Open Ended Play….What Gives?

What is open ended play and why does it matter? Open ended play is any activity that allows children to create unlimited scenarios on their own. If you give a child a stick or a cardboard box, they can create a variety of activities on their own that allow them to express themselves.
What are some resources for open ended play? A variety of art supplies could be used, boxes, sticks, rocks, sand, water, anything that doesn’t have to be used in a prescribed way such as a toy that has one certain purpose. It could be most anything. All types of play are important for the child’s development, but open ended play offers some very important benefits. Open ended play fosters creativity. With music and art no longer being seen as academic in schools, and the fast paced curriculum taught in schools, open ended play is sadly becoming a thing of the past. This is detrimental to a child’s development.
Think about that teacher who makes all of the children create art that looks just the same. Are the children learning from that project? They are learning that the teacher doesn’t think they are talented or smart. Open ended play builds self-esteem and problem solving skills in children as well allows them to share their feelings, and sometimes even provides them a way to ask for help. Children need to be creative and allowed to make a project or activity their own. Self-expression helps children cope with their feelings and a tuned in teacher can learn about what the child is thinking and feeling through it.
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Creativity fosters mental growth in children by giving them the chance to try out new ideas and solve problems. Activities that are open ended celebrate uniqueness and diversity in each child and helps us focus on each child as an individual. Using their imagination is important for children to allow them to invent, grow, take chances, experiment, make mistakes in a safe environment and have fun. It develops life skills, innovation, and gives children a sense of achievement. Developmentally inappropriate practice at an early age such as flash cards and drills is even linked to mental illnesses. I want my children to have the very best chance for success and I know that comes from lots and lots of PLAY!
Creativity is one of the top factors in career success. Employers see it as an employable benefit. Everyone has the ability to be creative. It’s important that we give children the opportunity to express themselves and be creative in every day play. So throw out some open ended supplies and let your children teach you today!