Open ended play, or in Dutch: ‘game with open end’, is something you may have heard of. But what exactly is it and what are its benefits? We will tell you.

Open ended play therefore literally means open-ended play. It is a way of playing that stimulates the child’s imagination and creativity. Take, for example, a simple branch that your child finds outside. In his hands it could be a sword, a magic wand or maybe a horse. And that is actually the basis of open ended play.

Open ended play vs. made-for-purpose

Open ended play is actually the opposite of the so-called made-for-purpose toys. With made-for-purpose toys you have to think of puzzles or board games. Toys that have to be used in a certain way and are “ready” at a certain time. A puzzle is finished as soon as you have placed the last piece. A board game ends when someone has won.

But there are many more toys that (to a lesser extent) fall under the made-for-purpose category. Think, for example, of a toy telephone. While this toy doesn’t necessarily have a closed end, it is designed to serve only one thing: a phone.

With open ended play, there is no fixed end, there are no rules and expectations and your child can completely determine his or her own game.

Which toys suit open ended play?

Open ended play can be used with many things. As mentioned above, a simple branch or cardboard box can be perfect for open ended play. But also think of stones, sand, wool, paper and textiles. By combining different materials, your child will learn to feel, smell and see how the material moves and functions. Which will also stimulate the imagination and creativity.

Of course you can also buy toys that are perfect for open ended play. Think of wooden blocks or other wooden (abstract) figures, but Kapla and regular Lego (no building kits) are also perfect for this.

Advantages of open-ended play

Open ended play has many advantages, we have listed a few of them for you:

  • The imagination and creativity of the child is stimulated.
  • Children learn to think symbolically and abstractly, which increases creativity and intelligence.

Because no mistakes can be made with open ended play, this is a stress-free way of playing and children do not feel any pressure to perform.

It is good for social and emotional development. Open ended play also stimulates role play, which helps children to better understand the world around them. In addition, role play stimulates empathy and teaches children to work and play together.

Open ended play teaches children to take charge and make decisions.