What are Open Ended Toys and why are they beneficial?

“What makes a toy ‘open ended’?” “What’s the hype about open ended toys?” and “Why does it matter?” These are a couple of questions that I frequently get asked. Open ended toys foster creativity, ingenuity, and development. One of the best parts about open ended toys is they are perfect for children of a variety of ages!

 

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What Makes a Toy Open Ended?

Open ended toys are toys that don’t have a specific function. Because of this, the ways to manipulate and play with the open ended toys are endless. Before we go further, it is probably beneficial to give examples of toys that are NOT open ended. Toys that are not open ended are toys that usually do the playing for the child. What I mean by that is if you have a toy with buttons, lights, and sounds, the child simply presses those functions and the toy does the playing, rather than the child. This isn’t to say you can never have these types of toys, but it is something to be conscious about when selecting toys.

 

What makes a toy open ended

 

Open ended toys are toys that do not have these functions. They seem to be a little more plain and sometimes may seem even “boring” initially. They may not be the toys that are the most exciting when opening up those Christmas presents, but if you watch, these are the toys that will get played with over and over again. Children always come back to open ended toys because there are limitless possibilities with creations and ideas on how to play and manipulate the toy.

These are the kind of toys that your two year old will play with, and continue to play with at age 8. For example, think about blocks. Simple blocks are just as fun for a two year old as they are for an 8 year old. Why? Because as your child gets older, they are able to create more and more with these open ended toys. If you think back on the toy that has the lights, sounds and buttons, children only do so much with the toy and as they get older those toys are no longer interesting for the child. 

 

What’s the Hype About Open Ended Toys?

Why do people get so excited and passionate about open ended toys? Because once you focus on open ended toys you won’t want to go back! You will not only watch your child’s creativity expand, but you will also notice how your child will engage longer with open ended toys. Their play becomes magical and you will be able to see how much they learn by simply having open ended toys.

 

open ended toy benefits

 

For example you might watch your child use Safari Ltd animals in a small world scene, sensory activity, balancing on blocks, mimicking the animals behavior in pretend play, with slime and play dough, and by asking questions about the animals diet, habitat, features, etc. The possibilities become endless with open ended toys, and as a parent it is so fun to watch!

 

Why Does it Matter?

Children are naturally curious and inquisitive. They want to learn. They want to explore. They want to figure things out. Having open ended toys allows your child to do just that. Because the toys are open ended, they also grow with your child. Your child is able to grow developmentally because they are able to expand their play. They get more creative, more intuitive and more focused in their play. Their play has a purpose in their mind and they are able to meet their own objectives rather than simply meeting a toy’s objective.
 
 
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Open ended toys provide opportunities for children to grow in confidence and competence as they allow for your child to use their cognitive skills to form their own ideas and creativity in a visual and tangible way.  Open ended toys work their fine motor, large motor, and cognitive skills as they manipulate the toy. Open ended toys help children discover the magic in play and not rely on technology to provide entertainment, but to further enhance the notion that less is more. Sometimes the child will claim that they are “bored” with open ended toys, but I promise as you are patient, your child will begin to create things that they didn’t know they could create.
 
They will be able to come up with ideas that are their own, and become confident in their ability to implement those ideas. They will feel competent in those accomplishments and have a greater sense of individuality and worth. That is why open ended toys matter. Open ended toys aren’t just about play, they are about forming the whole child, from the inside out. 
 
 
open ended play
 
RyLee Matangi is a Child Development Specialist & Blogger. Find her work on purposefultoys.com

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