticket to finally finishing that cup of coffee while it is still hot. How? Because it has no beginning, middle or end, no rules to govern it and no right or wrong.

So what is open-ended play?

open-ended play

Give them the freedom to experiment without interferring

Open-ended play is when there is no limit on your child’s play. Your child has the freedom to move or adapt the activity as their imagination flows. All the decision making and problem solving is up to them. For example when it comes to drawing and craft… if you give your child a pencil and tell them to draw a shape, they are not making the decisions. Once the shape is drawn the activity is over and finished.

They are following directions, and for some children they may fear making a mistake or not doing a good job. But hand them lots of pencils, paper, craft scrap items, glue, sticky tape etc and give them the freedom to make what ever they like and soon their creative instincts take over and they begin to experiment and become immersed in the activity.

Craft is just one example and I’ll introduce a few more shortly…

Why is it important?

open-ended play with blocks

You don’t need to interfere or follow directions on a box

There are huge benefits for your child when you allow them to explore through open ended play. These include:

+Using imagination, creativity, problem-solving and experimenting – tools your child needs to develop resilience.

+Enhances social and emotional intelligence and intellectual growth through decision making.

+It’s about the journey not the outcome and prioritise creativeness, fun and play over a final result, in fact is no end which means it can stretch long periods of time.

+No need for instructions and reassurance that they’re doing it ‘right’ from their caregiver (see this is where you get your coffee) because there is not right or wrong.

Open-ended play ideas:

open ended play mat

Picture by @woodlandgumnuts_Giving your little ones the freedom to let their imaginations run wild, featuring our Roadtrip play mat. 

  • Craft boxes – think fabric scraps, torn up tissue paper, pompoms, paddlepop sticks, yoghurt lids, milk bottle tops, bread bag clips, pencils, markers, washi tape etc.
  • Dress-up boxes – not just the store bought character princess/superhero costumes, but also generic items which leave it up to the imagination. Scarves, shirts, pants, dresses, hats, bags, beads, capes, gloves etc.
  • Blocks – wooden, lego, montessori sets, duplo, mega block… the type here isn’t important. What is important is giving them the freedom not to follow the design on the box but to experiment and come with their own designs.
  • Magnetic tiles – just like blocks – its not about replicating the pictures they’ve seen before which often requires carer intervention. Instead, encourage them to create whatever they can imagine.
  • Dolls, doll houses, shops, kitchens, toy food – these give rise to so many imaginative scenarios.
  • Train sets and cars  – they can create endless scenarios and explore the world around them.
  • Playdough and small world sets – play dough can become anything their little imaginations can think of… having available small world sets like little insects, animals etc can lead to further play.

So here’s some ideas to try out. Tag us in your pics on Instagram as we’d love to see what you are up to.

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