I want to let you in on a little secret that the big toy companies don’t want you to know: you’re better off without expensive toys! Did you know that kids actually learn MORE from materials that aren’t heavily marketed toys? I know, I know, these flashy (and expensive) toys play fun songs about colors and shapes, flash alphabet letters and rhymes, kids gravitate towards them…. how can they not be effective learning tools? These marketing strategies from big companies will surely make you think otherwise?
What is Loose Parts Play?
Simon Nicholson, an architect and artist, invented the Loose Parts Theory in 1972; the concept of loose parts, materials that can be moved, altered, redesigned, and manipulated, offering exponentially more options for creative involvement than static materials and surroundings. Loose Parts are materials that are provided to children with no instruction or direction, they can be used in a variety of ways which helps provide your child with limitless open-ended play opportunities.
The brilliance of children is that they see potential in everything. Objects are never one and the same. There is satisfaction in how kids can take a seemingly incongruous assortment of odd things and turn them into something spectacular using just their imagination. As early childhood educators, we understand the potential of loose parts to inspire creativity and problem solving. We know that allowing children to explore open-ended materials enriches the learning environment.
In short, loose parts are open materials that children may adapt, move, create, and alter in a variety of ways, such as boxes, crates, sheets, pipes, round logs, cubes, blocks, and pebbles. They can be moved, mixed, redesigned, aligned, dismantled, and reassembled in a variety of ways – the more flexible a material or space, the more chances for creative play for kids!
Read also: Teach the Way Your Child Can Learn
What Can be Used for Loose Parts Play?
Before you begin, think about the ages of the kids you will be engaging with. For smaller children, certain loose parts may be harmful. It is preferable to have enough of a few distinct materials rather than not enough of too many.
There are several kinds of loose parts. Colorful, textured, and sized materials may be incorporated into a school environment or home to encourage play and creativity. It may be better to start with what you currently have on hand when deciding what to add. As materials for loose parts kits, use products that can serve several functions. Any object having textures, odors, forms, or other fascinating features is ideal for this purpose. Some of the materials that can be used as loose parts include: Buttons, buckets, ice cube trays, beads, spoons, glass stones, pebbles, glass jars, plastic bottles, pipe cleaners, straws etc.
Consider how often children love moving things from one location to another and connecting them, such as the kid who takes fake food from the dramatic play area to the block area or the child who gives a plate of pebbles and grass and shares his spaghetti recipe. How inventive! Open-ended learning occurs when children are encouraged to combine resources and play spaces in their own creative ways.
What are the Benefits of Loose Parts Play?
When playing with loose parts, children will often engage in extended and concentrated play, demonstrating “how play enables kids to just enjoy being.” Loose parts are also an enormously inclusive resource, with children able to contribute in a variety of ways, and when the setting supports inclusion and participation, children have high expectations.
Benefits of Loose parts play include:
- Loose parts play may help children develop a feeling of independence by allowing them to explore diverse materials on their own.
- Encourages children’s imagination and creativity by allowing them to choose what function they will serve and how they will be utilized.
- Encourage language development by having children share their thoughts and information with their classmates, teachers, parents, and caregivers.
- As children investigate things and create new ways to play with them, they develop creative thinking skills, problem solving abilities, curiosity, and abstract thinking.
- Children will utilize them in ways that are suitable for their developmental level.
- Encourages problem-solving, teamwork, decision-making, fine and gross motor abilities, independence, language, physics, art, math, and science.
Read also: How To Choose A Toy For Your Child
How can I promote loose parts at home?
Display a list of potential resources and encourage families to help you choose the ideal loose piece. This is an excellent method to begin a loose parts collection and discussion. Remember to designate a space for daily drop-offs. If your child is not accustomed to playing with loose parts, take your child from room to room and pick up a box or basket of goods. Make it enjoyable by organizing a scavenger hunt. Examine the closets, check the drawers, and clear out the cabinets. Follow your child’s lead and discover what piques his or her curiosity.
There are no restrictions on what you can and cannot use, and it is beneficial to continually adding new materials and mixing things up. The same materials may be utilized in a variety of ways by mixing them with a variety of other elements to achieve unique outcomes each time. Ensure that children of all ages have easy access to and transportation of the loose parts collection. Provide reusable containers for carrying objects from one location to another, such as wooden boxes, buckets, baskets, or even wheelbarrows!
Children do not always utilize things in the manner that people want them to, and it is frequently only that adults expect them to, and it is often just they who know what they are making or doing. However, these experiences are priceless. When loose parts are part of children’s playing, they are growing their grasp of how materials and understanding of how things operate and what they can accomplish with them.
A stick may be a writing instrument, a horse to ride, a shovel, a laser, a sword, or a guitar for a child. A collection of pebbles may be used as cash and sorted, painted, piled, buried, rolled, lined up, measured, and gathered. Children that engage in this style of play are constantly learning and making choices. What type of rocks should be piled to construct the best tower; they can be used to build a ladder, a bridge, or a cave; how many different a cave; how many different ways can they be sorted – by weight, color, size, shape; what if they are then painted, stamped, rolled, washed?