Setting the stage for imaginative play

Hollow block elephant

At the recent Education Show in Birmingham, a number of people who stopped by our stand mentioned that children in their settings love our Hollow blocks and use them every day in very creative ways. But another practitioner said that her children rarely use the Hollow blocks, even though they are always available. Wondering what the difference was, we discussed it further. It turned out that in her setting the children have such a wide range of toys and materials to choose from that they flit from one to another without getting deeply involved in anything. This brought to mind the old adage: that often less is more!

By defining choice as providing limitless resources, we risk distracting children from the deeply-engaged play in which the most intense communication and learning take place. The benefit of open-ended materials like Hollow blocks is that they intrinsically provide choice on their own. Children can choose whether to play alone or together, whether to use the blocks to build a big ship, construct a road, create a horse to straddle or make a cosy one-child den to sit in! Imaginative play accelerates further if a few accessories such as fabric pieces and cardboard tubes are added.

Every child is born with a drive to engage with the world around them and imagination is a big part of that drive. Imagination opens new worlds to children. It also gives them a bridge to understanding the feelings of others. So imagination is essential for children’s well-being and future. The materials we provide must support, not stifle, children's imagination.

A training pack with a PowerPoint and booklet about simple materials and open ended play is available free for trainers or advisors.

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