From the Early Years

Loose Parts Play

Loose parts play is based on the concept that when children are presented with a collection of small ‘everyday’ objects, they have a range of opportunities for creativity and problem solving as they rearrange, redesign and tinker with the parts, creating patterns and inventing new objects as they go.

The concept was originally created in 1972 by architect Simon Nicholson who believed that the use of open-ended materials in a child’s environment was strongly linked to creativity and critical thinking later in life. An environment that is rich in open-ended and real materials encourages children to experiment, engage, construct and invent; invites them to tinker, to manipulate and to play. With no prescribed method of play, children can assign their own purpose and meaning to the objects they are playing with. Their loose parts can be collected, stacked, moved, shared, glued, painted, taken apart, lined up and any other type of play you can think of!

“Children learn most readily and easily in a laboratory-type environment where they can experiment, enjoy and find out things for themselves.” Simon Nicholson, Architect

Playing with loose parts can benefit children’s learning through:

  • Enhancing cognitive skills such as creative thinking, problem-solving, curiosity and abstract thinking skills as children explore the materials and discover new ways of playing with them.
  • Increasing physical activity and enhancing fine motor skills as children pick up, hold and manipulate materials in multiple ways.
  • Inviting conversation and collaboration as children communicate their ideas and knowledge with their peers, educators, parents and carers.
  • Boosting natural curiosity and increasing focus and engagement

We would like to invite our St Andrew’s families to contribute to our ELC collection of loose parts by collecting and donating the following items:

  • cardboard tubes, corks
  • various sized spools and wheels from thread or ribbon
  • fabric remnants, silk scarves, ribbons, wool
  • glass gems, mosaic tiles, beads, pompoms
  • mixing bowls, mortar and pestles
  • baking pans, trays, tins, muffin trays
  • wooden spoons, potato mashers, manual egg beaters, other utensils
  • jugs, scoops, funnels, measuring cups and spoons
  • wooden picture frames (glass/backs removed)
  • bangles, costume jewellery

Building and household project remnants can also be great loose parts to consider:

  • wood scraps, dowel, wooden pegs
  • nuts and bolts, washers, magnets
  • PVC pipes
  • baskets, pots, buckets (especially metal), watering cans
  • paint sample cards
  • spools and wheels from electrical cables

The outdoors is another great place to source interesting loose parts:

  • stones and rocks in a variety of sizes and textures
  • leaves, sticks, logs
  • fresh and dried flowers
  • pine cones, seed pods
  • shells, feathers

Please note: we are unable to accept toilet rolls or egg cartons for hygiene and allergy reasons.

Alicia Flowers
Assistant Head of Early Learning