Children love to build their own creations using ‘junk’ or open ended-materials materials. Junk resources are cheap and easy to find from the recycled, natural and man-made materials in the world around us. Junk play gives children many opportunities to experiment with the physical properties of an object.
What is “junk” or open-ended play?
“Open-ended means not having a fixed answer, unrestricted. Open ended materials are materials that can be used in numerous ways indoors and outdoors by children. The children themselves decide what do, how to do it and what to use, when given access to open-ended materials. They are objects/materials that have many uses and endless possibilities. There are no exceptions, no specific problems to solve, no rules to follow and no pressure to produce a finished project.
Why Use Open-ended Materials/objects?
Research has shown there are several advantages to a child’s development if they engage in play that has no expectations or outcomes.
1. Imagination is Enhanced
Open-ended materials provide children with opportunities to think beyond the obvious and to develop their own ideas and imagination. How often have we witnessed the box that the new toy comes in offer more fun to a child than the actual toy? And why not, depending on the size of the box, it can become anything, from a spaceship, to a house or to a bed for a cuddly toy.
2. Social and Emotional Abilities are Developed
With no predetermined outcome, open-ended play eases off the gas pedal of achievement and allows children to focus on creating based on inner inspiration. During play, children have choices and decisions to make. This format offers great potential for self-discovery.
Open-ended play gives children a sense of freedom and autonomy to develop initiative and self-confidence. They enjoy making choices themselves, affirming their ability to be responsible and self-directed.
3. Empathy, Cooperation and Problem-solving skills are Learned
While playing with open ended materials children are engaged in decision making and problem solving opportunities. By exploring the materials children become innovators, designers, explorers, artists and collaborators as they build, sort, design, manipulate, arrange and stack in a variety of different ways.
Dealing with the infinite possibilities before him takes a big leap of faith. Making something no one has ever seen before requires trial and error and problem-solving and offers him the chance to create order and express meaning.
4. It promotes Cognitive Skills
By simply fiddling around with a wide range of materials, your child practices a wealth of brain-boosting skills that will serve him in school and throughout his life.
The use of open-ended materials supports children’s role as scientists who are constantly conducting experiments, testing ideas, and building their understanding of the world. As children play with the materials, they are exploring what happens, coming up with new ways of manipulating the materials, deciding that one material can symbolise something else and using lots of language. This type of play is open-ended and builds creative thinking.