Open Ended Play

If you follow me on Instagram and Facebook you would see on a lot of my posts I talk about open ended play. It is one of our most favourite forms of play based learning. 

What is open ended play?

Open ended play is when you encourage children to play freely without any limits. There is no right or wrong way to play and children can make items be whatever they want them to be. The past few months I have been busy creating an open ended rich environment within our home. I started by donating 99% of our toys that made noises or had flashing lights. And bought in open ended items and made them readily available.


The benifets I have observerved from incorporating and encouraging open ended play in our home are:

  • Imagination: Since giving Dot a more open ended rich environment I have noticed how much her imagination has expanded.For instance our washing basket to Dot is now any form of transport she wants it to be. Dot is forever hopping into it and telling she is flying a plane, driving a car, pulling into the train station.
  • Symbolic play: has increased simple blocks have now become a large range of things from magical doors into other worlds to ponds for frogs to swim in.
  • Self expression: Dot appears very relaxed and free when engaging in open ended play. Dot thrives on the ability to be able to think and do as she pleases. Dot is no longer concearned about wether she is doing an activity/game right or wrong just that she is having fun.
  • Speech: Dot’s speech is dramatically developing. Dot is able to express what she is doing as well as ask questions to do with her activity which often includes me discussing new words with her.
  • Creativity: is expanding as Dot’s confidence in her own artistic ability and is now trying to draw and create things that she imagines and sees.
  • Social & Emotinal development: open ended play has definitely given Dot the opportunity to understand the world around her. As well as consequences for her actions. I often see Dot reenacting incidents that have happend in her day with her toys. 

Our top 10 picks for open ended toys and why:

These are our favourite open ended toys that we own and have had the most success with. They are in no particular order…

  1. Grimms large wooden rainbow- This is one of our most favourite toys. I won’t lie it is a big investment they aren’t cheap however I personally believe they are worth their weight in gold. Daddy was a bit sceptical when I announced that this would be the gift we would be getting Miss Dot for her 2nd birthday. But the moment Dot saw it and took it apart and told us it was horses I knew I had made the right choice. It is now used for many things tunnels for cars, beds for people, houses for families and slides just to mention a few.
2.Wooden peg people- we have two different sets of wooden peg dolls Dot uses them in all different ways. They are wonderful for sparking creativity and imagination as they have no faces so they can be male or female and have a variety of different emotions. Perfect for helping little ones to express themselves.
3. Rainbow Blocks- These delightful blocks have become a hit this past month. Dot has been building and creating with them as well as exploring exploring the effects of lights and shadows.
4. Kinetic Sand- Wonderful for creating as well exploring for sensory development. Dot uses Kinetic Sand for small worlds, pretend cooking, making sand castles as well as Loose Parts Play.
5. Magna Snaps- They are a wonderful toy for open ended construction play. So much fun for building and creating. Dot’s favourite things to build with them at the moment are tree houses and boats for families. These are great for little ones as they are magnetic so building tall towers without them falling over is achievable.
6. Play Dough and Loose Parts- Are such wonderful and  versatile resources to have for open ended play the possibilities are endless together they really can be absolutely anything you want them to be.
7. Plastic Animals- Are adored in our home we have them in all different shapes, sizes and colours. They are incorporated into so many open ended activities from small worlds to water play.
8. Dress Ups- Especially items like play silks that can become capes, dresses, skirts ect.
 9. Billibo’s-  Small ones and big ones these are so great. I once heard of these being referred to as a “fancy cardboard box”. I love them  as they are indestructible water proof and weatherproof. They can be dragged about used as dress ups as a small world, sensory bin, sorting tub, car, chair to read in the possibilities are endless. Dot also loves to sit and spin in hers.
10. Paint- Is such a fun way to explore with open ended play. Dot loves to mix colours, create pictures, do dinosaur prints, finger paints so many activities can be enjoyed through painting.
Hope you enjoyed some insight on open ended play would love to know what your favourite open ended toys are.
If you would like to read more about open ended play check out our Loose Parts PlayWhy Play With Play Dough & 5 Fun Ways To Play With Paint

2 thoughts on “Open Ended Play

  1. Amanda Adams says:

    Brilliant post!!! I don’t have too many bells and whistles toys either but this article makes me want to double check again tomorrow just in case! I love open ended play too! I’d love to see Dott and M playing together!!


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