As you start your journey into motherhood, it is common to ask what is the ‘best choice’? This can relate to your child’s sleep routine, what foods to introduce or which toys are safe and provide the best opportunities for learning.
Our natural instinct is to create an environment where our child will thrive and flourish in all aspects of their development.
As a mother of two and an early childhood teacher (ECT), I also felt the pressure to do things right, especially when it came to their learning. What is the ‘best choice’ when it comes to toys? What do we want our children to achieve? How do you make a toy room rich and meaningful?
My tip for you:
Offer open-ended activities which will allow your child the opportunity to learn through trial and error, investigation, exploration and problem solving.
As an ECT, we are guided by an Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) which underpins our program choices. For parents, it is important to understand that play is a context for learning. Learning is dynamic, complex and holistic.
As a parent, we tend to purchase toys that have pre-set limitations without realising it. We need to be asking ourselves, what will my child gain from this toy? What elements of control do they have? As an ECT, our EYLF guides our thinking to view children as active participants and decision makers, moving beyond preconceived expectations about what children can do and learn.
So what is open-ended play? Open ended toys offer boundless opportunities for your child to express themselves, enhance their ability to be creative and build on their imaginative play skills.
Why is trial and error and problem solving so important in learning? Children are born as natural problem solvers. They develop this process through trial and error, for example, an infant will fall down many times before taking their first steps, but it is the process of getting back up and trying again which helps them to achieve their goal.
It is important that we offer our children toys that facilitate this learning process.
Let’s focus on a common activity that many of us have in our household, Lego! When we give a child a pile of Lego we are offering them an open-ended experience. There is no preconceived expectations, they can use their imagination and creativity to come up with a design. Through trial and error, they will become active problem solvers to achieve their design goal. Wooden building blocks, shape sorters, magnetic tiles are other open-ended experiences that I would recommend.
So when it is your time to design your child’s play space, ask yourself, what can my child gain from this toy? Does it offer opportunities for problem solving through trial and error? Does it only serve one purpose? Is it open-ended? I wish you the best on your designing adventures!