Why I Gave Up Open-Ended Play Experiences

Like parenting, there are so many different styles of learning in the early childhood world.

It can be confusing and time sapping to try and figure out what works for you and most importantly what works for your children.

As an educator working in Family Day Care, I believed in open-ended, free ranging, child-led play and saw this as a blanket approach for all children.

Don’t get me wrong the children at my service, and my own children experienced days filled with learning, enjoying and laughter.

sorting toddlerHowever, there came a day, long after Family Day Care, in our new home in the bush that I will always recall as a pivotal point in my understanding of children’s unique learning styles.

I was busy trying to unpack the multitude of boxes, surrounded by newspaper and random items that were thrown in the boxes in a last minute rush.

My 4-year-old was bored, the yard was not yet fenced and the tv antenna wasn’t working, all my usual fall back resources were somewhere at the bottom of a box!

In desperation, I pulled out a cookie cutter activity – a stick together Santa. And he absolutely loved it.

There was something about the structure and order that called to him. For weeks afterwards, he talked about it and asked for more of the same. So much for my free range, open-ended activities!

It really challenged my idea of what children need and most importantly what they want!

I realised that for some children structure is safe. Not necessarily a “stick this here, stick that there” activity but learning experiences where there is a very definite result to work towards.

Some parameters so they can conceptualise the activity and work out where they need to go with it.

We now approach our home-schooling learning from a Montessori basis which we were fortunate enough to discover at our local Montessori playgroup.

It provides the simple, rich learning that both my son and I crave and we are able to meet in the middle to find a learning style that is perfect for our family.

Sharon is a home-schooling mother of two busy boys, living on the outskirts of beautiful Toodyay. She works as an Executive VA where she indulges her love of order, writing and figures. She describes her life as organised chaos and usually just manages to look like she has it all together which as all mothers know is a carefully crafted facade.