You might have heard the term 'open-ended toys' floating around on social media or your local playgroup and thought what on earth does that mean? Don't worry, you aren't alone.
Let's explore what open-ended toys are, some of our personal favourites and the benefits of introducing these to your play space.
Toys that ignite the imagination
Simply put, open-ended toys are those that can be used in a multitude of ways depending on the child, their interests, their developmental stage and their imagination. They tend to promote more social play and foster creativity through their often simple design and lack of instruction manual.
“Open-ended toys result in open-ended play. This type of play can evolve over time while also encouraging children to create and problem-solve as they explore the world around them.”
- Colleen Multari
Director of early learning at The Early Years Institute in Plainview, NY
Generally, the brightly coloured plastic toys that move, light up and sing repetitive songs (you know, the ones that your children flock to at the shopping centre as you hastily attempt to steer them in the other direction) are classed as close-ended or single-purpose toys. These glitzy toys are often cheaply made and don't withstand the test of time.
You probably have many open-ended toys in your play space already. If not, the good news is that they're pretty easy to come by and don't have to cost a fortune.
Some of our personal favourites are -
- Building blocks
- Dress up accessories
- Balance boards
- Animal figures
- Loose parts
There is no set way to play with any of the above toys and you'll often find that every play experience is different and leads to new and exciting learning opportunities for your children.
Today a playsilk might be the cape draped over a heros shoulders and tomorrow that same silk may form the tail of a beautiful mermaid or the ocean beneath your childrens favourite sea creatures.
Just like there are endless ways to play with your open-ended toys, there are endless benefits to introducing these to your children's play.
Fewer toys = Less clutter
Because of their versatility, there is no need to fill every nook of your play space with open-ended toys. Fewer toys result in more resourceful children.
They last the test of time
Your building blocks aren't going to go out of fashion any time soon. Rest assured, they will be a part of your play space for many years to come before being passed on to future generations to be loved once again.
No age constraints
My favourite benefit of these toys is they aren't limited by your child's age. Siblings will work together to create masterpieces while grandparent and grandchild spend time connecting as they explore the endless formations their Flockmen can make.
They cannot be mastered
Unlike a puzzle or construction set, open-ended toys cannot be mastered. Instead, they provide a resource with no set outcome that can be used in endless ways while fostering creativity and encouraging the expansion of your child's imagination.
It's important to keep in mind that this style of play is not always quickly adapted by all children, especially if it's relatively new to them. A great way to encourage play with open-ended toys is by setting up invitations to play. If you search the hashtag #invitationtoplay on Instagram you will find an abundance of ideas to get you started.