Do you know about the power of “loose parts” in play? It’s quite remarkable. Such a simple concept – one of those concepts that just make sense.
In a nut shell, loose parts are exactly that. (You are most welcome for clearing that one up!)
Loose parts can be anything at all – synthetic or natural – anything that can be played with in an open-ended, child-led manner. Loose parts allow children to take the lead in their play. They can line something up,scoop and pour, create a kingdom or a grocery store, count and sort, defeat a dragon, or practice shaping their letters – all with loose parts!
While I was setting up our Fall science and math shelf downstairs, I decided to use loose parts. I will do a little instruction and guiding with numbers, counting, and one-to-one correspondence using these loose parts, and since they will be left out on the shelf, perhaps those lessons will be reinforced through play. Or not. It doesn’t matter at all – learning will happen naturally in this space.
Our Science and Math shelf I intend to change with the seasons, though we will be changing the books and adding nature treasures much more often.
Let me walk you through the shelf.
On the bottom I have just a few carefully selected books. These will change likely each week and will depend on the nature treasures or loose parts on display. We recently went fossil hunting and found tons of really neat fossils. These have been added to the shelf, so we plan on getting a great fossil book next week. For now we have a book about insects, a book about animal habitats, and a book about counting. And also some maps from our latest adventures.
On the second shelf I have some loose parts and baskets. Rocks and sticks are in mason jars (of course if your little ones are not used to glass, baskets or unbreakable containers might be better) ready for use. The kids have already been building and constructing, sorting and counting … I tell you, this set up is very inviting for little hands.
On the next shelf, we have a pretty branch that we have decorated with a little green roving to make our branch fit the current season. It holds a very precious treasure – a beautiful nest that was found this weekend in the grass.
That shelf also has some little wooden pieces which I have written numbers and dots on. The back of these wooden pieces have the number words and dots as well.
Above that there are more loose parts – some buttons and pine cones. So super simple, but so super powerful.
On the higher shelves are some extra baskets and pretty artwork by my Madeline (a watercolour technique which can be found in this post on 32 Easy Watercolour painting ideas for kids – she used the “silhouette” technique). On the very top shelf are more of the prized wooden embroidery hoops that I found last weekend – a big, medium, and a small one. Pretty in the space and perfect for sorting.
The idea of taking time to make things look pleasing is rather new to me, but I am really appreciating it. I began realizing the importance by spending time with our local Waldorf school. This idea of surrounding oneself with beauty and simplicity is something I am really enjoying.
Just a little while ago I would have popped that birds nest into a tupperware container and be done with it. But taking some time with my little ones to create a pretty branch, and display it in a lovely way, well – its much more inviting to explore and investigate.
This space will change as our math and science topics change, but the loose parts will remain. I am interested to see how much of my “teaching” will shape the way the loose parts are used. I am curious to see when I use the sticks to teach tally marks if that will have any impact on the sticks becoming, for example, a road again. I don’t expect it, but I am intrigued to see.
Lots of thoughts and questions about this new style of learning swimming around in my head lately. I am excited and intrigued to teach my little ones – which should mean my little ones will be excited and intrigued as well, right?
I look forward to sharing more of our space with you soon friends – happy Monday!