When it comes to toys for our kids, we often go with what looks cool or what our kids would like. We often buy what we see on video toy reviews, commercials, or anything our kids ask for while we walk through the mall. But while all toys have their own sets of benefits not all toys are created equal.
Let me coin a term that came from Montessori called “Open-Ended Play”. Instead of having the kids stick to activities with one end goal, the activities involve them using their creative minds to make their playtimes meaningful. Rather than give them a game where they have to race from point A to point B, they are given cardboard boxes, art materials, string, paper, and blocks. The game is for them to control, and they have to come up with their own rules and their own ending.
This brings us to our topic of Open-Ended Toys which are toys that encourage creativity, learning, and imagination. This means that the toys we give do not have one purpose and one function – but the kids can use their imagination and make playtimes endless.
Legos/blocks are a perfect example of an open ended toy. Kids get building blocks that allow them to create things from cities to ships to whole galaxies. The limits are only bound by their imagination.
Another good example of an open-ended toy are wooden blocks. The kids get a stacking game where they have rules and an objective where pieces are pulled out and the tower must not collapse. But after they get bored the wooden blocks can become houses, dominoes, Colosseum walls, towers, bridges. and so on.
Modelling clay and kinetic sands are also considered as open ended toys. However get ready to make a mess.
The last point I would like to make is that open-ended toys are not limited to what you can buy in stores. You can use everyday items for kids to use such as old cardboard boxes, string, art materials, paint. What we did below is to transform an old balikbayan box to a diy store.
My son spent hours working on this and enjoyed playing shop owner.
Please also do not get me wrong. My son has his own set of regular toys which has its own purpose. However, as parents, we should also foster those activities that will help shape and develop our kid’s minds to it’s highest potential.
So let us try to keep our parenting minds and style’s “open-ended” as well. Let them be creative and let them explore – we will be amazed at what they will come up with as kids which they will carry on until adulthood.