What is Open-Ended Play, and Why is it so Important?
There is nothing quite as magical or fascinating as a child’s imagination. The make-believe characters, situations and stories they come out with are equally impressive as they are entertaining to listen too. As parents, we want only to encourage their creative minds and let them explore play in their own unique way. But parents are often presented with the question of how? Have you ever bought your little one a toy and they have solved the puzzle in a matter of hours, or already seem bored of it after just one day?
We believe the best way to encourage play and creativity is through open ended play. During playtime, our children participate in games and activities that prioritise fun. Open-ended play prioritises fun and creativity. But what exactly is open-ended play and how can you offer it to your child?
What is open-ended play?
Basically, open-ended play does not put limitations or rules on playtime. The child has the chance to play as they want with unlimited possibilities for hours of fun.
When we provide our children with ready-made play and adventure worlds, which are worked out to the smallest detail, we take away the opportunity for them to develop their own creativity. Whereas, with open-ended play there are no instructions, rules, or preset guides for children to follow with “right” or “wrong” results. During open-ended play, children have the ability to make their own decisions and fully engage their creativity and imagination.
What are the benefits?
Helps early development
Open-ended play helps your little one to be able to solve problems independently, help them to make decisions confidently and also teaches them the process of trial and error to find solutions. When children aren’t handed specific instructions or toys with easily solutions, they have to use their own mind and skills to learn how to play. For example, when you give them a set of building blocks that have no end results or “correct” solution, then they can build a creation completely influenced by their own imagination. Open-ended play helps stretch their cognitive skills. Children learn to react better in situations, they learn to make choices, and they feel more inspired.
Enhances creativity and imagination
When you put limitations on play, children don’t have a chance to be creative. If you give them a pen and paper and tell them to draw a tree, you have taken away all their right to be creative and explore their imagination. Open-ended play is crucial for these early stages of development in children because as their imagination is developing, it needs to be engaged.
It’s more fun!
Also let’s not forget, it’s simply just much a lot more fun! The possibilities of open-ended play are limitless and never ending. A simple cardboard box can become a train, a plane, a table or even a den, and that is the magic.
Ways you can encourage open ended play
Engaging your child in open-ended play is easy. The best way to get your children into open-ended play is to introduce them to materials and toys that offer endless possibilities so that a child can explore and play creatively. It’s also important to just let them go with it and discover play in their own way without getting involved yourself. Let them use their own problem solving skills, imagination and creativity when playing with their toys, even if they are trying to squeeze a square building block through a whole that simply is not big enough. Take a step back at let them figure it out by themselves.
The best open-ended toys
Before you even start adding copious colourful and amazing toys to your shopping baskets, you do have some supplies at home to get you started on the open-ended play train. You will be surprised by how much fun your creative little one can have with the most non-descript household items. Tried and tested items such as these work great –
- Cardboard boxes
- Paper and arts and crafts supplies
- Sand or mud
- Empty toilet rolls
- And so much more! Start experimenting with what your little one gets excited by
But if you want guaranteed hours and hours of open-ended play fun then our go to is always Grimms. Open-ended play is at the heart and focus of every single design they make. They make sure to keep the playing possibilities as open as possible with every single one of their toys, so that creativity is not restricted, and can develop in new directions.
Every single item in their collection is designed to work with each other to create a world of endless possibilities and a world of play where imagination can run wild to create anything. Small and big builders will find everything they need to create new worlds and games. So, the same components may today be a farm, but tomorrow could be a dolls house.The possible combinations are limitless and open to infinite playing possibilities, and that is the magic of Grimms!
There you have it, the benefits of open-ended play are clear and we encourage every parent to give it a go with their family. Play time can be fun and educational at the same time. So, what will your little one create?