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6 top tips for imaginative, creative and curious play at home

Perhaps you’ve read our previous blog ‘what is open ended play’ or just want to elevate your at home play sessions, we’re here to help. We have complied a tried and tested list of our top tips for creating the conditions to help your child play creatively, independently and learn loads in the process. But before we give you the top tips I want  to say well done to you – you are doing a great job already, simply by reading this blog you are making positive changes in your playful journey. Take it at your pace and try and enjoy it.

                                                                                                      Two children playing with wooden cubes and balls                 Little girl stacking wooden shapes          Giant den clip being used with wooden balls

Our 6 top tips for great play

  1. There will probably be mess, that’s natural and normal, so make sure you choose a time and location which works for your. Setting up soil and water in a cream living room before you’re about to go out probably isn’t going to be the best conditions for a great open ended play session. It’s ok to choose a time and place that works for you.

    Little ones: open ended play example

  2. That sort of leads onto tip number two, try not to interfere. Once the little one is into the flow of playing take a step back, have a cup of tea (but do stay close, see point 3), read a book. By not offering suggestions of what might happen next, or adding new items into the play we let the child take the lead and follow their own thought processes. I have on occasion found myself sitting without saying anything for 15 minutes or so whilst my littlies are absorbed in their own worlds – it’s magic!
  3. Open ended play often works best when the child starts the play themselves, By this I mean, you may have set some bits up (perhaps playdough and loose parts, or  cars and some planks of wood) but let the child find this invitation to play in their own time. I have rarely found a great open ended play session come about if I have suggested what my two could play with.

    Little Ones: open ended play, play set up Little Ones: open ended farm play

  4. Open ended play does not mean ‘alone play’. Children need us to be present during this play but not necessarily involved. Although if invited to join in go for it and enjoy but still let the child lead the play.
  5. Sometimes it doesn’t work and that is absolutely fine. We all have off days and children are no exception, maybe today they want a fixed goal (completing a puzzle for example). Or the invitation to play doesn’t spark their interest at the time. Try not to worry, move on and try again another day.
  6. Get outside. Simply by its nature the great outdoors offers so many open ended play opportunities, think forests (how many different things can the humble stick be), sand or your garden.

                                             Little Ones: example of outside play     Little Ones: example of outside play on a beach
A few of our favourite toys and resources for open ended play

  • Sand, soil , waterLittle Ones: den being made with
  • Carboard boxes
  • Cubes, bricks and balls
  • bowls, containers (plant pots, plastic of wooden dishes, sorting trays)
  • Small world  items- trees, fences, sticks, vehicles
  • Sensory dough and sensory bases
  • Loose parts (wooden shapes, straws, leaves, flowers, bottle tops – the list is endless)
  • Peg people and animals
  • Real life objects – clean nappies, water spray bottles, teapots, old laptops, phone

Hopefully you are now bursting with ideas, a willingness to play and are ready to dive into the truly magic world of open ended play.

What I’m buying for a more playful summer?

When choosing my new resources for the holidays I always try and select new bits and bobs from different areas of play. Theis helps so we don’t end up with loads of the same types of toys, leading to the inevitable “i’m bored” comments.

Picture of brightly coloured sensory bases, including sensory dough, rice and chickpeas

Brightly coloured sensory bases

Areas of play

Creativity and sensory – stock up on art supplies and look for new ways to use them. Who doesn’t love a new pen or sensory dough.  I also like to add different base resources into the mix, so you could try adding a mirror and using Kitpas crayons or paint on that or use a big plastic sheet and decorate that instead of paper. Perhaps you could save up old recycling for decorating and junk modelling.

Small world play – add a few new bits to your little ones favourite type of small world play. This might be a few new animals, cars, people or maybe its furniture for a dolls house.

Imaginary or dramatic play- I love the wondercloths which can be used in so many new ways – think capes, or small world scene background. How about a new costume or a wooden ice cream set to play ice cream shops.


Wooden ice cream set with felt balls    Sensory dough set including treasure bags of loose part and rolling pins     Wooden heart and star wands with paint pots   Inspire my play tray with a child using kitpas bath crayons to draw on   Octopus peg doll   Little girl stacking up different shaped wooden cubes

Puzzles, games or kits – could you have a summer challenge of an epic puzzle for over the summer holidays or maybe a new sensory play kit is what your little one would love. For slightly older children a resource such as the knitting fork or braiding star offers a great ‘puzzle’ for creating wonderful braids and threads. I am also a big fan of orchard toys and their games – they offer so many different options to suit your little ones preferences.

Building – If your little one is into building could add a few new blocks into their existing collection? Maybe its a few smaller cubes or a stacking stone in a different shape, making the build a bit more challenging.

A final word

You don’t need to buy everything, you know your little one and what they like best so lean into – trust yourself.

Remember to check out your local charity shop or Facebook Marketplace for some of these items – they will be loads cheaper and better for the planet to buy second hand. If you are buying new please try and support small and independent businesses – it means the world to us.

How about a toy swap – If your little ones are anything like mine they love other children’s toys so why not capitalise on that and meet up with friends with children a similar age and do a toy swap over the summer.

I also recommend spreading out the newness – perhaps each week or at peak points  of tensions it could be a great way to help the calm return.

Wooden dog figures - Labrador, poodle, sausage dog and westie

Wishing your the most playful summer yet.

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