playing with open ended toys

Close-Ended vs. Open-Ended Toys in Montessori

It’s a fact that children can learn and discover the world as much through play. Unstructured play is beneficial for kids both physically and mentally, but structure also provides a sense of boundaries and understanding of rules. This is why the importance of toys cannot be understated as part of learning and skills development. 

A Montessori approach provides a good mindset in toy shopping. A good example of this is choosing between close-ended and open-ended toys. People often favor one over the other, when the reality is that both are beneficial to a child’s development. The key to having the right set of Montessori toys is to have a perfect balance of the two. 

But how are close-ended and open-ended toys really differ from each other? Here’s a quick rundown of the benefits and disadvantages of each type.

Close-ended Toys for Designed Play

Close-ended toys such as books, puzzles, shape sorters, and tracing materials are toys with specific objectives to achieve.  In other words, there is one way to ‘play’ with them. Often, they come with instructions or lessons. 

Some of the benefits of this type of toy include:

    • Builds attention span and concentration – Since they come with specific sets of directions and instructions for how a child should go and end, playing with closed-ended toys helps build attention span and concentration by encouraging the child to complete the game. 
    • Brings a sense of purpose and accomplishment – Kids want nothing more than having a sense of purpose and accomplishment, and closed-ended toys can do just that.
  • Teaches the importance of directions and rules – Since there are specific ways to play them, closed-ended toys teach children the importance of following the instructions to complete the task. This also encourages them to pay attention to details or even look for loopholes within the rules. 
  • Develops and refines motor skills – Puzzle pieces, for examples, require fitting the right pieces in the right places and in the right orientation. This requires fine motor skills, such as hand and eye coordination, dexterity, precision, and more.
  • Encourages self-correction, memorization and mastery – When a particular puzzle piece won’t fit perfectly or wobbles in its place, they will know to try a different way. Subsequently, they will begin to memorize different sequences and master the whole puzzle.
  • Build good habits – After playing with closed-ended toys, children are asked to put the toys back to the shelf. Cleaning up and taking care of their environment (play area) is an extremely important habit to develop.  open ended and closed ended toys

Open-Ended Toys for Free Play

Open-ended toys are toys without expectations, rules, and defined ending points. Action figures, building blocks, cars, doll houses, Legos, and stuffed animals can be played in different ways and endlessly. It cultivates creativity and imagination. Some of its benefits include:

  • Provides an avenue for testing ideas – Since it requires creativity and imagination, children will have all the opportunity to test and explore new concepts, ideas, and theories. The endless ways to use the toys (and materials) can help them come up with new ways to play with. 
  • Gives a sense of freedom – Since there are no instructions and rules on how to play the toys (or games), children will feel more relaxed and comfortable in playing. This provides a safe and nurturing environment. They will not be afraid to make mistakes, thus, they will be more willing to take risks, explore different ideas, and engage their creative minds. This allows them to figure out “cause and effect”, think outside the box, and figure out what works and what doesn’t. 
  • Cultivating emotional intelligence – Social skills are just as important as knowledge. Your child’s ability to connect and communicate is an extremely important skill in life. They are the foundation of every positive relationship. Open-ended toys will teach your child to play with other kids, read social cues, and respond appropriately. In a Montessori school, children are encouraged to communicate; they will learn how to discuss, share ideas, and negotiate on how to play with multipurpose toys with other kids.

Both types of toys play a huge role in every child’s mental, emotional, and physical development. While they learn a sense of structure, correspond to instructions, and respect rules and boundaries in closed-ended toys, they will also learn how to work within the given rules. Subsequently, while open-ended toys let them play freely, their creativity and imagination stretch their cognitive skills as they get lost in their little own world.

Let kids be kids. Help them explore the world by giving them the right options to feed their curiosity and ended toys for development  

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