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by Katrina Oliver
The benefits of open-ended toys
Open-ended toys are fantastic for your child’s development and growth.
Rather than prescriptive toys with a limited number of ways one can use them for play, open-ended toys allow your child to use their imagination to create engaging ways to use the material based on their own interest.
Quality open-ended toys have the ability to instill imagination, creativity, and problem-solving skills in your child as they play.
Their endless applications also make them a great investment, as children can play with them dozens of times and still find a new and interesting way to play with them that can capture their attention.
Finding the best open-ended toys for your child can be overwhelming, with the hundreds of options available on the market.
However, once you find the ones that are going to be the best fit for your family, you’ll be glad you made the leap!
Construction and building toys
Open-ended construction and building toys are fantastic for children of any age.
Construction and building toys should be completely open-ended, with unlimited ways for children to put together the various building elements at their disposal.
Construction kits that will only build a very finite number of arrangements are bound to be frustrating for a child who wants to build based on their own imagination, and may be quickly discarded.
Lego bricks are a popular open-ended construction toy that has infinite possibilities for construction.
However, it’s far from the only option!
For younger children, simple wooden building blocks can do the trick just fine.
Magnet construction tiles are another great open-ended choice for either younger or older children.
Regardless of what specific style you choose, these open-ended construction materials will keep your kids loving to build and design!
Open-ended science is the best possible way for kids to learn about scientific principles.
Science, after all, is all about learning through experimenting!
While there are plenty of high-tech science toys on the market, simple is often the best way to go for scientific open-ended toys.
Real natural materials, like wood, leaves, and moss, are the best possible way for kids to learn firsthand about plants and nature.
You can even make a family field trip out of exploring into the wild of your own local area and gathering natural materials to bring home and play with.
Providing tools for observation like magnifying glasses or toy microscopes can provide new insight to these materials, and can be reused again and again as they discover new materials to observe.
Pretend play toys
Finding imaginative pretend play materials that are open-ended is simple!
Finding materials for dressing up can be as simple as finding some scarves and hats.
Using large scarves means that children can fashion them into whatever kind of dress-up they please, tying them around themselves to be a vest, dress, or skirt.
They can even use them as blankets for their pretend babies or tablecloths at their pretend restaurant!
Pretend play scenarios can be enhanced by providing open-ended dramatic play props and sets.
Providing a little space like a pop-up tent or playhouse can be a great place for pretend play that doesn’t prescribe a child’s use of it.
Great open-ended props could be kitchen utensils, baby dolls, and tables or chairs.
Open-ended artistic exploration is one of the great joys of childhood.
By offering open-ended artistic materials, kids have a chance to create to their heart’s content and follow their own inspiration, rather than the prescriptive instructions of a step-by-step craft material.
Providing a variety of materials for different mediums will allow children to create as they wish.
Provide sculpting materials, like clay or play dough, as well as collage materials, like buttons, feathers, ribbons, and magazines for cuttings.
Paper materials, like paint, markers, crayons, and colored pencils can take simple coloring activities and make them exciting.
You’d be surprised at the number of ways children can take the most simple of materials and turn them into a work of art!
Providing enriching sensory experiences is critical for the brain development of all young children.
Open-ended play is essential to the experience of sensory learning, which is entirely guided by one’s sensory input and natural exploration.
Sensory toys are best when left simple.
Playing in water, sand, or clay can be a great way to develop sensory learning.
Offering simple tools for children to use to interact with the sensory material could be anything that allows them to experiment with their use of the material, such as cups, spoons, buckets, scissors, or pipettes.
More ambitious parents could create unique sensory play out of materials like shaving cream, soap, kinetic sand, or even homemade slime.
While these are all wonderful additions to open-ended play that can ignite your child’s wonder in sensory exploration, a simple sandbox and a few open-ended tools are just as great for your family.
Coming to understand open-ended play can take some time.
Finding materials that allow your child to be the director of their own play experience can be a challenge, and sometimes being able to find high-quality open-ended materials among the toy shelves full of prescriptivist single-use toys can be a struggle.
However, open-ended enriching play experiences can be the guiding factor behind your child’s daily learning experiences and give your child a chance to build critical independence and life skills that will prepare them well for the rest of the academic journey.