One of the questions we get asked the most here at BabyPlay is: "How do I get my child to play with open ended toys?" or "He/She just doesnt seem to know what to do with these types of toys".
These types of questions come from parents with slightly older children, who are just making the move from more "typical" toys over to this new, exciting concept of open ended play.
A great, simple, approach is to leave the new toys out, within sight. Natural curiosty should intice your child and they will begin looking for ways to play - this may take quite some time at first! This works best when other toys are removed from the environment, at least initally.
Children that are used to toys which have a set "purpose" or "way to play", items like these can be confusing at first. They expect the toy to tell them what to do. A great way to prompt play with these items is to utalise "invitations to play" or "play prompts" - basically setting up play in a way to intice them, and in this instance provide them with some ideas of how to play to begin (see previous blog for more details).
Playing with your child and offering different ideas in what the items can be is another great way to role play, and encourage their own creativity and imaganition. Prompt them with open questions such as "what is this piece?" or "what can we use this for?", offer solutions where they struggle and you will notice them take over the play in no time.
Offering the items in new ways, role playing and simple encouragement is all it takes to see their interest take off and their imagaination and creativity flourish!