“As long as materials can be moved, redesigned, put together, and taken apart in a variety of ways, they are classified as loose parts.”
Simon Nicholson, 1971 Founder of the idea of Loose Parts
What are Loose Parts?
As Simon Nicholson defines, loose parts are open ended materials which can be used in multiple ways and not just put to one particular use. Their use is not predetermined or pre-set. This can be your beads, sequins, ribbons, curtain clips, popsicle sticks, leaves, twigs, flowers, coconut shells, coconut fiber, coir ropes and so on. It can be manmade materials or natural materials. The best thing about loose parts is that it can become anything a child wants it to be in his/her imagination. For instance, a coconut shell can be used as a phone or a vessel to collect sand or eyes for a portrait or the body of a caterpillar! These are just limited imaginative ideas that come to an adult’s mind, but a child is capable of more!
How are they important?
Loose parts are an important part of a child’s creativity and higher order thinking. As adults it is our responsibility to provide children with materials that would develop their imagination and enrich their experiences. Loose parts serve this purpose just right! As they do not come with an instruction manual, children are challenged to think and problem solve which helps in their cognitive development.
Types of Loose Parts
Naturally, this term might be new to some of you. No problem! Here are some examples of loose parts, after which we can give you a few engagements using loose parts.
A set up using natural loose parts– dried flowers, shells, twigs, wooden logs, acorns, leaves, and pebbles
This has a combination of wooden loose parts like the rings, pegs, cylinders and manmade loose parts like the glass tiles, coloured hollow cylinders
This again is a mix of natural and manmade loose parts like shells, fabric pieces, bottle caps, cardboard cutouts, yarn cutouts, buttons, and beads.
The materials you see in the pictures are only 10% of the options you have. Keeping in mind the definition of loose parts, you can look around for materials in your environment.
The only thing you need to be mindful of is the age of your preschooler and provide materials age appropriate. Be aware of choking hazards and keep an eye on the same! How to use them?
Now, children usually self-engage with loose parts. Yet, we can provide an invitation (which is setting up a table with loose parts- well segregated) and maybe have a provocation (like you create something with those loose parts as an inspiration, like a starting point for your child). A lot of imaginative play, representations, language and math can be brought in with loose parts. Here are some ideas!
This is a set up based on a children’s book. Making your own bird or making a nest for the bird can be the invitation. You may provide materials available at home like leaves, twigs, pebbles, feathers, coir threads, cotton, pom poms and so on. This develops their creativity and helps them make connection to the story.
This simple set up helps them understand symmetry. You may use ribbon or tape as the demarcation and provide pebbles/twigs/popsicle sticks/pom poms. To start off with you may do one side and see if they are able to reciprocate the symmetry.
Children find it challenging to draw as they wish until their pincer grip is well developed. This is a great idea to help them understand the placements of body parts and form a good visualization before they use pencils to draw portraits.
A fun way to learn spellings and letter-sound association. You may have pebbles with different letters on it handy, which can be used in different engagements
Another way to engage with loose parts. Through this invitation, children learn the formation of the letter along with spellings. They helps in developing their pre-writing skills
An easy way to introduce patterns and counting! All you need is a chalkboard/slate along with some pebbles/pom poms/wooden circles. Your child can count and place these along the patterns made
Like you have letters on pebbles, keep a set of numbered pebbles handy too! Through this engagement your child learns counting and makes association of the number to the symbol. You may use buttons, stickers, tiny animal figurines, lego blocks and so on!
Well, we hope you get inspired by these ideas and come up with your own cool innovative invitations with loose parts! We are sure your child will just adore these engagements! Try them and let us know how it went!
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