‘He’s had more fun with the box!’
Conventional toys are often very ‘closed ended’ meaning that they usually have one or a small number of uses and ways to play with them, for example a jigsaw puzzle with pieces that are meant to be fitted together to make a single picture. Loose Parts items can be endless of things and have endless purposes – a cardboard box can be a car, a rocket, a house or a den – all you need is your imagination!
What does Loose Parts Play look like?
The great thing about Loose Parts Play is that it really can consist of anything! A good starting point would be wooden curtain rings, cardboard tubes (such as kitchen roll holders), large buttons, corks and milk bottle lids. Most of these things are readily available and can be sourced very cheaply or for free. They can also be replaced very easily compared to conventional toys which are often overpriced and costly.
The best way to start off with Loose Parts Play is to start with a few things first and then to add to your collection once your child has had time to explore and experiment with them. You could then look into getting different containers or pots that the loose parts can be sorted into. Small wicker or wooden baskets are usually a lovely way of presenting the loose parts, but the great thing about it is that there really isn’t any rules. The aim of the game is to let children explore the objects and for them to choose their own ways to play with them.
What are the benefits of Loose Parts Play for my child’s learning?
There are countless benefits of this kind of play for children. The main one being developing their creativity. By allowing them to ‘be in the driving seat’ of their own learning, it encourages them to think outside the box, ask themselves questions such as ‘how many buttons are there?’ ‘What can I do with them’ opposed to us (or the toy) telling them how to play with it. Loose Parts Play can encourage:
- Problem solving
- Gross and fine motor development
- Language and literacy development
- Hand-eye coordination
- Scientific thinking
- The list could go on and on..!
When thinking about Loose Parts Play in my own childhood, I envision times where I would raid my mums button tin at home and spend hours upon hours sorting them into shapes, sizes and colours, pretending they were coins for a play shop, or imagining they were sweeties in my make-believe sweet shop. The possibilities were endless, and those buttons engaged my imagination more than any other toy I owned!
For this reason, we have decided to incorporate more Loose Part Play into our day at Little Houghton Day Nursery. So if you see your child exploring milk bottle and jam jar lids, you’ll now know that we haven’t gone mad (or blown our toy budget!), you’ll understand that it’s because of the enriched learning that it can bring.
Further information on Loose Parts Play