Almost all creativity requires purposeful play – Abraham Maslow

Open-ended toys go hand in hand with imaginary play. That’s because an open-ended toy is a toy that allows our children to play in a way where they are stimulating their creative thinking.

They are toys that can be played with, in a multitude of ways. Each child’s interpretation of the toy may vary, different games will be thought up and different lessons will be learnt.

Read: How to encourage imaginary play

How do we decide what an open-ended toy is?

Can it be used in unlimited ways?

Can it be used by multiple ages?

Can it be used to match and sort by colour/shape/ size?

Can it be used to count/ visualise mathematical concepts?

Can it be used to design and create patterns?

Can it be used as loose parts to add to construction play or imaginative play?

Can it be used to explore different concepts like light and shadow?

Can it be used to build and construct?

Can it be used to create small worlds

Does it encourage movement and the development of fine-motor skills?

Does it allow language opportunities in the way of introducing a wide range of vocabulary?

Does it encourage role play/pretend play?

Can it be used to create and tell stories?

Can it be used in water for bath play/sensory play?

Can it be used with other sensory mediums like sand, playdough etc?

Will it help to develop skills like problem-solving, trial and error, creativity and perseverance?

-Stories of Play

OK, so what are my top 10 open-ended toys?

  1. Lego
  2. Animals
  3. Wooden Blocks
  4. Dress up clothes 
  5. Doll’s (including superheroes)/Doll’s houses
  6. Farmhouses/Fire Houses/Castles
  7. Cars/Transport toys
  8. Playdough
  9. A sandpit/Water table
  10. Nature – sticks, stones, water, mud.

The reality is, that we don’t need to spend thousands of rands on toys that we ‘think’ might be educational. Many of the above-mentioned toys can be made at home, using ingredients in our kitchens, leftover boxes and crayons, even just a bag of old clothes that mom and dad don’t wear anymore.

But the everlasting impact of allowing our children to play freely whilst they are young is a gift that we as parents can give to them.

Previously published on Parenty

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