For children, play is a way of engaging with others and the world around them.
Recent studies looking at child development have supported the theory that open-ended, self-directed play is hugely important for a child's well being and cognitive progress.
This is where loose parts play is a fantastic addition to the activities your child is exposed to. If you have not come across this term before, it is defined as;
“materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. They are materials with no specific set of directions that can be used alone or combined with other materials.”
One of the many benefits of loose parts play is the fact there aren't any set directions or rules with which to engage. Children can choose to use the materials as they wish, creating wonderful opportunities to expand their imagination and explore many different possibilities for play.
What are the benefits of Loose Parts?
- They are cheap or even free to gather together
- It promotes and supports imaginative play
- They can be re-used and re-purposed over and over again
- They allow children to explore skills such as building, breaking apart, stacking, positioning, bending, balancing etc
- Children will become more engaged over time as their skills and abilities to use loose parts increase
- It encourages peer collaboration and problem-solving skills
What materials can be used in Loose Parts Play?
I have put together a small list of objects that we have used in our own home, which you can find here. This is just a small sample of the materials that could be used - a search on the internet will provide more ideas if needed.
What can children do with Loose Parts?
One important aspect of loose parts play is to think about what materials offer in a combination with each other.
For example, stones, branches, soil and water could be used together for 'cooking'.
Remember, we don't want to tell children how to play with them.
What makes a good Loose Part?
- Is it flexible? Can it be used over and over in different ways without breaking or becoming dangerous?
- Is it something you are happy for your child to use even if it gets used up or destroyed?
- Is it something that can be packed up quite easily and stored or left out all the time?
- Is it safe for your child to use?
Where can I find Loose Parts?
Once you start to search for loose parts you will discover they are everywhere!
Start by looking in your own home - collecting boxes, cardboard tubes, and egg cartons can be done easily. Are there other items tucked away in cupboards that could be used?
How about a visit to the local park or beach. Many local environments have lots of materials to offer children for play.
Ask family, friends or neighbours if they have items they don't need anymore. There may be people in your community who are willing to donate items such as a local business. For example, a hardware shop may have wood cut offs or pallets, a restaurant may have empty bottles or a plumber might have plastic tubes.
You might be suprised how many people have items and are happy to help you!
Packing up and storing Loose Parts.
If the loose parts are small and used inside it is helpful to store them in a clear container that has dividers to keep the materials separate.
For larger loose parts that are used outside, piling them up in an area or putting them into a shed or garage could be a great option to help maintain them and store them when not in use.
I hope this blog post has provided you with a bit more information about the term 'Loose Parts'. And remember to get your FREE LOOSE PARTS MATERIALS LIST from my store.