Minimally-structured, open-ended materials of all sizes, drawn from life used in Anji Play programs include both highly-designed and found objects whose size and variety invite children to engage in large-scale construction, design, combination, recombination, revision, imagination, and self-expression.

Over 150 specifically designed materials including Anji blocks, planks, ladders, barrels, mats, carts, climbing cubes, storage systems, and thousands of other materials adapted, developed, sourced, identified, and designed by Anji educators and community members, engage the child’s entire body and mind in the process of problem-solving.


Children who engage with Anji Play materials create and explore cause and effect relationships, engage in collaboration with peers, and plan and analyze based on their knowledge of these inter-relatable materials. The materials and physical environments of Anji Play allow for the greatest degree of possibility and complexity in play through minimal structure, open-endedness, and sturdiness. 

Anji Play programs also include a wide variety of materials used in the classroom and other indoor environments. From blocks and manipulatives, to notebooks, pens, tools for measurement and documentation, and plants and animals, Anji Play environments include abundant materials that are easily organized and managed by the child in a free and open physical space.


The classroom should be the outdoors in miniature. The outdoors should be the classroom magnified.
— Ms. Cheng Xueqin

Minimally-structured, open-ended environments allow children to explore, imagine, and create. In Anji Play, these environments are designed to maximize opportunities for imagination, inquiry, and contact with natural phenomena and elements. Water, sand, mud, trees, bamboo, ditches, tunnels, and hills are among the environmental features that engage children in endless exploration, discovery, risk-taking, problem solving, and knowledge creation.

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The principles of the Anji Play approach are manifest in indoor, outdoor, and in-between spaces. In every instance the environment allows for children to organize and manage their own materials; move freely; exert the greatest range of mastery over their environment; pursue engaged inquiry; describe, express, and document their experiences and observations, and see these expressions and descriptions presented in ways that are accessible and prominent in the classroom and school.

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Human and physical environments in Anji Play programs are safe, accessible, consistent, honest, open, predictable, and are characterized by clearly articulated, simple and reasonable expectations, and expresses trust for each person and the group.