Open-ended materials (also called loose parts) are materials that can be used in numerous ways indoors and outdoors by babies, toddlers and young children. They can be moved, carried, combined, and redesigned in any way the child decides. These materials can be natural or manufactured and can be sourced in several ways: in nature -woods, beaches and gardens, recycling materials.

Children love open-ended materials because of the possibilities they afford them. Using open-ended materials encourages imagination, creativity and problem-solving skills so play can be richer and more complex. This kind of play ensures rich learning and is fun! For example, 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.

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