What is Open ended Crafting and why you should try it

It can be truly exhausting to come up with creative and fun ideas to entertain our kids. They love arts and crafts but they often struggle to take the initiative. They want the easy way out where mom does all the thinking to come up with fun and interesting new activities and crafts. Do your kids do that too?

This is why open ended crafting has caught my attention.

Open ended crafting is simply a way of doing arts and crafts with little to no instruction. When a child comes up with their own ideas and uses whatever materials are available to make something, that is open ended crafting.

How we as parents can encourage this form of crafting, is by creating an environment that encourages independent creative thinking. By creating a space where they have access to materials that will spark their creativity.

Here is an example:
Cut various shapes out of coloured paper and leave it on the table with some blank papers and glue. If the shapes are squares and triangles, there is a good chance your kid will create some houses. If you cut out rounder shapes like circles and ovals and you add a couple of googly eyes, you will probably see some creatures come to life.

Open ended crafting set up with colourful shapes cut out of paper and cardboard
This is a muffin tray filled with different coloured shapes that can turn into anything that your child can imagine

The idea of this experience is to help your child take the first step towards creative thinking. You provide them with materials that point in a direction and they can choose to follow that direction or come up with their own creative ideas.

We recently did this activity and I was astonished at the outcome. I often cut out ingredient shapes for a paper pizza. But to my surprise my youngest thought my vegetables didn’t look like vegetables at all and she rather created faces. It was a delight to see her imagination take over.

If your child struggles with crafting projects, or isn’t really interested in doing crafts, this is a wonderful way of getting the creative juices flowing. And if your child already loves the crafting process, they will find hours of pleasure in doing activities without rules and instructions. And remember, if you sit down to join in on the fun, follow their lead and play along with whatever crazy concepts they come up with.

The bonus is that open ended crafting has many benefits.

Here are 5 important skills that open ended crafting teaches your child:

1. It teaches them to think for themselves. Coming up with solutions is such an important skill we need as adults, we might as well train our kids from a young age to practice it.

2. It teaches children to be creative. I believe creativity is a crucial part of our daily lives. That is why we as parents should provide a safe space where kids can come up with crazy ideas and implement them, without being reprimanded or criticized. Creativity stretches their minds.

Open ended crafting leads to creative artworks

3. It helps kids to become innovative problem solvers. Even though a pile of shapes isn’t a specific problem they need to figure out, the brain naturally wants to create something out of it. It naturally wants to arrange them in a way that makes sense. In a way the pile of shapes resemble a puzzle that needs to be solved.

Little girl crafting independently

4. Open ended crafting helps kids practice independent play. It is very important to only make craft items available that are age appropriate, easy to use and exciting to work with. Then your kids will get lost in their imagination and learn that it can be fun to keep themselves busy.

Paper pizzas created out of different paper shapes

5. This type of activity helps children to learn that concepts can be applied in many different ways. The same way my little one used pizza topping to create faces. Squares could be a stack of building blocks, or the base of a house, or the front of a set of drawers. It all depends on how you see it.

So how do you set up for open ended crafting?
You give your child some random (or not so random) items, and leave them to it. It can be as easy as that.

I’ve found that keeping it simple is key. If it’s simple and easy, you will be able and willing to do it more often, and it won’t be overwhelming for your little ones either.

Happy crafting!

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