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Open-Ended Play, A Necessary Part of Playtime

Large and small cardboard boxes, fabric scraps, bottle caps…although these items may appear to be destined for the trash, wait up! Children can utilize these items and engage their imagination in an experience called open-ended play.

Open-ended play includes utilizing simple items such as paint, water, blocks, clay, twigs, leaves, acorns and more. If you can create a different outcome with each play session, then it’s an open-ended experience. When there are no rules to follow, no problems to solve, and no expectations, your child learns to express patience, creativity, visualization, cooperation, and self-regulation.

Close-ended toys can only be used in one way, have a specific outcome, and have a correct answer. The Islip Library has puzzles and board games which engage closed-ended play. Many toys found in toy stores are close-ended. These are also important to your child’s development but remember to balance it out with open-ended play.

The train table in the Children’s Atrium has many individual train tracks, bridges and other parts in which your child can build a new set-up. Using her imagination she can build a new city each time she comes to play. Markers, chalk, crayons and paper are always available for your child to utilize and create a unique masterpiece during each visit. A container including cotton balls, socks, pipe cleaners and more can be found on the window seat in the Children’s Atrium. Encourage your child to use their imagination and create something with all of the items. You can assist your child by playing with them a bit to model the idea but be sure to pull back so your child can have his own playtime. Be an interested bystander and motivate your child to explore. You can even play alongside of your child. Be prepared to watch your child’s imagination blossom before your eyes!

Jane Hoffman

Jane Hoffman

Jane Hoffman, Head of our Children’s Department became a librarian in 2004, realizing it was the career for her after spending much time with her children at her own public library. She collects antique “story buttons” – making them into jewelry and displaying them. She loves reading historical fiction, hiking, visiting art museums, and watching movies with her family. Click here to subscribe to Jane Hoffman's blog posts!

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