• Autism Help UK

What is Open-Ended Play?

Updated: May 24, 2021

Imaginative play has many benefits for autistic children. So you may be wondering how you can encourage imaginative play at home with your autistic child? The answer is open-ended play. This blog explores what open-ended play is, benefits of open-ended play, and how you can bring it into your home.

What Is Open Ended Play?

Open-ended play is basically play with no rules or instructions. It's where a child can let their imagination go wild. For example, a child may turn a cardboard box into a rocket ship and pretend their in space. This lets a child make their own decisions and use their creativity how ever they want, without limitations (within reason!) or pressure.


Benefits of Open Play

Now you know what open-ended play is, you may be wondering what the benefits are for your child. Some benefits of open-ended play include:

  • Exploring- they can explore their area and start to understand their choices and the consequences of them in a safe environment.

  • Build Up Skills- Many skills can be developed through open-ended play including: empathy; cooperation; problem solving; leadership skills; cognitive skills which help improve memory, cognitive flexibility, self-control, and control of emotions and behaviour.

  • Opportunity to build up fine-motor skills without pressure.

  • Helps build up imagination.


How You Can Add Open-Ended Play

Adding open-ended activities into your child's playtime is simple. All you need is items or toys that can be used a multitude of different ways and spark the imagination. Here are a few ways you can incorporate it.


1. Carboard Boxes



Instead of throwing away your cardboard boxes, give them to your child to play with! Most people will have fond memories playing with a carboard box as a child, turning them into a spaceship, a fort, or anything their imagination can come up with. There are no rules attached to cardboard box play which makes them an ideal open-ended play activity.





2. Painting and Drawing



A way your child can express their creativity is through painting and drawing. This activity lets your child choose the colours they want (whether these are vibrant or not), the tools to use (such as fingers or paint brush), and what they want to create. This is also a good way to teach some fine motor skills if they choose to use a paint brush.





3. Building Blocks


A great open-ended toy is building blocks. They can be used in any way, to build anything, with no rules. As well as this, they help improve problem solving skills as your child figures out how to create what they want to build. There are different types of building block styles to choose from too! Whether you want something more traditional like wooden building blocks or the more well known Lego blocks, it is up to you.




4. Play Dough


An open-play activity that is in most homes, is play dough. Play dough is the perfect way to let your child's imagination go wild! It can also help to improve your child's communication skills. As they are creating, ask them questions about what they are making and simply listen to them. All you need is playdough in a range of different colours and your sorted. You can either buy playdough from store or make some of your own homemade playdough.




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