Let’s talk aboutopen ended play’. Have you heard or read term before and wondered what does that actually mean?

‘Open ended play’ is a term often used in early childhood settings and is deeply rooted in the Reggio Emilia approach to education. It can be described as play that has no pre-determined limitations allowing children to follow their imagination with the play going in any desired direction. There is no right or wrong in open ended play nor any set outcomes (Bland,2016). 

...so how does one create open ended play experiences in the home? Creating open ended play experiences in the home can be achieved with abit 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 compiled with the input of our CELEBRATE PLAY members from Tribe One (the very first pop up group).

•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)

5 ways to create an invitation to open ended play:

1. Simply place a few open ended resources on a surface in the playspace is an ideal way to create an invitation to open ended play. Eg. Canvas with paintbrush sitting on top of canvas 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 to open ended play.

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

4. Follow a toy rotation system. Rotating toys allows for excitement about a toy that hasn’t been used or seen in awhile.

5. Select toys that are interest based and age appropriate

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 and if you have anything different to what’s list above, I would love for you to add it into the comments of this post so we can all share in the fun. Once we have a few more ideas, I will compile a list that you can refer to easily for future reference.

Three open ended play experiences for you to try at your convenience

1. Setting up a box/crate/basket of blocks.

2. Setting up a chalkboard with chalk/s and a duster

3. Setting up playdough, sequins, rollers and cutters

I’d love to see your pics and hear about your open ended play experiences. Leave a comment below.