Benefits of Open-Ended Play in Early Child Development
Let me paint a couple of pictures for you:
Your kids are playing in the den and one of shouts “Now I’m a superhero!” She pastes a couple of butterfly stickers to her face and grabs grandma’s crocheted throw. Suddenly she’s in costume and she’s ready to fight evil.
Or maybe it’s a rainy craft-day afternoon and you’ve put out some of those little fluff balls to stick on the nose of a clown painting. Your son grabs a handful and some Elmer’s and starts sticking them to each other. In a few minutes, he’s got glue all over his face and he’s playing with the cool ball-monster he just made.
You’ve seen it happen—kids playing with no specific plan in mind, no rules, just freedom to follow any whim that strikes them. That’s called open-ended play and it’s amazing for your kids’ brains.
What is Open-Ended Play?
Open-ended play lets kids be creative and exercise lateral thinking, which keeps their brains agile. Adults have trouble with lateral thinking and coming up with non-obvious solutions because we’ve been trained to dismiss ideas that don’t fit conventional expectations.
he best way to encourage open-ended play is to set aside some tech-free time and provide your kids with a variety of toys and materials that don’t have any one specific use. Craft materials, building blocks, sculpting clay or dough, dress-up clothes—just about anything you can think of that’s safe for kids to handle. Stand back and watch their amazing minds do their thing. Better yet, jump in and follow their lead. It’ll be like being part of a really silly improv session!