Open ended play a quick guide

Open ended play a quick guide

Open Ended Play

I'm a big fan of open ended play and resources and it's a term we often hear but what does it mean and why do we like it?

Probably the best way of explaining and thinking about open ended play is to think about the opposite close ended play. yes it's a real thing, This type of play (as the name suggests) has an end point an example would be a board game or a jigsaw puzzle, they have an ending to them and there is a clear objective or reason for play. Once the jigsaw is done there is nothing to do really other than take it apart and do it again.

Close ended play is not bad it teaches us rules and discipline and allows us to follow a set path to achieve the result we want it can also gives us that sense of achievement. These are essential life skills so are a very valuable type of play not to be overlooked. No play is bad play!

Open ended play

basically no limits or clear direction to the way the play will go, there is no fixed end result or objective (to begin with) although one may develop later but that's kinda the point anything can happen. This type of play helps develop creativity some children will thrive on this some will need a little more support.

Open ended play does not mean chucking the kids in and letting them get on with it although sometimes it's interesting to do that and see what happens other times they will need some adult support to get things moving and that's key it's support, oversight not set instructions but gentle guidance and maybe a few prompts.


From my experience less is more that's not to say you can't have lots of resources just that they shouldn't all be out at the same time it's overwhelming and actually inhibits play.  As adults with a bit of prior thought we can setup area's of play with open ended resources that are an invitation to play the kids will take these and run with them be prepared to get more things out as they ask for them to expand on their ideas or as you spot opportunities for learning.

Question: What is that? as adults we know the answer to this and it's normally a set one. For open ended play we are thinking what could this be, a tunnel, a bridge a slide for a horse, a garage, part of a robots left arm ... you get the point! what it actually become is up to the child and sometimes the results will amaze you.

Benefits to open ended play

A natural part of being a child is that other people make a lot of decisions on your behalf open ended play allows children to take control and choose the direction of play. This fosters creativity, builds confidence and allows children to make decisions

Note to parents and carers be kind to yourselves be prepared that this approach wont always work some days it just wont and you will need to step in more often than you think you should that's OK and there could be a whole host of reasons. Other day's this approach will work perfectly and who knows where it will lead.

I'd love the hear your experiences with open or closed play.





Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.