Providing open-ended PLAY experiences for the preschool kiddos was extremely important to me. My belief, one strongly backed by research, is PLAY is the natural, and organic way young children learn. Additionally, I know PLAY addresses all areas of a child’s development. I’d go so far as to say it lays the foundation for a child’s overall success now and later! Read on why offering open-ended PLAY activities takes their PLAY to another level.
Stages of PLAY
Children go through various stages of development in terms of the way in which they PLAY. They grow and mature from:
1 Unoccupied PLAY
Infants basically are entertained by parents and/or are observing their environment
2 Solitary PLAY
Children play on their own, seemingly oblivious to others playing nearby
3 Onlooker PLAY
A child may ask questions of other children playing, but makes no attempt to join in
4 Parallel PLAY
Children play side-by-side, each doing their own thing, but aware of and paying attention to each other
5 Associative PLAY
Social interaction begins—children start interacting with one another; they have similar goals for play, but no set rules
6 Cooperative PLAY
This usually occurs by the time children reach late preschool to kindergarten age. In this stage children coordinate the play for common goals; often there are set roles and rules. Play can be quite involved. Ideas are shared; negotiation and compromise practiced!
Notice in just the descriptions of the stages of PLAY, how a child’s body AND mind grows, naturally, through PLAY!
PLAY is often described as child’s play and implied as simple. It is anything but simple and is very important! In fact PLAY is so important it was immortalized in a quote by Albert Einstein. PLAY is the highest form of research!
How would you define PLAY? Or maybe a better question is: What was your PLAY experience? And how do you want your child to experience it?
Categories of PLAY
PLAY can be divided into two broad categories:
●Structured PLAY, or close-ended PLAY
●Unstructured PLAY, or, the term I prefer: Open-ended PLAY
Structured PLAY includes organized activities; there are rules and often a desired ‘ending’ or winner. Many times, they are adult-led or adult overseen activities.
Open-ended PLAY Characteristics:
- Child-directed with no specific goals or desired ‘ending’;
- Done for pure enjoyment or interest;
- Allows for children’s ideas to flow from one to another as they become immersed in their imaginations
- Let’s their creativity take hold…and then take off!
As parents, YOU are your child’s 1st, and most important, teachers. What materials you decide to give them to play with will contribute to what they learn about:
● others; and
● the world around them
What you choose for them is important!
Toys can also be divided into two categories: Close-ended and Open-ended.
Puzzles are an example of a close-ended toy. Pieces must go together in specific orientations, for puzzles to be done correctly. Close-ended toys, however, do have benefits. For example, puzzles develop:
● Fine Motor Skills,
● Spatial Awareness, as well as
● Problem-Solving Skills.
But in terms of their PLAY-value alone, puzzles are limited.
Blocks are an example of an open-ended toy
Characteristics of Open-ended Toys
● There are no ‘rules’ to follow
● Can be put together in a variety of ways
● Adding props to blocks gives PLAY a different focus or theme
● Blocks ‘grow’ with your child
Open-ended toys: Ingredients for Open-ended PLAY!
PLAY BENEFITS with Open-ended toys:
- Fosters Imagination
- Enhances Creativity
- Develops Social/Emotional Intelligence such as Empathy, Cooperation, Negotiation & Leadership Skills
- Expands Cognitive Skills like Problem-solving, Divergent Thinking & Brainstorming
- Boosts Self-Confidence, Self-Esteem & Self-Regulation
Open-ended toys are often simple toys, but with a lot of PLAY power! They require effort on the part of children. Kiddos aren’t passive in open-ended PLAY, but rather active participants.To engage in and sustain PLAY, children must draw on their imaginations and make use of their creativity. Plus, open-ended PLAY provides opportunities to engage and develop multiple developmental areas simultaneously.
In well-balanced PLAY spaces your kidlet will interact with both open-ended and close-ended toys and materials. What YOU need to guarantee is they’re given the time, freedom and space for open-ended PLAY! There are free resources available right here!
Feel free to contact me if you need assistance in setting up your kiddo’s PLAY space!
Yours in Play!