Loose Parts; What are they and how can we include them in play?

Loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. They can be natural or man-made, but should be available in multiple quantities and remain as close to its original material as possible; thus allowing an open ended learning approach. The idea of ‘loose parts’ uses materials to empower a creative imagination. The more materials and individuals involved, the more ingenuity takes place. Items such as pine cones, buttons, rocks, wood rounds, pasta, seeds, flower heads, beads, nuts and bolts are perfect for loose parts play.

Nature is a perfect place to start on your loose parts journey! Not only can you find an abundance of natural materials without spending a single dollar, but you are fostering an appreciation and respect for the environment in your child and all that it can offer to our learning. Implementing them into your child’s play space is simple and you may find that your child really doesn’t require much encouragement at all to start investigating their treasures. Encouraging your child to help organise their loose parts into a compartmentalised box or tinker tray like the one pictured above emphasises their value, allows for easy viewing and provides opportunities for early skills of sorting, grouping, categorising and counting. Not to mention the benefit to fine motor skill development!

Where to next? A loose parts tray is possibly the most versatile tool you can have. Following your child’s lead is the best place to start when integrating it into a play space. Use for small world setups, craft or construction activities, imaginative play such as play kitchens....the opportunities are endless! Simply keep them in a child-friendly, easily accessible space with adequate supervision of course (we all know how our babes like to explore with their mouths too!) and watch the wonder, curiosity and learning unfold.

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