Going to the toy store to purchase a new toy for your child has become quite the daunting task. There are options upon options, and all of them seem to be way beyond your intended budget. What started out as an act of love intended to bring joy to your child has turned into a massive headache for yourself!
Thanks to some current research on a topic known as “open-ended play,” those toy store headaches may become a thing of the past. You are probably now thinking, “That sounds amazing, but…what exactly is open-ended play?” Open-ended play is most simply defined as play with no guidelines or limitations.
As most parents know, when a child plays with a toy, there is more happening than just what meets the eye. On the surface, a child may think they are just playing with a toy, but what they don’t realize is they are actually learning while they play. This is why many parents will choose to purchase educational toys for their children. What studies have recently shown, however, is that when children engage in open-ended play, rather than instruction-based or focused play, they are actually learning much, much more.
So back to the original question: what exactly is open-ended play? Open-ended play doesn’t revolve so much about what the kid is playing with as much as how he or she is playing. The idea is to just allow the child to sort of “go with the flow” and have fun on their own. It can be done with blocks, water, sand, play-dough, or pretty much anything the brain can imagine.
When you give a child a toy that makes noise when they press a button, or a puzzle with instructions, they may have fun, but they can only do a limited amount of things. This will eventually lead to boredom, and will not really challenge them creatively. Even if it is specifically a toy for learning, the fun factor will eventually fade away. The idea of open-ended play is to allow the child to create the scenario, and have everything play out the way they want it to.
There is a reason Lego’s have been voted World’s Best Toy multiple times. Children are given a box of these random blocks, and told to just create and have fun. This causes kids to use their brains in new and exciting ways and expand their creative boundaries. It also gives them an immense sense of satisfaction and accomplishment once they’ve finally built something they are proud of. Then, after they’ve reached their personal objectives, they can take it all apart, and start on something new.
Another great example of open-ended play is introducing your child to different types of art and music. If you can help your child to learn an instrument or inspire them to start painting or doing clay sculptures, their creativity will begin to blossom and develop in a very big way. Now of course you can’t expect them to immediately become the next Bach or Van Gogh, but just the simple act of letting them create openly will do wonders for them and their brain development.
While the benefits of open-ended play are innumerous, here is a list of just a few that we really like:
- Enhance Creativity
- Boost in Imagination
- Increased Patience
- Rise in Intelligence
- Better at Problem Solving
- Greater Memory Recollection
Next time you are at the toy store, remember that you don’t necessarily have to get your child the “newest, most-expensive” toy on the market. Any toy that promotes open-ended play is sure to keep your child occupied for hours on end!