Gifts That Inspire Open-Ended Play: The Tot Guide
Why is it that kids are often more excited about the box than the toy? Because it provides an opportunity for open-ended play! Discover the value of open-ended play and our wide array of toys that promote creativity and fuel the imagination.
Year after year, toy manufacturers advertise the latest and greatest — things that light up and make noise when you push a button, imitate the voice of a popular animated character or the actions of a monster-battling superhero. But their use is narrow in scope, because these toys neither inspire kids to create new worlds nor delight them beyond the handful of functions they were created to perform.
What is open-ended play?
Toys that inspire open-ended play, on the other hand, don’t come with a set of rules or predetermined outcomes and hold kids’ interest long after the latest fads and trends have faded. These toys loosen the reins on playtime, allowing kids’ imaginations to run wild and free without fear of failing or making a wrong move. They enable children to safely explore without expectations or assumptions, and in the process gain a sense of self and awareness of the world around them.
The benefits of open-ended play
Unlike toys that are initially exciting but limited, toys that promote open-ended play are limitless. These toys allow children to dream up ideas, create their own rules, and embrace possibilities. Plus they offer an array of benefits:
- encourages children to think critically, reason and self-regulate.
- ignites the imagination and creativity.
- provides a calming way to help process emotions.
- helps children develop independence and build leadership skills.
- promotes cognitive flexibility and social awareness.
- strengthens hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
- builds language expression and vocabulary.
Toys that inspire open-ended play
What kinds of toys and materials are ideal for open-ended play? Those that can be used in a variety of ways and are free of rules and limitations.
Here are 7 kinds of toys that promote open-ended play:
Blocks are so much more than they appear. They can transform into flying cars or towering buildings, a protective fort or a portal to a magical world. On a practical level, blocks keep kids’ hands busy while honing fine motor coordination and concentration.
Like blocks, stacking toys help children focus and test their balancing skills. They also help teach color recognition and develop numeracy skills. Stacking cups can be enjoyed both in the playroom and in the bath, adding even more possibilities as they create waterfalls, dunk them beneath the surface, and arrange them in different ways.
From cash registers and dollhouses to play kitchens and doctor’s kits, role-playing toys inspire kids to embrace the world of make-believe with props that emulate the real thing. They can cook at the stove, feed their baby, operate on their stuffed animal, and prepare imaginary feasts. Plus, they can explore the adult world with props that set the stage.
Dolls, plush toys and wooden animals offer so much more than tactile and visual appeal. They come to life in children’s minds, talking to one another, playing, interacting and sharing stories. You might even overhear your little one telling them how they feel and what they think about things, turning them into cherished confidants and companions.
Kids love to explore how things work. Toys like trucks, cars and machines create an opportunity to take a closer look. Encourage your children to set up race tracks, load up the dump truck and watch it empty out, or take them in the backyard and pretend they’re on a farm or construction site.
Arts & crafts supplies
Arts and craft supplies let children explore colors, designs, patterns and textures while honing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Supplies like play dough also engage children with soft, pliable clay they can mold and shape, which is naturally calming and soothing.
Dress-up clothes & costumes
Dressing up in past Halloween costumes, flowing silks, butterfly wings and even silly shoes and hats let kids explore different characters and become anyone or anything they want to be. Not only will their creativity take flight, so will their excitement, their sense of personal freedom, and their language skills as they navigate their way through imaginary worlds and adventures.
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