What do pool noodles, pipe cleaners, and cardboard tubes all have in common?
They’re all Loose Parts!
They are things that can be moved, manipulated, and/or combined by the playing child in ways that are meaningful to them.
HOW the children use these materials results from their own creativity.
> Creativity (noun): the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.
Loose parts are phenomenal instigators for creative expression. Here’s why:
The playing child decides how to use the loose parts. They decide what they represent and how to use them during play. These meanings can change based on the child’s age and type of play, making the creative possibilities limitless.
Use their Imagination
Playing with loose parts enables children to use their imagination, not only in what the loose parts represent, but also how they work into their play schemas. They may use different voices, creative fantasy worlds, or take on new roles.
Develop their own Ideas
Because loose parts are open-ended, there is no restriction or limit on what the materials are used for or how. The classic example is the stick, which can be a wand, a pencil, a fishing pole, a sword, a hanger… Children aren’t being told how to use the loose parts and therefore have the opportunity to develop their own ideas. And they have the best ideas!
And for us parents and educators, Loose Parts allow us to be creative in our spending, our time management, our storage, and home environment aesthetics:
Loose parts are often free and easily accessible
Loose parts engage children longer than traditional toys
Loose parts can be easier to store than bulky, plastic toys
Loose parts, especially natural items, add beauty to our living space
Whether you’re at home or in a child-care/school setting, loose parts are a great way to support children’s creativity. When we take away the restrictions and limitations of traditional toys and materials, we are able to see and hear the children’s own ideas and voices amplified in their play.
Loose parts are easy to find, beautiful to have, and allow the playing child to develop an increased attention span through focused engagement.
What’s not to love?!