When we think back to our early childhood, we can all remember playing intricate and incredibly creative games, in which we visited outer space, built castles and searched for magical crystals. There were no rules, and the only limit was our imagination.
It turns out that this type of play was absolutely crucial to our development. While we were having fun, we were learning!
What is open-ended play?
Open-ended play is exactly what it sounds like. It is play without rules or restrictions which can lead anywhere. Unlike more formal, structured learning opportunities, open-ended play is directed by the children, without any preconceived aims or objectives.
In other words, open-ended play is the type of play we often send our children to do without us. Of course, we make sure that they are safe, but we also know that it is important that they learn how to play without our guidance and without us hovering over them.
It’s important to support children as they navigate the process of open-ended play, so we can still play a role through the resources we give them.
Resources for open-ended play can be anything which inspires children to use their imagination and be creative. We have all seen how much toddlers enjoy playing with everything – even cardboard boxes!
Connetix Tiles are the perfect educational toys for this purpose. Our magnetic tiles are flexible, adaptable and can be used to create shapes, build structures and design hidey-holes for precious toys.
What are the benefits of open-ended play?
Jean Piaget said, “Play is the work of childhood”, and he was absolutely right. There are numerous benefits to open-ended play:
To begin with, open-ended play can encourage creativity in your children. Anyone who has watched young children at play will have seen how creative they are, in ways that adults simply cannot emulate. Open-ended play gives them a chance to hone these skills – and have fun, of course.
Open-ended play can also be a tool to help your child learn about problem-solving. Perhaps your child is trying to cross an imaginary river as part of their game. They can use their imagination to think of how to get to the other side. You can bet their solution will be more innovative than simply walking across a bridge.
There is also no age limit to open-ended play. Children can have fun and learn through this type of play from a very young age to their teens and beyond. A resource like Connetix magnetic tiles is designed for children of all ages (3+) and is the ideal companion to open-ended play.
Finally, just as open-ended play has no limits, neither do Connetix Tiles. They can be used in a multitude of ways for all kinds of play.
How to encourage open-ended play
Although Connetix Tiles are among the most intuitive educational toys, the more children play with them, the more they will get from them. As they become more and more familiar with the magnetic tiles, their creativity and imagination will develop.
At first, children will need to learn how Connetix Tiles work. Don’t be afraid to model this for them.
You don’t want to direct them when they start playing, but you can certainly offer them a helping hand.
Once children have a good understanding of how to use Connetix Tiles, they can begin to build structures and shapes. There may be some trial and error here. Let them explore – and resist the urge to do it for them, even if they are struggling.
When children are comfortable with Connetix Tiles – and they’ve become their favourite toy – you now have everything you need to set up invitations to play.
An invitation to play derives from the Reggio Emilia philosophy of early childhood education. You set up the resources and invite your child to learn through exploration.
Let them take the lead on this. You’ll be amazed by what they come up with!
Some ideas for getting started
Now that you have a better understanding of open-ended play and its many benefits, here are a few ideas about how you can use Connetix Tiles as a way to kickstart creative open-ended play:
- Use your Connetix Tiles to represent a space that your child is familiar with, like a classroom or a train station. Give them the opportunity to take on different roles within those scenarios.
- Use the colours of the Connetix Tiles as a starting point. Perhaps your child can pick out all the green tiles and have them represent green foods or green things in nature.
- Begin to build a structure out of your Connetix Tiles. Ask your child for help with completing the structure or ask them what they think it looks like. Whatever they say, go with it!
It can be daunting sometimes to let our children engage in open-ended play. Both our children and we as parents are under such pressure to always parent with purpose.
However, with Connetix Tiles, you can rest assured that your child will be learning through open-ended play, that it will be a vital part of their development – and that they will have plenty of fun too!
For more ideas about how to use Connetix Tiles to support open-ended play, visit our Free Resources page or join the Connetix Club for the latest updates.