What is open-ended play?

Open Ended Toys

A true open-ended material, SumBlox can become anything your child imagines them to be. SumBlox are multi-use and can take on so many forms of play.  These blocks support fine and gross motor skills, language development, sensory exploration and hours of creative play. 

Let’s talk about what open ended play really means and why it is so valuable for your child, especially in today’s climate. Open ended play simply means that the play is open to interpretation by your child. There are no explicit directions on how or what to play, your child gets to decide. 

For example, imagine your child is a firetruck fanatic. She loves firefighter figures, fire trucks, and fire truck books. You follow her lead and buy all the firefighter costumes, books and toys you can find. She is so in the zone!! Until, one day, she decides fire trucks are out.  Your child suddenly becomes obsessed with playing doctor and hospital.  She wants an ambulance, doctor figures and a set of medical supplies… Firefighter toys are abandoned and collecting dust in your playroom.  We’ve all been there, right?

SumBlox Play

Let’s get back to open ended materials. What if, instead of buying all the firefighter things, you had a set of open ended blocks.  Your child could build a fire station and use blocks as a fire truck.  Throw in a few peg people and you have some firefighters.  When your child’s growing life experience and imagination start  to include hospital and doctor play, you’ll have no worries!! Those same blocks and peg people are now a hospital and doctors. Now do you understand why open ended materials are so valuable?

It gets even better...Let’s talk about the value of open ended play to your child’s development. When your child plays with an open ended material, his imagination does the work, not the toy.  Think of it this way. If your child is putting together that fire station set, it only works one way. It only comes together the way the toymaker envisioned it, not your child. If your child is building a fire station out of open ended materials, his brain gets to experiment with various ideas, try, fail, invent and reinvent however he envisions the play. 

Do you still need convincing? I got you.

Your toddler will use the same set of blocks that your ten year old will use. Same block of wood, two different stages of development. Your toddler will stack and knock over blocks repeatedly and then start lining them up on the floor. She is learning about object permanence and cause and effect. When your ten year old approaches that same set of materials, he will likely build an intricate tower that includes complicated structuring and details.  He is learning about gravity, physics, math.  Both children are working on language development and honing fine motor skills. 

Imaginative Play

In my own home, we are very picky about what toys come into our playroom.  Play is the most important work my children will do, and I want to make sure they are set up for success. I also want to make sure that I am not spending my precious time, energy and money searching out the newest hottest toy that will last a season and go into the landfill. 

SumBlox are one of the most used materials in the playroom.Yes, we use them when the seven year old is frustrated with her math homework and show her the numbers in a way that make sense to her.  But, we mostly use SumBlox for PLAY! Our collection of SumBlox have been turned into dollhouse furniture, marble runs, and horse stables. My favorite part is that while using her imagination to pretend, my daughter is also becoming familiar with number sense.  

My older children use the SumBlox as well. The SumBlox compliment the other open ended materials in our playroom to expand both number play and imaginative play. 

We keep our SumBlox displayed on the shelf because they are beautiful, and also because that makes it easy for the children to see exactly the one they want. No searching needed. 

I also keep them out so that I can easily set up a play prompt to invite my children to interact with these blocks. 

For example, I might start a line up of numbers and leave some spaces to be filled in.  I did this the other day. My intention was just to have my little one do some number work.  Instead, something even better happened! She walked over, rearranged the numbers, and turned them into walking paths for her mouse toys. Then, she made different numbers into homes. Eventually, I found her lining up marbles into little hopping paths.  When I looked closely, each length of path contained the number value of the block it was leading away from. I was astounded!!  That is the beauty of open ended play and learning. 

Lizzie Assa, MsED

*This post is written in partnership with Sumblox. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*





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