small world with pine cones.

Open ended play experiences and how you can create this type of type of play in the home.


We are so happy to introduce our guest blogger, Erin from Celebrate Play. 

Erin is a Mum, wife, Early Childhood and Primary School teacher and the Founder of celebrateplay - an online learning space where she supports and empowers mums to create fun, engaging and intentional play experiences by sharing early learning play ideas and inspiration through education and community.

Let's talk about 'open ended play'. 

'Open ended play' is a term often used in early childhood settings and is deeply rooted in the Reggio Emilia approach to education. It is a type of play that allows children to follow their imagination with the play going in any direction they desire. There are no set outcomes or set instructions to follow-just simply the freedom to guide their own play. how does one create open ended play experiences in the home? Creating open ended play experiences in the home can be achieved with a bit of creativity, a splash of personal touch and a selection of open ended resources. Open ended resources are those that are multi-use, do not require completion and encourage children to use their imagination and creativity. Here is a list of open ended resources:

•wooden toys (blocks, kitchen appliances, food, cars, puzzles, market stand)
•dress up clothes
•puppets (hand, finger, string, shadow)
•water play (trough, buckets, funnels, cups, containers)
•sensory tubs (rice, sand, pasta, textiles, materials)
•treasure chests (miscellaneous items for self discovery)
•found natural objects (pine ones, leaves, sticks, rocks, bark)
•animal sets (sea, farm, reptiles, insects)
•pots and pans
•construction sets
•musical instruments
•Cardboard boxes
•Toilet rolls or paper towel cardboard tubes
•Pipe cleaners
•empty cereal boxes
•Parachute/ blanket/ large fabric
•Wooden people
•Construction toys
•Plastic eggs
•Cuisenare rods/ small blocks
•Empty tea boxes
•Various craft materials - pop sticks, pipe cleaners, coloured paper, foam sheets/stickers, scrap papers, felt sheets, alphabet sponges, plastic lids from playdough tubs, small glass rocks.
•Crochet fish tails (can put rocks or shells inside as bodies)
•threading buttons
•bean bags
•story stones
•stacking/nesting baskets
•fake grass
•lock box
•toy cars
•construction toys (zoob)

Three ways to create an invitation to open ended play:

1. By placing a few open ended resources on a surface ( table) in the playspace is an ideal way to create an invitation to open ended play. Eg. Canvas with a paintbrush sitting on top of it and a paint tray or tubes of paint next to it. 

2. Setting up toys in a new playspace is another way to create an invitation that is open ended. eg. The soft toy crowd sitting at the kids table and chairs enjoying a milkshake and slice of cake with their friends. 

3. Presenting your child/children with an object that lends itself to investigation is a different way eg. Blocks, gears, ingredients.

The idea is to set the resources up in a creative and interesting way so that our early learners want to play with them.

Three open ended play experiences to get you started:

1. Setting up a large cardboard box with a selection of textas. 
2. Setting up loose pieces of nature with a piece of contact.
3. Setting up animal figurines in a small world scene.

With all suggested play activities ensure full supervision is provided to ensure the safety of our early learners.

What is there to love about open ended resources? 
There is lots to love about open ended resources. They are versatile, budget friendly (particularly those found in an outdoor environment), enable learning in a holistic way which can lead to developing a positive habit towards lifelong learning. 

CHALLENGE Have a walk around your home and note how many open ended resources you have. Jot them down (feel free to use our play inventory) and if you have anything different to what's listed above, I would love for you to add it into the comments of this post so we can all share in the fun. 

To learn more about Open Ended Play and be inspired by our other early learning ideas, you can find us at:


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Deborah Roeger
Deborah Roeger

Wow, interesting. Will be trying this. Thanks

Sharon Pegrum
Sharon Pegrum

Love these ideas!

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