We bought this set of blocks for $4 from a shop that sells handmade wooden things such as bowls, toys, dolls houses and rocking horses. They are basically just off cuts that have had the edges smoothed.
They have not been painted, or cut into any particular shapes.
They do not require batteries, or wind up, or make noises.
They are not decorated with pictures of Disney princesses or Buzz Lightyear.
They can be anything that the children want them to be. Today Callum used them to build an airport. Tomorrow they might become a city, or food for the tea-set, or a robot, or a road, or a farm….
Open ended play materials encourage children to make decisions, to be creative, to imagine and to have fun. Open ended toys are simple in their design, and have multiple uses. They tell children that we trust and respect them, and that we believe they are capable of constructing their own play experiences.
Something like a ‘Tickle me Elmo’ toy is not open ended. The child is not required to do anything other than turn it on. It can’t be anything other than Elmo. After the child has watched Elmo do his ‘trick’ a few times he or she will usually become bored and move onto something else. How many times have we bought the latest, expensive toy, only to have the child find more pleasure in playing with the box and wrapping paper?
Have a look around and see what open ended toys you can find. They don’t have to cost much (if any) money, and can also be found in our natural environment. Think about stones and shells on a tray, stacking cups and little toy animals, peg dolls in a shoebox, sheets & blankets draped over a table, leaves in a bowl, big cardboard boxes, play dough and muffin tins…………..the possibilities are endless!