Loose parts play in the early years: what is it and why it matters?

What are loose parts?

Loose parts offer endless opportunity for play. It opens up the wonder of exploration that leads to creativity and problem solving for children. Having loose parts allows them to choose what they want to include in their play and how to play according to their creativity and imagination. Loose parts are open-ended resources that are made of both natural and man-made resources that can be used to expand children’s play. Natural resources include bamboo, shells, stones, pebbles, leaves, flowers and sticks. Whereas, man-made resources include toilet roll, boxes, gems, corks, scarves, bottle caps and tyres. All of these resources can be found lying around the house and even outdoor areas . What’s more amazing is that they are ready to be played with.

How to play?

With loose parts, children can find endless ways to create, build up their imagination and story as well as discover new things as they go along. For example, children may play with a wooden cookie and arrange it to make a pathway where they imagine the floor is lava. With shells, children may use it to decorate their castle that they build. At the same time, shells can also be used for counting activity as they need to decide how many they need to put on the castle to make it look beautiful. It can also be used for making patterns, sorting as it comes with a variety of colors, sizes and shapes. As for cardboard boxes, children may create endless possibilities of play. It can be a house, car, bus, airplane, helicopter, robot costume, restaurant and shop. Not only are they fun to play with, children are in-charge of their own play. There is no sole purpose as children can play with loose parts in many different ways.

Benefits of loose parts

These encourage them to be independent, to come up with solutions if things don’t go their way thus developing critical thinking skills. They actively investigate and analyse as they experiment while stacking and arranging the boxes to build a house or car. At the same time, it also helps to build up their social emotional skills as they work among themselves and plan their own rules in their play. Hence, loose parts support learning and encourage all aspects of development in early years..

Tips how to get loose parts

If you are excited to try loose parts for your children. Here are some tips. Take a look around your house,be it indoor and outdoor and see what you have. Bring your children to gather loose parts with you, this allows them to connect themselves with surrounding and observe what they can do with it. After that, set up beautifully and invitingly, at the children’s height and in an organized way like using trays with divisions or put them in a basket (so children can easily see and help sort later on during clean-up).

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