What Works For Me 2/365 – Extending the Play with Open Ended Questions

There are not too many open-ended toys that interest my boys these days.  However Daniel has been lying on his tummy in the lounge almost every night since mid-December playing with his Magnetix set.  Then at Christmas he received a large supply of Mighty Beanz which (for the uninitiated) are plastic cylinders with rounded ends containing a ball bearing so they flip over.  He often comes to me with big descriptions of what he has built and what its purpose will be and to tell the truth I don’t extend these conversations too much at night because while he is still firing on all cylinders, I’m on the wind down.

This morning he had a “Eureka” moment of sorts when he was tidying up his toys.  The Magnetix pieces will stick to the Mighty Beanz! When he came running in I asked, “What happened?”

This opened the flood gates for all sorts of imagination and invention. We looked at whether the “faces” should be on display or the “names” and we discussed many different display/building options that involved the extra pieces.

“Why would you put them that way?”

“What else could you do?”

“Are there any other ways they will join?”

I have to admit I was tempted to comment about how tidying up can lead to wonderful discoveries but I decided to leave that conversation for another time and turn my full attention to what was happening with Daniel.  It was time for his agenda not mine.

Later on in the day, he came wandering around with one of the magnetic pieces testing out the different metal surfaces to see which one would hold his magnet.

“What sorts of surfaces does the magnet like?”

“What could happen now?” (when he stumbled across some magnets I had on the desk)

I made a few suggestions which he accepted with delight including the filing cabinet, the legs of the ironing board and my metal hole punch.  Just when I thought he was getting a bit obsessive, clicking the magnet on the different surfaces over and over again he informed me that I had to listen because there was a different sound for each surface the magnet stuck to.  He worked away then making sequences of his magnet sounds.

The open-ended questions were so useful here.  There were no wrong answers and he knew that I was accepting his ideas and thinking. I was pushing him along a bit but it was all just a part of our conversation.  It is a bit of a constructivist approach to learning because his understandings all built on each other. The most important thing of all was that he knew for certain that I was listening to him and that his ideas were valued.  It would be easy to walk away and get something else done when a child is absorbed in play like this but I’m glad I stuck around this time.

NB:  I was going to link up to Magnetix but found that they had been recalled as there were some concerns about children swallowing the smaller parts.  Luckily we’re past that stage here!  It seems that the company has re-invented the toy to a certain extent and re-named them as Magnext.

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2 Comments on “What Works For Me 2/365 – Extending the Play with Open Ended Questions”

  1. Lynette says:

    Oh you teacher you! But isn’t it fun watching our own children learn, discover and grow like this. Well done Tess, very positive.

  2. Yeah I know – very teacherish but I can’t help it! Just doing what comes naturally.


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