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Do you ever find yourself sat on cold hard floor not really knowing the rules to some made up role play game?

If the answer is yes let me say well done, you are doing amazing things for your child’s imagination, creativity and play. You are helping to facilitate open ended play. And this is so wonderful because “unstructured, open ended play is where the magic of childhood happens” Alana Pace. Its for those precious moments when you catch a child totally absorbed in their play.  And that is why all children need open ended play opportunities. This blog will guide you in what open ended play is and what the benefits of open ended play are

What is open ended play?

Little ones: sensory dough

Open ended play is the most natural form of childhood play and is led by the child. Open ended play has no strict rules, no instructions and no desired outcomes. By removing these barriers children are free to discover, explore and learn in their own way and at their own pace. An overriding principle of open ended play is that its all about the process not the end result.

For example it’s putting some sensory dough, some wooden loose parts, sticks and leaves from the garden and letting your little one explore it for themselves, without any agenda as to what they ‘should’ create.

Or it could be setting up some different wooden shapes such as rings, cubes, hexagons and letting your little one explore or build or add to another play scene they have got going on. Little ones: open ended play baby

Ok, so what are the benefits of open ended play?

Little ones: giant den clip

When a child is engrossed in open ended play they are in their most natural form of play and therefore most natural form of learning. We all know we learn things

more easily if we work out an issue or problem ourselves rather than simply being told the right answer.

So imagine you’re a child and a collections of different shaped blocks and balls have been la

id out with a ramp and you (by yourself) discover that the ball rolls down the ramp but the cube just slides or doesn’t move. Now you’re really curious so you start exploring the other objects around you, like a car or a stone or perhaps a peg doll. This play allows a little one to start investigating, making new neural pathways and sparking a curiosity in the world around them.

Other benefits to your little one include:

  • Creating new neural pathways in their brain
  • Nurturing their imagination and developing creativity and curiosity in the world around them
  • Having a safe outlet for dealing with their emotions
  • Gaining a sense of control
  • Supporting their independence
  • Building social confidence and communication skills
  • Developing their vocabulary
  • Learning how to solve real life problems
  • Processing topics they find too hard to talk about
  • Having fun on the child’s terms

So now your know what open ended play is and what the benefits are its time to start putting it all into practice.

How about starting really simply by putting some rice, oats or cereal, a bowl, a scoop or a spoon in a tray and letting your little one explore. Try not to interrupt the play and just let them go for it and see the magic of childhood, learning and play.

Little ones: inspire my play tray

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