My girls and I haven't always been exposed to open-ended toys. When I was a new mom, we were gifted a lot of second hand toys and I was so grateful. We loved these toys and their lights, buttons and songs that the toys would sing. As I learnt more about toys and especially open-ended toys, I realised that the toys we had were more a source of entertainment and they did little to foster imagination and creativity.
If I am being truly honest, open-ended toys frightened me a little. I felt like they revealed the limitations of my own creative mind, despite being educated in a creative field. As a mom, you feel the inherent need to continuously teach your children and we all try and incorporate learning into our play activities, via shape sorting, colour sorting, counting, building, puzzles etc. I often asked myself if I didn't know how to play with open-ended toys, how am I going to teach my child to? Spoiler alert: the answer is, you don't. You learn from your children.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to gift my girls the Grapat Lola and Grapat Nins Carla sets. My go-to activity was to get the girls posting, so I grabbed a rings holder and let them post the rings from the Nins Carla set onto this holder. I also showed them how they could post the various sized "Lola" pieces into the tubes from the same set and later on we posted metal rimmed counting chips into the Lola tubes. There is only so much posting the girls could do and when I stopped dictating the play and stopped trying to "teach" them, magic happened.
Posting the Grapat Rings onto a Ring Holder
Posting metal rimmed counting chips into the Grapat Lola tubes
My eldest (Miss Fuzznut) took the coins from the Nins Carla set and laid them out onto the floor in a straight line. She kept telling me she was making a spider. The voice in my head kept yelling: "That's not a spider, a spider has eight legs that, at best, is a snake" but I didn't say anything except "Wow love, you're building a really big spider. Good job." After she was finished, she told me to stand up and follow her because we now had to fly over the spider. Off she went with her arms stretched out wide and she walked over the line of coins and then turned around and told me to the do the same. (She did inform me that I wasn't flying correctly so she had to come and correct my arms.) This happened on only the the second play session with the Nins Carla and already she had evolved the play past posting and created a new magical way of playing with this very simple toy. I'm sure everyone will agree that their little mini-mes amaze them daily and I don't feel differently . I can't wait to see what she does in even a week's time!
Flying over the Spider
Gone are my anxieties that I needed to lead the play. I realise now that I'm a follower in this journey and it's a such a beautiful journey to be a part of. I've learnt a lesson in that I can set up activities and invitations to play, but I cannot and should not predict how to play will materialise as it will rarely turn out the way I intended - and that's good! We will share more about different ways to play with the Grapat and our other open-ended toys. But again, it will be ideas and when you try them out, don't expect them to turn out the way instagram showed you. Enjoy playing and enjoy the magic xo
Grapat Lola and Rainbow Sensory Rice