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Open-Ended Materials

What Are Open-Ended Materials?

Open-ended materials have potential use (typically re-use) for purposes different than for which the items were originally manufactured. Research and practice has demonstrated that open-ended materials are a powerful, economic and often-overlooked resource in education where stimulation of creativity is an important ingredient. Open-ended materials take many forms including

• Different sizes, textures, shapes, and colors of paper, fabric, carpet, plastic and metal.
• Pre-made blank books.
• Envelopes, folders.
• Canvas and plastic bags.
• Jar lids and bottle caps.
• Containers, jars, vases, and boxes.
• CDs, CD cases. audio tapes and cases.
• Seasonal decorations and components thereof.
• Manufacturing scrap.
• Packaging such as foam, styrofoam, and bubble wrap.
• Out-of-date promotional items.
• Foam core and poster board (even if used on one side).
• Picture frame molding, corners, and mat samples.

How are Open-Ended Materials Used?

The follow links to indicated articles contain a wealth of information on how others have used open-ended materials in effective ways. Check them out and you might find some ideas you can try.

• Promoting Creativity for Life Using Open Ended Materials.

• Endless Possibilities: Free play helps your child build knowledge, skills, and creativity at his own pace.

• Introduction to Open-ended Materials. .

• Creating with Open-Ended Materials.

• Early Childhood Open Ended Art Projects.

• Writing to Share – Open-Ended Materials.

• Open-Ended Play with Blocks and Simple materials.

• Open-Ended Inquiry in Science Education. .

• Your Inspiration.

• A to Z Teacher Stuff: Lesson Plans.

A Great Example

To learn about a great example of how a Waste Not Center member used open-ended materials in a creative writing class visit:

Where Do I Find Open-Ended Materials?

The Waste Not Center is stocked with open-ended materials. If you do not live in Columbus, OH we may be able to direct you to a similar resource in your area. Give us a call at (614) 278-9445 or send us an email at

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