Open-ended play is the best kind of play for children. What is open-ended play and how to encourage it?
Unstructured play, play without limits or boundaries is referred to as Open-ended play. It has no rules, no instructions, no guidelines, no right or wrong way. A form of play that is completely Child-led.
Would it not be better to ask your child what they would like to do today rather than tell them what to do? This is the premise of Open-ended play – to allow the child to completely take control of his /her play. It is where you step back and let your child take the lead .
But why all this hype about open ended play if close ended play is also important?
The answer is our Structured lives and education system. Most schools indulge in a fair amount of close ended activities. They are important as they inculcate focus, discipline and help in building attention in a child.
Hence to be able to perfectly balance those close ended activities, it is important that we encourage the children to have equal amount if not more, time spent in open-ended play.
The benefits of open-ended play are aplenty. Since there is no right or wrong way to play, it instils confidence, helps them engage and explore the world around them in their own unique way.
Open-ended play helps their Imagination peak and creates the ability to think abstractly building creativity and intelligence. Emotional and social skills develop as children indulge in role-play. This in turn strengthens their understanding of the world they are in. Empathy, cooperation, problem solving, and leadership skills are the add on skills they learn through make-believe play. Cognitive skills also develop as open-ended play encourages creativity and imagination.
What are open-ended toys? Open-ended toys are objects/materials that can be imagined in a multitude of ways, objects that can be used to combine, create and make something new. For example, a stick can become a magician’s wand, a pop stars guitar or even a slingshot.
Most commonly found open ended toys are blocks, Lego, cardboard boxes, stuffed toys, sensory play tools, Playdough Sets and tools.
And most importantly, most of the open-ended toys and materials are TIMELESS and Ageless (can be played from ages 3-60)!
How do you encourage/facilitate open-ended play? Allow your child
• A lot of downtime
• Let them get bored
• Let your child lead his play
• Ask open-ended questions
• Invest in some timeless open-ended toys
• Most common house items are great open-ended materials too
And more than often you will be surprised at how innovative and creative your munchkin can be!