'With so much focus on 'structure', the importance of open-ended play can get forgotten’

There’s a lot of talk about ‘structure’ at the moment, particularly in terms of timetables for children’s entertainment and learning. As a way of maintaining some sort of normality, focus and order over the coming weeks, the benefits of setting such expectations and routine are undisputed.

HOWEVER, amid the noise of online classes, virtual PE and educational activities, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the importance of ‘open-ended play’ in the home-schooling tapestry.

Open-ended play is play with no set outcomes, rules or guidelines, where children can make their own decisions and engage their creativity, often using such non-descript materials as sand, mud or paper. Unlike closed-ended games, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to complete these activities. As a result, they make children the leaders of their play time, which in turn can help to develop imagination, confidence and decision-making skills.

We’ve all learnt the hard (and expensive) way that a child might play with a new toy for an hour, but the box it came in will entertain them for days, and this is a testament to the point in question! .

There are plenty of ideas for open ended play doing the rounds at the moment, and among these are filling an old storage box with unused coffee grains (or soil), leaves and plastic bugs for a free-play bug tray. Alternatively, fill it with water and cups to create a water table for little ones to splash, pour and ‘go fishing’ in!

The opportunities are endless, and we’ll be looking to cover more of these over the coming days and weeks. Watch this space or feel free to get in touch with your open-ended play ideas and we’ll publish the best on our magazine and social platforms.