Wisconsin Early Childhood Association had some excellent workshop sessions and engagement in our Play Space at our Fall 2017 conference on the topic of “loose parts”. To extend your learning, we’d like to introduce you to blogger Lakisha Reid and her site, Play Empowers. She has some valuable insights to offer early childhood professionals and parents! What follows is her blog post on loose parts play.
By: Lakisha Reid
Bits and Pieces of Loose and Lost parts are all the rage right now at Discovery Early Learning Center. Treasure hunting is what the children are calling it and it’s filled with imagination, detailed storylines, and loose parts as props to extend the narrative.
I have only noticed this way of play since I let go of providing invitations and displays of loose parts in themed baskets, trays or whatever way I was presenting the materials.
Loose parts are just that, LOOSE and they are found in all shapes, sizes holding a wealth of possibilities in every corner nook and cranny of our indoor and outdoor classroom.
Finding, collecting and gathering these materials is chalk full of whole child learning. When children hunt for materials they are mobile, actively engaged and working towards a goal, they assess materials for their value in their play. A game of shipwreck calls for loose parts that hold a certain set of characteristics while a game of house has a different loose parts agenda.
They use their large and small muscles to transport and collect materials building on to their script as they go. This sparks language and takes children into a sort of heightened state of imaginative play where they are embedded into the script in such a way that it feels so real.
They sort, classify, and count materials, they think critically about the alternate uses for open-ended materials and extend their ability to play symbolically, holding fast to their ideas and points of view.
This process of collecting or “treasure hunting” seems to be vital to the building of their play. It’s like they build up to a climax where their reach that zone, the zone where they all buy into the storyline, they are fully in character and what seemed hard or challenging is now the possible, what seemed above their physical and developmental potential becomes second nature.
It takes time, it takes space, and it takes adults who do not feel the urge to over organize.
We can provide a pretty array of loose parts for children to play with and explore, or we can design spaces using the loose parts concept in all areas of the space allowing children to explore parts that are truly LOOSE.
So what does this mean?
- Allow children to mix and move materials from one area to another
- Allow materials to travel from inside to outside
- Provide creative tools for transporting (bags, boxes, buckets, baskets)
- Don’t feel the need to arrange or display loose parts perfectly.
- Let loose parts at play stay at play (no sorting at the end of each night)
- Provide loose parts with a variety of properties ( size, shape, weight, purpose etc)
- Replace closed-ended toys with open-ended loose parts.
The benefits outweigh the mess!
- Language development While at play with loose parts children have to share their ideas, the uses and purpose of each part and how it works in their play scenario. They have to build the play script part by part as new materials are collected and introduced to the play.
- Mathematical concepts As children gather a variety of loose parts they are having real life experience with “stuff”. This naturally supports sorting, counting, classifying by characteristics such as size, color, shape or purpose. Children embed mathematical ideas and data gathered from the hands-on experience with these materials.
- Scientific concepts Large loose parts require creative ways of transporting. This often beckons scientific thinking, simple machine creation, and testing of ideas and theories. concepts such as gravity, balance, weight vs strength, textures and more!
- Physical development Loose parts play is PHYSICAL running, digging, lugging, balancing, and sorting. Children are active and a-buz as they collect and play with large and small loose parts.
- Connection Loose parts seem to generate a hive mind type of play, a play where children are all collecting, piling, scripting and engaging in the same developing play scenario. This type of play develops a sense of connection and almost an unspoken agreement to keep the play alive. Large parts require many children to work together, share ideas and set plans as a group. After reaching their goal they rejoice as a group allowing their collective success to pull them closer as play partners.
- Meeting natural urges in play Children’s natural urge to collect, connect, position, contain and transport are met through loose parts play.
- Social concepts When children play with loose parts they are met with the task of sharing their ideas, contributing to the narrative and accepting the points of view and contributions of others. They have to compromise and negotiate.
- Imaginative play Loose parts provide endless possibilities. Children play symbolically as blocks become telephones and boxes serve as spaceships. Loose parts come alive when met with the imagination of a child.
LOOSE PARTS IDEAS LIST:
Here I have compiled a short list of loose parts to get you started! The possibilities are endless!
Natural Loose Parts
Small and large logs
Other Loose Parts
Large pieces of lumber
Bottles, cups, jars, buckets
Hose cut offs
Board game parts
So let loose with LOOSE PARTS PLAY and watch as your children develop as players and people.