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What are Open-Ended Toys?
Aditya, a cute one-year-toddler plays with pots and pans for hours on end. Tanya, a six-year-old child, will want to play with a stick rather than an actual sword. This is probably because a stick can be many things at once, but a sword will always be a sword. Have you wondered why children seem to enjoy playing with things that are traditionally not considered toys rather than actual toys? We’ve all seen kids play with normal household items more excitedly than their toys. This is mainly because the item stimulates their imagination better than a toy with an instruction manual. This is known as open-ended play.
An open-ended is a toy that can be played in numerous ways. A key trait of open-ended toys is that they have no limitations on how they can be used. For example, a stick can be a wand one day, a sword the next. Although several studies generally agree that play itself is important for a child’s development, a few studies still need to be done specifically on open-ended play. Playing with open-ended toys includes some of the following benefits:
- Expands imagination: It’s quite obvious that it would take a lot of imagination to think of multiple uses for the same toy. Open-ended play allows children to decide what to play, how to play and allows them to discover and invent new ways to play. They can create new games entirely. They can imagine completely new worlds and make-pretend scenes.
- Social skills: Open-ended play, especially with peers, provides opportunities to teach children about courteous social behaviour and good teamwork skills. Children will learn to compromise on how long each can play with a toy or cooperate with others to create a different make-believe scene or a new game. Through these interactions with their peers, they will learn how to identify and consider other people’s emotions and opinions, which will help them form solutions and make compromises.
- Openness to experiences: There’s no “wrong” way to play with open-ended toys. When children can play without instructions or a set of rules, they become less concerned with doing things correctly. They become more open to trying new things and ideas, which will help them later in life. They develop an openness to new experiences, which a key factor in forming friendships.
- Development of leadership and decision-making skills: Playing with open-ended toys can allow children to become leaders. Since open-ended play doesn’t have a set of rules to abide y, the children make their own. This leaves the decision making up to the children themselves. Open-ended play allows them to open their imaginations and make creations entirely from their minds. They become the creative leaders of their games, and this helps them develop critical decision-making skills.