Why We Love Open-Ended Toys
What are open-ended toys, you ask? These are the toys that don’t have one right way to play. They’re the toys that can be used in a variety of ways depending on the child, their imagination and their interest of the day.
Are closed-ended toys “bad”? Not as such. They certainly have their place. In fact, puzzles are a great example of close-ended toys that are very beneficial. No, close-ended toys aren’t bad. They just don’t allow as much room for your child to use their own imagination. They’re often one-and-done or do a lot of the playing work for your child. We still have plenty of close-ended toys in our home, but more and more they’re used alongside open-ended toys to extend play.
Open-ended toys may appear plain or even boring initially. They don’t necessarily make the most exciting presents to open. But these are the toys that will be played with over and over again, providing limitless opportunities as your child grows and develops.
So why do we love them? Let me count the ways!
- They Promote Longer Play Times and Independent Play. Watch as a carefully created block tower is knocked over by a passing dinosaur. The pile of blocks seamlessly melds into a mountain to be climbed, or a meal to be eaten. Play with open-ended toys flows and evolves more readily leading to longer play sessions independently.
- They Encourage Imagination. So much imagination is used when simple toys are presented. Kids are custom-built to be imaginative and the simpler the toys the more practice we give them to stretch their imaginative powers.
- They Allow Creativity Without Rules. There are lots of rules in our little peoples lives. Open-ended toys give a great outlet to explore and be creative without worrying about the rules or whether they’re playing the game “right”. They get to be in charge and make their own decisions without structure.
- They Provide Opportunities for Problem-solving, Perseverance and Resilience. There’s nothing like a tower toppling at the wrong moment to trigger frustration. Open-ended toys give children a great opportunity to feel those frustrations in a safe space. As they rebuild the tower, they problem-solve to avoid the same mishap, while learning they can keep trying and bounce back.
- They Inspire Drama. Our kids love drama! With open-ended toys the drama can be as BIG as their imagination can conceive.
- They Explore Complex Concepts. Physics, engineering and design skills are ignited while playing with open-ended toys. Watch your child explore cause and effect as they figure out how to cantilever their castle top by placing the blocks just so.
- They Develop Social and Emotional Intelligence. Children playing together with open-ended toys learn to read social cues and respond appropriately. Pretend play allows them to explore a wide range of emotions in a low pressure setting and build emotional intelligence.
- They Process Events and Stories. Pretend play is a great way to help our kids to process events in their lives – big and small. They get to explore experiences that might be uncomfortable, like visiting the Doctor. Or replay exciting moments, like opening Christmas presents. Children are also great at using pretend play to help them work through more challenging life events like family illness, trauma or the arrival of sibling.
- They Grow with Your Child. Open-ended toys are a great investment as they will be played with for years. I love watching my boys playing with the same toys at their different ages and stages. They each play so differently, yet both get such enjoyment from the same block or peg doll or figurine.
- They are Fun for Adults Too! You know a toy will last the distance when the grown-ups still have fun. When you really don’t feel like playing, it helps to have toys on hand that you like too. Arrange those toys in an aesthetically pleasing way and then watch your little darlings destroy your creation. 😉