Motherhood or Parenthood can be so fun and so overwhelming - all at once. When we were pregnant with Shloka we had very different plans for Shloka and how we would raise our toddler is a pre covid world. Of course with the pandemic hitting the world at 4 months, we had to rely heavily on indoor play and exposing the child to sensorial stimuli within the confines of the house.
For me as a parent, open ended play really helped. So this is me trying to explain to you - a new parent, a to be parent, a parent who has just heard of this term before - what it means and why it is so important.
Open-ended play is soooo amazing !
It encourages experimentation and perseverance and keeps your children busy for hours, buying you the time to have five minutes' rest and a nice cup of tea - trust me when we had next to zero help with the baby - this is what made life mange-able...
Remember when you were a kid, the feeling of just sitting with a material, of exploring it, without any end-goal in mind? It could have been pebbles, water, kitchen utensils, the good old atta, wooden blocks, sand, fabric of your mom's dupatta or play-dough. The point is that you didn't know what you were going to do when you started, only that you felt the urge to experiment.
Open-ended play is play without boundaries.
When you decide to complete a puzzle there is only one way to do it. These games are closed-ended. There is enormous learning value to such activities - many require great skill to complete and you also learn how to finish tasks, follow rules and take turns.
But these are distinctly different skills to the ones developed through open-ended play.
open-ended play has soooo many benefits -
- It challenges you to use your imagination, to investigate and to problem-solve.
- It encourages independent play
- It develops confidence and inquisitiveness, patience and resilience, skills that feed into every aspect of school and life beyond - which is why it is adopted by more and more parents and preschools around the globe.
- This one is my favourite - though we are just beginning to see this with our almost 2 year old - it lasts for extended periods of time - which means more time for Chai....
I've already summarised our favourite open ended toys in this post so I wont go into the details but toys like - blocks, play silks, wooden figures, dolls, pretend play toys, play dough, tents, rainbow rice, paints, trays, doll houses, baskets etc are all part of open ended tools.
I know I run a toy store so it would be awesome to say just buy these are thats all you need but honestly, you DON'T need these toys all the time. You can introduce to your child open ended materials and resources that are easily accessible to all - Open-ended materials are like open-ended toys only cheaper! They are items such as fabrics, liquids, pieces of paper, old shoes; anything you can usually find in your home, and they can often be easily combined with other open-ended materials. Keep a box of them at home and you’ll find there’s always something to inspire open-ended play. Here’s our list of the best materials for open-ended play:
- Water. Whether it’s at bath time, in puddles or at a specially designated water table or sink, children are mesmerised by the properties of water. Jugs, cups, sponges, water toys will have them happily experimenting and exploring for a long time.
- Household items like wooden spoons, bowls and saucepans
- String. Think Tom Sawyer, there's a reason the archetypal school boy has a length of string in his pocket: you can get up to all sorts of trouble with it. If you're worried about safety, stick to short strands, but if you are around to supervise, it's hard to beat a whole ball of string for open-ended capers.
My darling Shloka loves water play over anything, I don't know if it is inspired by her favourite Peppa Pig but muddy puddles wins over any blocks or stackers. In a better world I would have said there are many open ended play activities that your kid can enjoy outdoors but honestly we are pretty confined to our home and maybe the terrace for muddy puddles so I can't really say much here. But sand play, mud play, sticks and. natural flowers / leaves would top my list for sure.
Just remember to let your child take the lead. It’s not open-ended if you’re taking charge or setting goals! Please allow mistakes and mess to happen. Since there is no end-product in sight, open-ended play is relaxed also it can lead to out of the box thinking. Please don’t help your child fix something or do it ‘the right way’, unless they ask you for help. There is no right or wrong.
You’ll know it’s going well because your child is deep in thought, lost in the activity.
So let them play, let them learn through play, let them enjoy themselves.