At some point, your kid will completely disregard the new toy you bought them and instead go hog-wild for the box it came in. This is a wonderful opportunity to sit back and watch your little one’s creative juices start flowing.
In this case, the box is an example of an ‘open-ended’ toy – that is, a toy with no prescribed method of play. Most baby toys aren’t like this. Instead, they’re built with a specific play pattern in mind, usually to develop a particular left-brained skill. Open-ended toys, on the other hand, are designed to let the child dictate the rules of play and work on their right-brain.
You’ll find many open-ended toy options in the store, the most common of which are dolls and stuffed animals. Your child will eventually create an identity for them all, and what they come up is often quite hysterical.
A completely different, but equally open-ended activity you can pick up is a finger-painting kit. Again, you’ll be amazed at what kids can create when given the chance to express themselves. Just remember to buy washable paint because you know it’s going to wind up on the walls, the floor and (god forbid) the furniture.
Simple blocks are also an excellent ways to encourage creativity. In this case, you may have to point your baby in the right direction (like by showing them how to stack), but once they get the hang of it, you never know what they might build for you.
Some of the best open-ended toys aren’t toys at all. Pots and pans are a good example. Maybe your baby will bang them like drums? Or wear them like hats? Maybe, if you’re really lucky, they’ll whip you up some lunch.
As your child gets older and many of their tactile skills have been developed, the importance of creative play becomes all the more important because it’s how they’ll start to establish their interests and their personality. Consider building a creative corner in your basement or rec room, complete with art supplies, costumes, music and puppets. Ask them to come up with a performance or piece of art to share with the family, and don’t forget to praise whatever they come up with – creative play is all about saying yes.