Although your baby still has a lot to learn about independent play, you have already laid the foundation for him to make it possible. You’ve provided the correct, age-appropriate play essentials, created a safe space to explore and have left your baby unattended (but closely observed) for short periods to play alone.
As your baby gets older, you will find that they are increasingly curious about the world around them and imaginative during their playtime.
This is the start of a wonderful phase of development and one that requires very little input from you. The best you can do is provide your baby with open-ended toys and opportunities for open-ended play.
What is open-ended play?
Open-ended play is any activity your child engages in that has no outcome, no rules and no limitations. They can let their imagination dictate what and how they play.
Why is it important?
Open-ended play allows young children to problem-solve as they develop their decision-making skills. Remember when you gave your baby a treasure basket? You let him choose what he wanted to and explore objects how he wanted to for as long as he wanted to play.
Or when you give him some blocks, that can become a road, a bridge, a house or a tower. Creating opportunities for imagination and independence are crucial for your baby’s development.
Should all play be open-ended?
Definitely not! Even young children need to learn how to plan their activity, reach a goal and have the discipline to complete a task. A good balance between open and close-ended play is vital to reap the benefits of both.
Ways to play
Open-ended toys are usually not toys at all. Looking around your house, you will probably find lots of open-ended play tools.
Here are some of our favourites:
- Cardboard boxes (the bigger, the better!)
- Clay (Play-Doh)
- Sand, stones and pebbles
- Fabric scraps
- Paper supplies
- Art and Craft Materials, like pipe cleaners & pompoms
- Scoops and spoons
- Tissue boxes
- Bottle caps
- Toilet rolls
While we strongly encourage independent play with open-ended tools and toys, we realise some items can be a choking hazard, so always stay close if they put things in their mouth. Playing alongside them will allow you to watch them while giving them the freedom to lead during playtime.