What is open ended play for babies, toddlers & kids?

Open ended play is our absolute favourite form of child’s play here at Capikooa! It gives our children the chance to enjoy what childhood was made for - hours of imaginative, silly, bizarre, adventurous fun that’s led by their own storytelling! No rules. No scripts. No instructions... just whatever their curious minds can come up with. 

If you’re new to open-ended play, we’re here to tell you that encouraging your child to embrace it is much easier than you’d think (hurray) and has lots of benefits. Read on to find out what they are and how to make their playtime the best possible playtime through open ended opportunities…

What is open ended play?

Open ended play is a form of child’s play which is led by your child and has no restrictions, instructions or prescribed outcomes required. Open ended play is led by a child’s imagination but can be shaped by the prompts of toys or environment. 

Open ended play can take place anywhere, indoors or out. It can revolve around role-play (acting out stories that imitate real life or explore a world of fantasy) or it can involve using construction toys, sensory toys, creative materials, or toys & accessories that encourage play through movement. 

The ‘goal’ of open ended play is simply for your child to be free, explore their imagination, try new things, move, laugh and have fun! 

Why is open ended play important?

Open ended play is hugely important, as it’s the most natural form of play (and mode of learning) for any child. When your child is enjoying open ended play, they are:

  • Nurturing their imagination
  • Building social confidence and communication skills
  • Building their vocabulary
  • Strengthening fine & gross motor skills
  • Expressing their creativity
  • Dealing with their emotions
  • Gaining a sense of control 
  • Supporting their independence 
  • Learning how to solve real life problems
  • Processing topics they find too hard to talk about
  • Getting more of an understand of the world around them
  • Fulfilling their sensory needs
  • Keeping active
  • Creating new neural pathways in their brain

Open ended play is a beautiful way to watch your children grow and thrive, without them even realising how much they’re learning.

How do you encourage open ended play?

Helping your child to experience the joy of open ended play requires discipline on our part. While open ended play is the most natural form of play for children, busy modern life can be a distraction from allowing our children the chance to experience it. To encourage open-ended play, you’ll need to:

  • 1. Let your child have plenty of downtime and be bored which means resisting setting up activities, providing ‘things to do’ or filling their time with distractions
  • 2. Limit screen time to provide more time where your child must come up with their own ideas. Tricky at first, but the more open ended play your child experiences, the easier they will find it in the future
  • 3. Make sure their toy collection isn’t too overwhelming and choose open-ended toys so your child will be inspired by their toys and will find it easier to come up with creative, imaginative ideas of their own

What toys are good for open ended play?

Toys which are good for open ended play are simple, letting your child bring their own imagination, creativity and ideas to each toy. Examples of good toys for open ended play, include:

  • Construction toys (blocks, bricks, Lego, train tracks)
  • Arts & craft materials (paints, paper, pens, scissors, collage bits)
  • Movement toys (rockers, balance boards, climbing toys)
  • Role-play toys (food, costumes, dolls)
  • Small world figures (animals, people, scenery)
  • Abstract toys (wooden shapes, balls, cones)
  • Real life objects (shells, rocks, twigs, sponges)

If you’re ready to start encouraging more open ended play, why not browse our wooden balance boards designed for endless fun for all ages!

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