I can’t say strongly enough how much open ended play has changed the boys in the last few months. Not just their play, but their attitude and self confidence.

They’d always been good at playing imaginatively, but had fallen in to the trap of acting out and playing stories that we’d read or seen. We had a box full of characters that they played with in the same way. They also wanted me to act out the same adventures all day. I love playing with my boys, but with a new baby, I didn’t have as much time.


For Christmas we asked for open ended toys:

  • Grimm’s stepped pyramid
  • Grimm’s rainbow
  • Grimm’s semi-circles
  • Magnatiles
  • Rainbow pebbles


I also painted them some wooden people. The wooden people played and acted in new ways, having new adventures. Ioan and Finn just built new worlds as they went along. When they next reached for their box of characters they played with them differently.

They are back to playing how they used to, without limits on creativity. If they want to include a new character in their game, they just draw it, cut it out and carry on playing. We have plenty of ‘loose parts’ but they are just as likely to use a duster or toy basket.

We had some friends to play last week and Ioan spent ages collecting ‘treasures’ for them to play with. They took one look at his collection and said, “What do we do with that junk?”

At the time, he was heartbroken. But later on he said, “It’s alright Mummy, they don’t see what I see and that’s OK.”

My biggest goal when working with children, has always been to give them the confidence to become an independent learner and thinker. Thanks to some small changes, rather than a massive toy overhaul, I feel like we’re back on track.

This was Ioan’s Playmobil world, complete with toy baskets, a duster and some circus scarves.

DfES Early Learning Goals (2017)

Communication and language

ELG 03 – Speaking:

Children express themselves effectively, showing awareness of listeners’ needs. They use past, present and future forms accurately when talking about events that have happened or are to happen in the future. They develop their own narratives and explanations by connecting ideas or events.

Understanding the world

ELG 13 – People and communities:

Children talk about past and present events in their own lives and in the lives of family members. They know that other children don’t always enjoy the same things, and are sensitive to this. They know about similarities and differences between themselves and others, and among families, communities and traditions.

ELG 14 – The world:

Children know about similarities and differences in relation to places, objects, materials and living things. They talk about the features of their own immediate environment and how environments might vary from one another.

Expressive arts and design

ELG 17 – Being imaginative:

Children use what they have learnt about media and materials in original ways, thinking about uses and purposes. They represent their own ideas, thoughts and feelings through design and technology, art, music, dance, role-play and stories.