Toddlers and young, school-age children enjoy the predictability and comfort of daily schedules. Adding open-ended playtime to their routine maintains that comfort while providing sensory-rich activities that encourage self-esteem, cognitive growth, and limitless fun!
Open-ended playtime differs from planned activities because the “rules” are fluid. The kids decide what they want to make or play without an end-result in mind. The purpose is in the process. Kids can playing in quiet reflection or articulate their play.
This freedom in a world of restrictions supports decision-making confidence. Due to its unrestricted nature, open-ended playtime needs little daily preparation. Parents can set up these fun activities for kids in a designated open-ended play area, pull-out some supplies, and let imaginations soar.
Sorting Sorting objects helps kids learn to identify and categorize standard features. They can compare beads by size, shape, color, pattern, and other markers. Recycled egg cartons make simple sorting dishes. Other sorting supplies include pom-poms, buttons, and cut-out paper shapes.
Motor skills Support gross and fine motor skill growth with a variety of open-play materials and tools. Play dough exercises large muscles, and plastic tweezers offer grip and fine pinching practice. Scoops, spoons, and pipe cleaners are also good motor development supplies.
Tactile Tactile activities help kids explore and identify sensations. Kids learn to articulate “soft” and “fluffy” when playing with cotton balls or “squishy” and “wet” while playing with finger-paint. Felt, Velcro, dried corn, and dried split-peas also encourage fun, tactile play.
Natural Natural materials are a free resource for open-ended playtime. Exploring with natural objects encourages kids to examine and appreciate the world around them. Leaf rubbings and dried flower collages are wonderful open-ended crafts. Kids will also enjoy examining rock textures, pinecone patterns, and sand play.
Seasonal Keep materials on-hand to celebrate the changing seasons or seasonal holidays. Items such as flags, masks, plastic eggs, and durable ornaments encourage kids to get involved in annual traditions. Organize open-ended play supplies into baskets or totes. To save space, look for storage ottomans or activity tables with built-in storage.
Expand kids’ minds and find more opportunities for learning with open-ended playtime.