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Enabling Open Ended Play

Enabling Open Ended Play

I’m sure you’ve heard of open ended play before. Or if you haven’t, you might have heard of free play or unstructured play. These are essentially similar in terms of objectives, intent and benefits that they bring to young children.

Before I go on and on about how important open ended play is for young children, let’s first talk about close ended play. Yes, close ended play! We seldom talked about close ended play, but in essence it is actually as important as open ended play.

Close ended activities are activities which have clear and specific directions or instructions of how they should be carried out. They have an end result or a specific objective to achieve. What are some examples of close ended activities? Puzzles, board games, science experiments, activity worksheets etc.

Are close ended activities important?!

Yes!!! A big resounding YES! They are important in instilling focus and discipline in your children, they help to build attention in your children and teach them how to have the end in mind.

But why all these hype about open ended play if close ended play is equally important?

The Perfect Play Tray

The Perfect Play Tray

Sensory play was one of the first few activities I carried out with my little one when I started our learning through play journey. He was just shy of 18 months old when I set up his first sensory play. At that time, I simply used the largest Tupperware container I can find at home.

And since then, I had been on the lookout for a better sensory play tray. IKEA Trofast storage box in white came close to what I had in mind. But it wasn’t until I stumbled upon the Kmart serving tray that I found my perfect play tray!

Kmart serving tray in white
Kmart serving tray in black


This circular serving tray is made from powder-coated iron sheet with wooden handles, and comes in black and white. It measures 45cm by 36cm in length and width, and 10.3cm in height. It’s only available in Australia’s Kmart stores, and try as I might, I could not find it anywhere in Singapore!

It wasn’t until a family trip to Melbourne in 2018 that I decided I just had to get my hands on this! We drove 40mins to the nearest Kmart from where we were then, my husband probably thought I was crazy, but I insisted we had to lug one home. We bought the black one and I’ve never regretted since. We used this as our play tray so often at home it was definitely worth the time, effort and money to get this!

I call it my perfect play tray. Why?

Ways to Play - Paint Chips

Ways to Play - Paint Chips
I’m a huge fan of using versatile and open-ended toys and materials in kids’ activities, because they truly leave much up to the imagination and creativity of how you want to utilise them to enable play and learning. So I’m really excited to be launching this blog series on “Ways to Play” where I’ll spotlight one open-ended toy or material in each blog post, and showcase the different ways you can play with it!

We are starting with an old-school favourite - Paint Chips!

What are paint chips?

They are essentially cards showing colours or a range of related colours available in a type of paint. You can get these cards usually for free, from a hardware store.

Now, not every country or every hardware store gives out these paint chips freely. For one, in Singapore, it has proven quite difficult to get my hands on a substantial number of paint chips to be able to carry out meaningful activities. So, I’ve created paint chips of our own, and you can download them for free here!

So let’s get into it! What are the ways to play with these amazing versatile materials? Here, we show you 18 different ways of playing with them which span across 13 different skills and learning abilities!