Learning

Open-Ended Time in a Kit-Obsessed World

Lego Kits. Crafting Kits. Quilting Kits. It seems everywhere I look, there are specific kits for creative time. I attended a paper crafting event with some friends a while back and when I got there, everything was already cut out and ready to assemble?!? I went rogue and designed a card using “off kit” stamps and materials and was actually chastised for being a little too creative. Yikes.

When it comes to encouraging creativity in children, one theme I keep reading about over and over again is the concept of “open ended time”. As in, “here are some materials – have fun creating” time. This article by PGPedia is fantastic in listing out some examples of open ended play and what it can foster in a child. “….They also learn empathy, cooperation, problem solving, and leadership skills through make-believe play.” Bam – they can learn all of that from open ended play time? Sign me up!

Another great aspect of this part is that the materials for this kind of play are usually a lot cheaper than kits. Paper, play-dough, blocks, paint, markers, cardboard, tape and an afternoon to themselves is all that is needed to help them grow in these areas. There is also dolls, play kitchens, and different set ups that encourage make believe play in specific scenarios – i.e. using mud to create a delicious pie in a plastic oven (one of my childhood specialties).

Encouraging the kiddos to spend time in their space either by themselves or with a friend can apparently help them figure out how to handle themselves in lots of different real-world situations even though they are in pretend-land. The article also gives a brief overview of different aged children and what they might like to play with: “Realistic props, such as dolls and play kitchens, are more desired by two- and three-year-olds, which encourage more symbolic play. Four-year-olds enjoy a blend of realistic and nonrealistic props. Five- and six-year-olds engage in more pretend play with nonrealistic materials.”

I am already excited to watch my daughter create and pretend. I am sure there will still be plenty of “kits” involved and I am sure it will help foster things like following directions. However, Im ever so glad to pass up the lego kit and see what she can create on her own.

What ways do you support your children’s open-ended play time?

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