What is Open-Ended Play?
Open-ended play occurs when you let your child’s imagination run free during playtime. There are no directions and no restrictions. Open-ended play can be fostered with specific open-ended toys like blocks, trucks, or dress-up costumes. It can also be nurtured with the simplest of materials and items like a cardboard box or bubble wrap.
If you're looking for a fun way to keep your child engaged, grab one of these materials - many of which you likely already have on hand - and let your child's creativity take it from there.
6 Open-Ended Materials that Spark a Child’s Imagination
- Bubble wrap: Invite your child to decide how this packing material might be repurposed - maybe it’s a runway or if your child is all about cars and trucks - a road!
- A cardboard box: With a little creativity, there’s no limit to what a cardboard box can become. A big part of its appeal is imagining what it could be - a tunnel, a pirate ship, a car, a play house, a rocket...the possibilities are truly endless.
- Craft supplies: Any leftover contact paper, tape, and household items like bottle caps, pipecleaners, and pieces of straw will do. With these items, you can make a sticky mural and invite your child to decorate the canvas. Something to keep in mind, if your child still likes to put items in his mouth, this activity is not for her.
- A large plastic container: Fill a Tupperware container with pom poms or cotton balls to make a fun sensory bin your child can explore using tongs or chopsticks. Or to help beat the rainy/snowy day blues, using just a little food coloring and some creativity, create a fun beach-themed play scene.
- Writing supplies. Staple a few pieces of paper together to create a story book. Encourage your child to fill the book with pictures or words - or both. For children who aren’t yet able to write, offer to transcribe their story for them
- Blankets & pillows: Fort building is a great group activity that helps foster pretend play. Kids will add their own unique touches to it and once they’re done, they’ll play in it for hours.