What are “Loose parts?

What are “Loose parts?

The reality of this concept is that we see children’s play as having gone in a full circle from a generation or two back where easy access to manufactured toys was often not available to families so they “made do” with what was around in their play environment. This often included the likes of clothes pegs, cotton reels, sticks, dirt, stones, and the likes, where anything could be made into something, through a young creative mind.

The meaning of “loose parts” in today’s world is the using of a range of items and materials which can be constructed and reconstructed through combining, being redesigned, positioned and moved about to become anything a child might imagine them to be. Such a resource, when introduced to children creates a rapid and inspired response as young imaginations and creativity flourish.

Outdoor Environment

Examples of loose parts in a natural play area which can be discovered without disturbing any living thing, maybe having available areas where water, sand or dirt, sticks, branches, logs or driftwood, pinecones, shells, bark, rocks, pebbles, stones, flowers, and leaves can be found.

In a child’s playground there are many loose parts which can be natural or synthetic, such as balls, hoops, jump rope, tires, boulders, buckets, cups, containers, digging tools, chalk, scarves, fabric and of course our biggest resource boxes, which children can explore and create as many uses for as their creative minds can conceive.

Indoor Play Environment

This can be as simple as within a home setting or play or education based learning center. Here we can have available for children’s endless creativity and discovery many of the above resources as well as blocks, measuring and pouring props such as cups, spoons, teapots, buckets and funnels, dramatic play props like dress ups, blankets, hats, ribbons; recycled materials such as paper tubes, lids, wood scraps, phone, and cardboard.

Loose parts for children are exciting open-ended and mobile objects that intrigue and fascinate young and older children because it creates wonder within their play, as it provides infinite possibilities while allowing the natural curiosity and creativity of each child to develop.

As a nation, we are becoming more aware of how fragile our natural environment is and so are more aware of the importance to use sustainable practice and recyclable resources while promoting a healthy environment for our children. Loose parts can play a very big role within our education and environment as it complements sustainability in our world. Many resources of loose parts can be found in our second-hand shops, garage sales, and markets which promote the three R’s, Recycle, Reduce, and Reuse.

Upcycled materials supports loose parts play in children, as children become excited in the prospect of putting pipe cleaners into a colander, or the colander becoming a fireman’s hat, a wooden tube is a telescope or a megaphone, there is no right or wrong way to use loose parts, children feel empowered as they direct and then can share their creative stories with their whanau and teachers.

I believe loose parts is only an introduction for the children, they are the ones that explore and create the play and then decide where it will end. Sometimes we as teachers, mothers, and even grandmothers are not comfortable with the creative mess as it may involve several areas of play, but here is the thing to remember Loose parts is about attractive, alluring found objects and materials that children can move, manipulate and change while they play, children being creative sometimes involves a very big area. Look into the child’s face and see the confidence in the accomplishment,

Isn’t this what we want our children to feel - that sense of well-being, and pride that in their mind they have finished what they started.

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