Toys! The one word that fills joy in the hearts of children and parents alike.. toys and more toys. Reflections of our own childhood take us back to the simple, wooden toys we played with – toy horses on wheels pulled by strings, a doll that opened and closed her eyes when she was laid down, steel kitchen utensil sets where we cooked elaborate meals in our mind. In our children we get to relive those days of being lost in the beautiful world of toys. And kids today have so much choice when it comes to toys. A somewhat new term that is heard often today is Open Ended Toys. And most parents are scrambling to get them… Just what are these and why should you buy more of these toys?
What are Open Ended Toys?
Toys perform various functions. They help children play, reach goals, teach them skills and so on. Many toys have one use only.. for example a board game like Scrabble. The objective is to make words and the one who earns the maximum points wins the game. Game over! This is the only use you can put a game of Scrabble to.. discount all those cute little flat lays that bloggers make with the board and the letters.
Open ended toys on the other hand are goal-less. You can play with them in a variety of ways. A good and easily understood example is play dough. You can make geometric shapes, fruits, animals, cars, houses. When you are done making a shape you can cut the playdough figures with a knife like device to pretend you are chopping up vegetables and fruits for dinner. You can use playdough to join two pieces of blocks or twigs. The options are endless.
You usually don’t have to teach a child how to play with an open ended toy. With these there are no rules, no goals, no limits, no outcomes. But open ended toys are abundant in learning… and which is why new age parents are flocking to buy them by the truckload!
What does your child stand to gain?
A lot actually!
Because there are no boundaries, open ended toys are incredibly brain and skill boosting. They teach a child several aspects – from fine motor development, to understanding how weights and measures work, how nature works. For an insightful moment I had with wooden blocks read this post N is for Natural Parenting. Interestingly this was also for the #AtoZ blogging challenge from 2017.
Open ended toys also build creativity and imagination. Children try to stack blocks, build a train with them, make a house with them and then a bridge.. then they pass a toy car under the bridge. So many elements learned all with one set of toys. And also learning of concepts – pass a car that is a little too big and the bridge of blocks will collapse. Size, shape, fitting under things all become a lesson. Win! Re-build it and try again with a smaller car.
And that is a very important skill to be learned too… making errors and then fixing them. And heaps of patience, problem solving skills. This is not just a life skill but a social and personality skill which will hold them in good stead for a lifetime.
Most importantly open ended play encourages development of these skills in a very natural way – by learning and making mistakes and then re-doing. There is little pressure to arrive at a goal. The learning process is all about self-discovery. Making choices and decision making are key skills for them to develop.
And finally open ended play gives kids freedom to develop initiative and self-confidence. They enjoy making choices themselves, affirming their ability to be responsible and self-directed.
Great, so let’s see these toys
Toys such as blocks, lego, pretend toys like fruit cutting, animal figures, kitchen tool sets, doll houses all qualify as open ended toys. They allow the child’s imagination to soar and he can spend time playing with these as best as likes.
This is one of our favorite cut the fruit toy sets.
And we learned the importance of breakfast with the help of this bread and jam set.
(These are affiliate links. If you make a purchase from these links I earn a teeny tiny commision from Amazon, however you do not pay any extra charges.)
Usually open ended toys also enable single player or multiplayer mode, without changing any settings. 🙂 Moving between these modes can be seamless. Yes, I just used video gaming tonality to convey how free flowing open ended toys are.
Open ended toys are also a feast for the senses – they have texture, temperature, smell, weight and visual appeal. This gives a multi-faceted learning.
Some toys are also neutral coloured so as to allow children to even imagine them to be any colour they want. So if a green lego block is only good to be used as grass or greenery, a neutral coloured block can become a car, an animal, a fruit or anything the child imagines it to be.
Do these toys burn a hole in the pocket?
Raising a child is expensive business, I agree with that wholeheartedly. And some of these toys are expensive. They are made of wood, usually hand crafted, painted with environmentally friendly and child safe colours. They are bound to be a little expensive.
But open ended play doesn’t have to be with open ended toys alone. Before there were ever, any toys children spent their time playing with nature and all that she had to offer. Twigs, dried leaves, flowers all are toys for children and these can also offer them limitless possibilities.
If not nature, your house is a veritable treasure trove of toys. Is it any wonder that children love playing with empty cartons, the remainder of the kitchen roll, empty pots and pans? For them it is all experiential learning.
Here is one such impromptu maze and drop we made using old kitchen roll tubes and plastic glasses. Shabby job I know, but its endlessly fun. It’s always a delight for babyT to understand what object will pass through the maze and which piece will get stuck along the way.
Open ended toys are a world full of imagination and creativity. You may catch yourself playing with these toys once in a while when your child is looking the other way. I am sure you already have many of these toys in your stash already. Which ones do you think offer your children the most happiness?
This blog post is part of a series for the #AtoZBloggingChallenge where my theme is
New Age Parenting: Parenting in 201x.
Read my theme reveal post here.
To read all the posts for the #AtoZChallenge go here – #AtoZ2018
You may also find this post on Mindful Parenting very helpful.