What is an Open-ended play? 3 Basic Ideas explained!

Basic ideas of an open-ended play

Before knowing ‘what is an open-ended play?’, let us first discuss kids games. When it comes to kids’ games, the choices are endless! If you have nothing in your hands and you could right away entertain the kids by playing Hide and Seek! Or if you have a simple slate or board, you could ask them to draw and they would open up their creative minds. Or you could get them their favourite toys and board games or whatever they like – as told, the choices are endless. 

What is an Open-ended play for kids
kids’ games

But you may wonder, what is an open-ended play and how is it related? In general, Kids’ games can be classified into open-ended play and close-ended play. To understand open ended play better, we must know about close ended play first. In kids games, as they play, If the game has a certain end purpose or a series of steps leading to a final step it is called close-ended play. For instance, in a puzzle or normal board games such as monopoly, carrom or chess there is an end point to the game. If the puzzle is solved, if the king is lost, or if the last piece gets pocketed the game ends there. This is close-ended play.

What is an open-ended play

What is an open-ended play? You may not recognise, but we’ve played it throughout our childhood. Yes, Haven’t we all had little toys of our own and tell different stories holding them in our hands!? It is one kind of open-ended play and there are many other such kids games.

Cardboards used in an open-ended play
Cardboards used in an Open-ended play

In an open-ended play, there are no strict rules or steps to play the game, nor is there any end or closure to the game. You can give your kids a set of building blocks or an empty sheet with color pencils. With alternate combinations, your kid would make endless forms such as a train, tree, house or whatsoever with those building blocks. With a paper, they could draw something and create a story out of it with the characters they drew – the possibilities are endless! open-ended play has so many beneficial effects. Let’s get to know more about it!

I never knew activities can be fun filled and educational at the same time, until I tried activity boxes with my kids! Check out this article on the importance of activity boxes to know more about different activity boxes.

The most common open-ended play that we had played during our childhood even without knowing these details is, the Toy cooking set! No strict rules or procedures and infinite possibilities!

Benefits of a open-ended play

Children, by nature, are so creative and imaginative right from a very young age. They learn new words, ideas and other skills through playing. Both close-ended and open-ended play has their own benefits. Say, in a close-ended play, children learn to be more focused to get things right and they focus on accuracy and perfection. Whereas in an open-ended play, free will, creativity, self autonomy and self esteem gets improved when they play more of it.

Creativity in kids - open-ended play
open-ended play unleashes creativity in kids!

1) Free will

When you get your children to play more open-ended play, they learn to be at their own free will, learning to make their own choices, without you having to force them onto something. For instance, when your children set out to color something in a drawing book, ask them, “what color would you like it to be?” Instead of you choosing a color.

2) Creativity

Free will bears creativity, doesn’t it? When you make them make a choice of their own, children get much more creative. Do you want to know how creative your kids are? Next time when your kid paints an elephant in Orange, ask them why it is in Orange and hear the stories they have for it!

3) Self Autonomy

Open-ended play lets your children take care of their own without you having to instruct them in detail. This reduces your work to just supervising them not just while playing but also in day to day activities!

4) Self Esteem

When children play without the pressure of having to do things with perfection, they naturally become more involved and relaxed which makes them more confident. open-ended play enhances self-esteem in children and lets them express themselves confidently.

Self esteem in kids
Self-esteem in kids

We have answered your question, ‘what is an open-ended play’. We also have some wonderful ideas! You could start an open ended play using simple toys. Here is a detailed list of numerous kids toys to kick start your game! 

3 simple open-ended ideas

While discussing on what is an open-ended play, it is important to mention its benefits. An open-ended play is very much effective and enthusiastic, despite being so simple. If you are trying this out for the first time, you might have to initiate an open-ended play by yourself. To get your kids into understand what is an open-ended play, start playing with them! Whatever the game is, sit beside them and start a play by yourself and in no time the children could grasp and take things on their own! Here are some effective open-ended play methods that you must try with your children.

1) Art and crafts:

Well, so many things come under the ‘game’ art and craft! Drawing stick figures, Making figurines by folding papers(Origami), thumb and palm impressions using paints, making toys out of  rags and much more comes in art and craft. Each of these activities or games can lead to numerous open-ended play! With the use of open-ended questions like, “why does this character look like this?” or “what’s the story of this doll?”, you could draw your kid into an open-ended play.

Art and crafts in open-ended play
art and craft ideas

2) Building blocks:

If there is a kid in your house, you would have already gotten them a set of building blocks, haven’t you? What makes it to be in this article is that you could use it to create different situations and characters with it and carry it on with open-ended questions. Again, this helps in improving the kids’ creativity by allowing them to explore different possibilities with those building blocks.

Kids' building blocks
Building blocks for kids

3) Walk and talk

This game takes nothing but your time with your young one. You could take your kid for a stroll after a boring day at their school and ask them silly, playful questions by looking at the surroundings. Or you could just tell them a story and stop it midway for your kid to continue. Believe me, this works like a wonder as children open up their doors of imagination wide for stories like these! 

Walking can initiate an open-ended play
Go for a little walk with your kids!


Now, we’ve learnt what is an open-ended play and so, you would have also known that you could use pretty much any household items as a property for an open-ended play. When it comes to kids’ games – cardboards, use and throw water bottles, old rags, newspapers, they could make anything and everything as their plaything! Or you could derive characters and ideas from story books! Here is a list of sudha murthy’s story books for children and 10 Best Ruskin Bond books for children.

Though closed-ended play improves the focus and logical thinking in kids, open-ended play is equally important as it focuses on unleashing creativity and decision making skills among kids. It also helps them to keep their mind open to more ideas and inputs from others. Don’t wait to start an open-ended play with your kids and don’t forget to share your play experiences in the comments. Have fun!

Basic ideas of an open-ended play

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