Loose parts are “materials that children can move, manipulate, control, and change while they play. Children can carry, combine, redesign, line up, take apart, and put loose parts back together in almost endless ways. The materials come with no specific set of directions, and they can be used alone or combined with other materials.” (“Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children”)
Loose parts enhance children’s creativity, initiative-taking, and cooperative play, and are by definition, open-ended. Children have lots of freedom to use them how they want; and since children have devised their own plan and rules, they’re deeply invested in their play. Using loose parts supports children’s learning with problem-solving, focus, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, language skills and more. At HFP, we use a variety of loose parts both indoors and out.
This trio engineered a “ride” using tree stumps and planks in the playyard. They negotiated a plan as they carried bulky planks and maneuvered heavy stumps, demanding significant cooperation. They seamlessly worked together to construct their invention and graciously took turns in the driver and passenger roles. How satisfying to see our open-ended loose parts put to such good use!
Earlier this Fall, two children were a bit disregulated and rolling heavy tree stumps helped them get back on track. As I observed their wrestless bodies, I suggested a stump-moving challenge and they went for it. They needed physical exertion and some heavy work to fully engage their bodies and shift gears toward productive play. C & C developed an elaborate course, rolling stumps around the tree, up a slope and back again. They shifted from wrestless to engaged– from slightly agitated to joyful. Another successful use of our open-ended play yard tree props.