What Is Open Ended Play

What Is Open Ended Play

Open ended play is play that has no fixed rules about how a toy should be used. Play is 90% child and 10% toy. There's no "right" or "wrong" way for the toy to be played with. There are no buttons to press to tell you what to do. Instead, the child has all the freedom to choose what to do with them. For example, a toy doll that comes with many pieces and moves, and has a certain way to play with it, doesn’t allow the child to imagine what they can do with it. But with a doll that is unmoving and silent, the child can take other toys and create a game with the doll. The doll can be a princess, a doctor, an athlete… anything they want!

Remember when playing with toys was simple? When, instead of all these gadgets and buttons and screens, we just had wooden blocks, figurines, and puppets? And we had to actually create a game on our own. It’s okay if you don’t remember; most toys nowadays do all the work for the kids. And while they can be easy and entertaining for short periods of time, it leaves little room for creativity. 

You may wonder; how can I fix this? Recently, the answer to this question has been the concept of open ended play. 

Open ended play is play that has no fixed rules about how a toy should be used. Play is 90% child and 10% toy. There's no "right" or "wrong" way for the toy to be played with. There are no buttons to press to tell you what to do. Instead, the child has all the freedom to choose what to do with them. For example, a toy doll that comes with many pieces and moves, and has a certain way to play with it, doesn’t allow the child to imagine what they can do with it. But with a doll that is unmoving and silent, the child can take other toys and create a game with the doll. The doll can be a princess, a doctor, an athlete… anything they want! 

Open Ended Toys Encourage Creativity and Imagination

When chidlren are offered open ended toys, they are allowed the freedom to use their imagination and creativity. There is no set age for these toys, either. They can be used in a variety of play scenarios. Think of a wooden rainbow, for instance. Sure you could just put the colours in order to create a rainbow. Or the rainbow could turn into a set of bridges, tunnels, you could stack them and build a house. 

The main benefit of this is to encourage kids to use their minds and imagine games, rather than just mimicking what’s displayed on the box. It helps build their brain development and can actually stretch their attention span. 

How Can I Incorporate Open Ended Toys?

Removing toys with structured practices, such as electronic ones, and replacing them with open ended toys may come with some challenges, for both kids and parents, especially if you aren't quite sure how to play with an open ended toy. 

It may be overwhelming to start this process, so that’s why we’re here to help. The first step, after determining this is what you want to do, is to slowly begin to remove the “entertainment” toys. If your child isn’t emotionally attached, the process will be easier, but if they are, remove the toys for periods of time and see how they respond. Keep them in a box in your house for a while, in the event that they are missing them. 

The next step is to introduce open ended toys. Make sure the toys are easily accessible, and talk  about the endless amount of possibilities, and get their creative brains active. You may find your kids take to them right away and begin to create their own masterpieces, needing little guidance from you at all, or you may find they could benefit from a few examples of ways to play.

To succeed in this concept, the most important thing is patience. It may not work right away; and your kids may have a harder time with it than others. They may also struggle to figure out games at first, and may come to you for help. Show them a few examples of ways to play and you will find their imaginations just take off and they begin to play in ways you never even imagined.

What Are the Best Open Ended Toys:

Some open ended toys we are loving right now are: 

Magnetic Tiles - we love our Connetix magnetic tiles for their super strong magnets which allows kids to create anything in their imagination.

Animal Figurines - we love the Schleich figurines for their realistic characteristics. These are also great to use in sensory play because they can be wiped down easily. We also love the Tender Leaf wooden figurines and for younger ones, the Haba figurines for their rubbery texture and chunky feel perfect for toddlers.

Wooden Blocks - blocks are a timeless toy that encourages children to build, create, design, engineer and problem solve. 

Stacking Rainbow - the creative possibilities are endless with this toy! 

Wobble Board - Is it a cradle? A bridge? A teeter totter? A wooden balance board can be any of these things, and more! 

 

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