Open and close activities are a big hit!

Have you ever noticed how much young children love to open and close things? And how they’ll repeat the opening and closing action again and again? If you think about it, we open and close things all the time in our daily lives, so why wouldn’t children want to learn this important skill? One of the things that continues to surprise me about open/close activities for children is how many times they’ll repeat the action. I’ve seen kids absorbed in this work for well over thirty minutes at a time.

In the Montessori classroom we always had an open and close activity that the kids would gravitate toward, so I knew my daughter would enjoy learning to open and close things. But I had no idea just how MUCH she would enjoy it! We currently have an Open/Close activity in my office and every time my office door is open, my daughter makes a bee-line to it, takes the objects out of the box and begins to open and close them again and again and again.

Here’s a video I took last week…

My 13mo. old daughter doing her open/close activity from Shelly on Vimeo.

One of the great things about this activity is that it can grow with your child. Right now I have a couple of small metal tins, a small jar with a lid, and a plastic container with an attached lid in the activity for my 13 month old. But when she’s 3 years old, we’ll have a coin purse with a zipper, a box with a latch, and some other more challenging items.

Even if your child is 7 or 8 years old, you can find fun things to put in an open/close activity. Most 8 year olds I know LOVE figuring out how to lock and unlock padlocks or even the front door of their house. Of course you’ll have to decide what you’re comfortable with.  Learning to open and close plastic baggies and food containers can be a fun challenge too.  Remember diaries with locks?

So, the next time you get annoyed that your little one is emptying your purse out on the floor of the restaurant, remember, he’s just trying to learn about opening, closing, and containment. Oh, and he’s probably also looking for a toy or a treat too and I’m guessing he’ll find one!

Consider creating an open/close activity to keep at home, or a portable one for when you’re out and about. You can offer a lunch box filled with containers or an old purse you’re willing to give to your child. Begin collecting small items that have unique and interesting closures.

Once you have a few items compiled, arrange them in a basket or box and display the activity in an accessible location. When your child shows interest in the new “work,” sit down together and demonstrate opening and closing each item before allowing her to explore the activity on her own.

For added interest for your older child, include a small car, animal, doll, or action figure inside each container. For your reader, label the containers and invite your child to put the appropriate item back into the container when he’s finished playing.

We are having so much fun at our house with our open and close activity. I would love to hear about your experience with this fun work! Please share a comment below. And have a great week! Warmly, Shelly


This is a fantastic idea - I'm putting an open/close project together for my 2 yr. old great grandson. They are always doing something with their hands.