Loose Parts Play is one of those terms that often come up in Early Childhood Education, and especially in inquiry-based approaches like Reggio Emilia, but what exactly does it mean?
What is Loose Parts Play?
Simply put, loose parts play involves materials that are easily manipulated, moved, combined, and re-combined. They can be natural objects, recycled materials, or other items of this sort.
Examples of materials that can be used as loose parts:
- Cardboard, newspaper, and wrapping paper
- Pine cones, flowers, sticks, leaves, and acorns
- Straws, beads, pom poms, cotton wool
- Wooden blocks, buttons
- Sand, shells
- And more!
Loose parts play when broken down is more about a playing philosophy than the actual materials used. It is about allowing children to approach play with curiosity and creativity. The expectation is that children are able to direct their own play experiences in unique ways if just given the materials and an open-ended atmosphere to create as they wish.
Loose Parts Play can contribute to development in a number of areas including:
- Cognitive Skills (such as problem-solving, concentration, scientific thinking, etc.)
- Creative Skills
- Motor Skills (hand-eye coordination, fine motor, and gross motor development, etc.)
- Communication Skills (language and vocabulary, literacy)
- Social/Emotional Skills (teamwork, collaborating with others, etc.)
How to Implement Loose Parts Play?
The great thing about loose parts play is that it is fairly simple to implement. Sometimes no purchase of materials is required at all. Start by looking at the materials that you already have for things that are easily manipulated. The resource list below can help at this step for understanding what exactly you might be looking for.
Collect your materials and select a space and time to include them. Some areas of your classroom to incorporate loose parts play might be:
- Drama Centre
- Construction and Blocks Area
- Sensory Bins
Then, model for children how to use the materials, how to access them, create with them, and properly put them away. Finally, allow children to create! You will be amazed at what they come up with and the different ways in which individual students will use the same materials.
Resources for learning more about Loose Parts Play:
- This podcast from the Himama Blog: https://blog.himama.com/loose-parts-play
- This youtube video from Earth Day Canada: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFEg6Mlc490&t=3s
- Ideas on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ca/search/pins/?q=loose%20parts%20play&rs=typed