Open-Ended Play: The Creative Way to Learn for Children
Are you looking for a way to support your child’s learning and development? While many parents feel pressure to prepare their children for school through educational play, it’s important to take a balanced approach that includes open-ended play.
In this article, we’ll focus on why open-ended play is so valuable for children’s learning and how it can help support their interests in STEM.
Open-ended play: the creative way to learn
“Don’t run before you can walk” is a phrase that captures the idea that many skills or concepts are out of a child’s reach until they have developed certain prior abilities.
For example, before learning to write, a child must strengthen their hand and arm muscles, be able to sit up at a table, and so on. It’s not possible to make a child progress faster by pushing them to achieve, because there is only so far their knowledge and skills can grow at any one time. Instead, it’s important to provide children with a stimulating and nurturing environment that lets them grow at their own unique pace.
Open-ended play, such as arts, crafts, or construction, is great for this because there are no right or wrong answers – just lots of opportunities for experimenting, problem-solving, and creativity. Children can explore and discover at their own pace, developing their own unique abilities and interests. This type of play allows children to learn by doing, and they often don’t even realize they’re learning.
Hands-on learning with STEM
The STEM approach combines Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths, focusing on hands-on learning and developing skills that are valuable across the four subjects. Children’s love of STEM has been declining in recent years, with a 10% drop in interest since 2015 among nine to twelve-year-olds. Experts say that a greater emphasis is needed on skills like art and design, which play a huge role in careers such as engineering, in order to widen the appeal of STEM subjects.
Open-ended play provides an excellent opportunity to introduce children to STEM concepts and support their interest in these areas. The Geomag Mechanics and Mechanics Gravity construction sets, for example, encourage children to experiment with the invisible forces of magnetism and gravity by building their own working models. With toddlers and preschoolers, something as simple as a set of building blocks can foster their curiosity and help them learn mathematical concepts like shape and space.
The Magicube Free Building sets add an extra element to this by introducing little ones to magnetism and allowing them to build in any direction they want, opening up many more creative opportunities.