Supporting Play with Open Ended Toys

As adults, it’s easy for us to refer to something as ‘child’s play’. But there is more to play than meets the eye. Combined with open ended toys, play a powerful tool to help children learn, especially in early childhood. And Connetix is the perfect educational toy for learning through play.

Playing with open ended toys can sometimes be confusing or confronting for kids (and adults), so invitations to play are a great way to kickstart imaginations and creativity. An invitation to play is all about encouraging kids to discover and explore.

Ready to try open-ended play? Here is how to get started.

Open Ended And Close Ended Play

As a parent or grandparent, you have likely come across articles and blog posts about the importance of open ended play. Open ended play is about allowing your children endless possibilities when they are playing. They can make their own decisions, lead the way and develop their creativity.

This is in stark contrast to close ended play. Close ended play has instructions, clear directions, and goals. Board games and jigsaw puzzles are examples of this type of game. Most school activities are also modelled on close ended play.

Creating opportunities for open ended play is important for encouraging children to use their imaginations, and be creative, problem solving, flexible learners.

However, it is important to consider that children are generally exposed to close ended activities, and not all children are naturally interested in open ended toys or play. This is where invitations to play are crucial.

 

What Is An Invitation To Play?

Invitations to play are collections of props or materials you set up together, most likely with some thought behind the process. The idea is to encourage children to investigate, explore, and create a pathway into play. For example, setting up a train track and using some blocks for buildings, or starting to build a large tower.

Provocations, on the other hand, want to provoke an action and stimulate thinking. A provocation often contains a question. For example, “What is gravity?”

Invitations can be created with a specific intention in mind. Perhaps you wanted your child to learn about a specific concept. However, they also work very well with no intention at all apart from the props being interesting or fun. The idea is to offer a change from more structured activities and encourage children to use their imagination.

There is no perfect invitation to play. And invitations to play may not always receive the response you expect. In fact, it’s often best to have no expectations when it comes to open ended play and how children will engage with the invitations to play you create. Some children will love building blocks, some will enjoy drawing, others are more interested in natural materials.

 

Why Are Invitations To Play Important?

Open ended play teaches children to think for themselves, use their imagination, and solve problems. In short, open ended play encourages children to develop real-world life skills in early childhood.

Not every child will naturally seek out opportunities for open ended play. However, everyone benefits from the skills learned in later life. Invitations to play provide pathways towards this type of play.

 

How To Create Invitations To Play At Home

 

  • Combine Natural and Manmade Materials
  • Let Your Children Inspire You
  • Give It Some Time
  • Engage With Your Children

 

Combine Natural And Manmade Materials

Start collecting! Creating invitations to play is not necessarily about having a big budget and buying a stack of new toys.

Instead, take a look around your house to see what you already have. Perhaps there are toys that your children are no longer interested in. Put in a new context and combined with natural materials, they may have another lease of life.

Think about adding pebbles, seashells, or any other materials you have easy access to. Be careful to keep it age-appropriate: if your children are still young and put everything in their mouth, you may need to supervise them closely.

Most children are fascinated by natural resources. You may find that they spend longer playing with those than other items. Saying that, building blocks of any kind remain a firm favourite with many, across all ages.

Let Your Children Inspire You

Listening to your children and observing them when they are playing will provide plenty of inspiration for invitations to play. You will gain an insight into their imagination which you can then use when you set up your invitations. If trains are all the rage, you can use your Connetix to create a train track and station. A blue and purple Connetix castle might be the perfect invitation for Frozen fans.

Pay close attention when your children are asking questions. Those questions reveal the topics they are interested in and keen to explore further. Of course, you can also decide to offer invitations outside of what your children are already considering.

 

Give It Some Time

Giving open ended play and related activities time applies in more ways than one.

If there is space in your home, consider leaving the materials out for your children to discover in their own time.

It is also important to consider your child’s schedule. The older children are, the more likely they are to have a daily schedule packed with activities. If that sounds like your children and you have noticed they are reluctant to engage in open ended play, create some downtime for them. An invitation to play may be the perfect way for them to unwind after a day at school.

 

Engage With Your Children

Your time is just as important. Sitting and playing with your children can make the difference between inspiring them or not. Throwing them some ideas or asking open ended questions is often all it takes to start them off.

 

How Connetix Can Help Create Open Ended Play

Do your children want to be farmers today, or would they rather build a castle? Connetix Tiles make either possible.

If they are obsessed with a fairy-tale movie, ask them to build their version of a tower or a whole castle. You can use the ‘ideas booklet’ as a guide but your children will often have their own ideas. Strong magnets provide solid building foundations, so there is no limit to the size of the castle you can build.

Geometrically shaped tiles are perfect for making colourful mandalas. At the same time, your children learn about patterns and colours. Placed near windows you can watch the light creating different patterns on your walls.

Open ended play is hugely important for every child’s development – as is having fun. As many children have increasingly busy lifestyles and days packed with scheduled activities, it is important to create a space where they can follow their imagination without an expected result. What’s more, creating invitations to play will challenge your own creativity. It will also offer great opportunities to spend time with your children and get to know their personalities better.

 

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