What is Open-ended Play and why is it crucial for our children?

In a nut shell, open-ended play is play that has no pre-determined limitations and no fixed answer or end point. For instance, resources that have multiple functions, such as building blocks, play dough, sand and cardboard boxes present children with an endless amount of possibilities and opportunities for play. Toys such as jigsaw puzzles, shape sorters and books are often seen as more close-ended as they have an end point or stage of completion where by the task is achieved and the child is encouraged to move on to a different activity. As Maria Montessori famously said- ‘play is the work of the child’ and all forms of play are important to the development of the whole child. However, in this day and age where the strong development of children’s critical and creative thinking is of utmost importance, it is crucial for us to encourage a love for open-ended play.

Open-ended play presents children with something they are often restricted in having in their everyday life. That is, the ability to have choices and to make decisions. And for those of you who, like me have particularly determined little ones, will know the satisfaction that is to be had when a child is given the opportunity to make a decision by themselves. Open-ended toys present children with choices of how they can be played with, of what they can become and where they will be used in the activity. And the toy doesn’t decide those things based on how it operates with its batteries, or how the pieces fit together in one way and one way only. The child is given the power of decision-making. And with that power comes confidence, imagination, creativity, fine motor strength and let’s not forget, fun.

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