What is Loose Parts Play? Have you come across this form of play before? You probably have, but without realising it! It was first defined in the 1970’s, by a British Architect called Simon Nicolson, where he introduced it as a theory of play for children, using objects in play, and how children needed lots of experiences with objects to invent and discover. The objects would have no specific role, so toys are not considered as loose parts as they will have a role in which they are used. You can use one object or a mixture, they can be big or small, natural or synthetic.
Children will invent, problem solve, experiment, build imagination, story tell, construct, deconstruct, and much more…
Loose parts play is supposed to be spontaneous, so not adult led, although adults can be included in the play period. There is no goal or outcome and so children will find their own end to what they are doing.
What type of objects can be used?
You can use anything that is safe, age appropriate (ie-small objects that could be swallowed) and does not have a defined purpose. So for natural objects you could perhaps use shells, twigs, logs, leaves, flowers, pine cones, sea sponges, grass, hay or straw, soil, sand, mud, clay and types of food like potatoes, carrots. Synthetic could be pom poms, pegs, glass pebbles, nuts, bolts, curtain rings, ropes, yoghurt pots.
You can theme the loose parts play, for example-“Day at the Seaside” You could set up some sand, with shells, buckets, yoghurt pots, pebbles, sea sponges and some water.
Loose Parts play can be incorporated into the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Scheme) very well. You can use it in story telling, using imagination, communication and vocabulary, maths, social and emotional play, expressive arts and crafts, physical play using large loose parts like tyres, boxes, tubes, planks and large sticks, and fine motor skills.
There are lots of resources now popping up for loose play sets to help and guide you if you are just starting out. One company, Tickit is a firm favourite. Etsy also have lots of choice.
So give it a go! Let your little one’s imagination run free!