loose parts
Play theories

Loose parts in children’s play: Why use them?

What are loose parts?

Loose parts are materials which children can move between play spaces and easily manipulate during play. They allow for endless play opportunities and can support all areas of a child’s’ development.

Children may use a piece of string as a dog lead, make it into a bracelet or use it in their art projects. Loose parts can be store bought pieces such as kitchen utensils, ribbon or pegs. They can also be any cardboard or plastic materials such as boxes or straws and natural resources such as pebbles and sticks.

No need to splash out to incorporate Loose parts into your setting or home. They are often resources we already have in our homes or can find outside.

To encourage parents’ involvement, you can send a letter home asking them to gather any unwanted or unused materials around their house with their children. This will also help you to build up a good amount of resources. These materials can include; paper rolls, cereal boxes, straws, corks, unused curtain rings, beads, pans, safe kitchen utensils etc. This encourages parents and children’s involvement and children will love searching their house for these objects to bring to nursery. It can even be made into a treasure hunt!


Why are loose parts important for play?

There are many ways how loose parts enhance children’s learning. For instance, they:-

  • encourage open-ended activity as they offer endless play experiences.                                                                              
  • can promote all areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). Children can use them during role play. They can mark make with them, count them and sort them.                                                                                                
  • encourage perseverance as they find new ways to use the objects and learn through experimenting with their own ideas through trial and error. This enhancing their curiosity, imagination, and creativity.                                  
  • gives children the opportunity to play and experiment with familiar, everyday objects such as; utensils, pans, dry pasta, paper rolls, rocks, and sticks.                                                                                                                                    
  • they invite children to create their own stories.                                                                                                                       
  • give you the opportunity to discuss the objects usual purpose with children. This helps develop children’s understanding of the world.

Children can get hours of learning from loose parts. Whereas toys which have a sole purpose limit play. Once children have achieved the purpose of the toy or exhausted the toys use they move on to the next toy. Once children have figured out a toys use e.g pulling a pull toy along, then they understand how the toy is meant to be used. This limiting their creativity and use of imagination.

Loose objects come without instructions or expectations of an outcome. They allow children to develop their creativity and imagination and provide a richer play experience for them.


How they promote meaningful play

When collecting loose parts for play it is best to gather a few of the same objects so that children can sort and organise them. You’ll want to organise the parts in an inviting way so that children want to engage with them. This also helps promote the type of learning that you want to take place. This can be done by using different types of containers.

If you want children to sort and organise the parts then you can promote this by offering different sized containers and have the resources on a tuff tray for them to sort through. The containers can be anything from small boxes to jam jars, cups, ice trays, egg boxes, and pans.

When loose parts are organised within the learning environment it ensures that they are used in a meaningful way.

How do you offer loose parts in your setting or home?

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