10 simple ways to encourage open-ended play
Encouraging open-ended play can open up so many learning opportunities for children. It allows children to use their imagination and take themselves on a journey. Open-ended resources don’t have to be plastic toys or ones that make noises they can be simple resources such as cardboard boxes or a bowl of water. Plastic toys limit children’s play as they only seem to do a few things whereas open-ended resources provide endless opportunities. Children are more likely to stay engaged in play when exploring ended end resources as they are learning skills and are enjoying finding out the different things you can use a cardboard box for. After a short period of time children lose interest in toys that only do a few things as these toys don’t seem to be able to challenge some children’s abilities.
Here are a few simple open-ended resources you can offer in your room. Observe the children using these and see what learning takes place.
- Large cardboard boxes. Add a range of card boxes some small some large and let the children explore what they can use these for. Observe the children’s play and intervene when necessary to extend the learning further.
- Large box filled with sand/ sand tray. Have available resources nearby for children to add these to the sand tray. Let the children lead the play and use their imagination as to what they are going to do.
- Planks of wood, tyres, plastic crates. Place these either outside or indoor for children to use in their own way.
- Bowl of water/ water tray. As children love playing in water, again have resources available for children to add to the water.
- Large wooden blocks. Community playthings do some large blocks they are great for open-ended play as children can use them in so many different ways and create different structures etc
- Large sheet of paper either on the floor or fixed to a wall and provide children with paint and other mark making tools and let the children paint or draw what the like or even use their bodies to paint with, the opportunities could be endless.
- Dressing up clothes. Provide children with dressing up clothes or resources that they can use to dress up with eg large pieces of material. Children love dressing up and inventing characters and stories
- Treasure baskets full of different items to explore. Treasure baskets are great for open-ended play as children will use them in different ways.
- Play dough. Children will spend a considerable amount of time exploring what they make with the play dough.
- Natural materials. Why not add wooden logs. Blocks of wood, straw, sticks and twigs to your small world area and let the children use their imagination.
There are many other resources that can be used to encourage open-ended play and these can be very simple and cost next to nothing.