Do you know about ‘loose parts play’? This is an idea that was introduced to me a few years ago in the Kindergarten classroom. I have used loose parts with my own children pretty much every single day since then. The idea is so very simple, and the learning is so very powerful.
The idea is this: offer your little ones loose parts and allow them to play. (I did say simple – but really, ridiculously simple, right?) Some awesome things to use for loose parts play are:
- popsicle sticks
- pretty much anything that can be easily lifted and moved about freely
So, why is loose parts play so important for children? Allowing and encouraging children to play with loose parts helps them to become more imaginative play. It encourages problem solving and deep thinking. It allows children to grow and strengthen their natural creativity!
You know how I write all the time about my Quiet Time boxes? Those are FULL of loose parts and offer all the same benefits (plus the added benefits of quiet time). Given my passionate (obsessive) love of quiet time, it is no wonder I love loose parts play!
Now you know what to include in your loose parts play and why you should consider it. So please let me now share some creative set ups and ideas to spark a little creativity and share just how awesomely awesome loose parts play can be!
(And perhaps if I had a bit more loose parts play as a child I would have a better descriptive writing style … awesomely awesome … hmmm)
Here are some fabulous ways to enjoy loose parts play with your child:
Loose Parts Outside: This simple idea involves a scavenger hunt and some creating. It is always amazing what children will create.
A Loose Parts Math and Science Shelf: This was our math and science shelf a few years ago. In this post I share with you how I used loose parts to help my little ones master foundational skills in these subjects.
Making Letters with Loose Parts: Forming letters can be a tricky skill for little hands to master. Using loose parts to form those letters not only helps children to learn the shape of the letters, it also strengthens those little hand muscles for future writing.
Add some Ramps: This fun idea by My Pinky Finger is perfect for loose parts play. Add a few long boards into your pile of rocks, sticks, and pinecones to let those little explorers discover what rolls, slides, or doesn’t move at all.
Add some shadows: This is just an image by Reggio Kids, but sometime an image says it all. Placing your loose parts beside a shadow or two is bound to spark some creative ideas. Perhaps your little one will outline the shadow, fill it in, or extend it. But what will happen in an hour when the sun moves? Oh this kind of learning makes me GIDDY!
Add some Christmas lights or Glow sticks: How neat is this idea by teknikresin? I love the idea of adding lights to loose parts play. This would be wonderful as a cozy play just before bedtime, or in a darkened fort or room.
Forming Art: I like this idea by Mrs Myers Kindergarten. Encouraging little ones to make a picture with their loose parts is a great way to begin introducing the idea of loose parts play. It allows them to see all the freedom and possibilities.
Add some playdough. Mama. Papa. Bubba. share this lovely sand playdough recipe. I think it is such an inviting addition to loose parts play. Shells and rocks can be added, or blocks can be stuck together.
Throw those loose parts in some water. Fantastic Fun and Learning share how they use loose parts in the water table. Add some cups or bowls and some serious learning will be happening: volume, water displacement, buoyancy … big topics to play with.
Frame the Space. By A Classroom Full of Wonder and Curiosities. A great idea to encourage focused creations is to define the space. Adding a frame is a wonderful way to encourage gorgeous artwork to form. It also emphasises how beautiful you believe your child’s creation to be.
Do these ideas make you want to dive right into a bin full of loose parts? I tell you friends, this type of play is addictive.
You will start seeing your world very differently once you have this crazy ‘loose parts’ mindset. A bottle top becomes a treasure. A spare key is a rare find. An empty spool of thread? Priceless.
Come to think of it, I might also love loose parts play because of the frugal-ness of it all. I love frugal-ness just about as much as I do making up words (like frugal-ness)
Happy loose parts play friends!