How to Foster Open-Ended Play
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As our children grow, we’re tasked with the responsibility of supporting them in discovering the world around them. This will look different throughout the different stages of their lives. While they are young, we can best support their development through play.
Open-ended play is when we give our children the freedom to play and explore without rules or instructions. When our children are free to imagine, create, and engage with the materials available to them—they begin building the foundation for all other developmental leaps.
You may be wondering how to best foster open-ended play—here is what we recommend:
- Set Boundaries
- Prepare a Space
- Offer Materials
- Encourage Play
Setting Realistic Boundaries
As parents, we are often the ones to manage the mess. A disorganized house can cause added stress to a household.
This is not our goal.
We believe it doesn’t have to be this way—even when we offer our young children cups, spoons, and a bowl of rice.
An important element of fostering open-ended play is setting up your child for success. Their little minds need the guidance of knowing what is expected of them while exploring their new setup.
We can lay out our expectations by explaining that the materials they are given to use need to be respected. The loose parts and water must stay in the bins provided.
Open-ended play is without rules for how they engage. However, this does not mean there is no guidance on respecting their play space and materials. Start simple and as your child learns you can offer more.
Preparing a Safe Space
While we realize not all are able to have a designated space, it is helpful to find somewhere in your home that is specifically set aside for your child’s play. This could be as simple as having a basket in the living room filled with open-ended toys such as:
- Magnetic Tiles
If you have the available space, adding an IKEA flisat table and trofast bins opens the doors to a whole new world of activities and fun!
Offer a Variety of Materials
Introducing something new is often in and of itself enough to spark your child’s imagination! Even something as simple as a container of beans with a spoon is exciting as they begin creating something of their own.
Here at The Creative Learning Co., we desire to provide new and exciting ways for your child to engage in open-ended play.
- Sensory Play
- Light Boards
- Peg Boards
- Letters & Numbers
Encourage Imaginative Play
Boredom is not a bad thing. With the advancement of technology, our children are now rarely bored. It can at times feel wrong for not entertaining them at all times. However, the opposite is true.
Boredom is good. It allows them to think up new ways to play—using their imagination and learning along the way.
Some children are more prone to wanting someone to engage in play with them. This is a great opportunity for you to foster open-ended play—simply by being present.
If you find it challenging to be present without overtaking their imaginative playtime, begin asking open-ended questions about what they are playing with, such as:
- What do you think of this?
- Why do you think ____ happened?
- Can you tell me what you are doing?
- What do you think will happen next?
Learning to Play
Here at The Creative Learning Co., we recognize raising tiny humans is a feat all of its own. We strive to simplify play and help you foster a love of creative, open-ended playtime.
Our Learning Boards™ are a straightforward way to introduce your children to this different type of exploration and creativity. All the supplies and accessories you need are at your fingertips—just waiting for your little one to begin learning through play!