Have you ever scrolled through your instagram and seen these beautifully displayed little trinket boxes, with little mandala pieces, wooden rings, little balls, etc? When you saw them, did you think to yourself, "They are so pretty and cute but how do kids actually play with them?"
This blog is to help give you some ideas of how you might be able to introduce 'Loose Parts' play to your kids.
What is Loose Parts Play?
It is an open ended form of play, that could almost be classified as 'ultimate tinkering'. It is play involving but not limited to, any found, loose or tactile materials. Any material that can be used multiple ways and can be moved/maniplulated, can be used for loose parts play. There is no set way on how to use the parts, and it is very much child led play.
Has your child ever collected shells and just sat there rearranging them? Have your kids ever collected leaves or sticks, made a campfire? What about, collected rocks and stacked them? These are all examples of loose parts play.
What are the Benefits?
- Promotes, 'what if' thinking. Eg. What if... I move this here?
- Helps develop problem solving skills and see solutions. If something is working or looking the way they had hoped, they will try something. They might even keep 'tinkering', to find the best outcome to whatever they are trying to achieve or discover, how something they did, lead to an outcome they weren't expecting.
- Develops fine motor skills. The skill of learning how to use and manipulate small parts. Think about learning how to screw a nut onto a bolt.
5 Ways to Play...
As mentioned before, Loose Parts Play is child led. There is no set way to use loose parts but if it is something new, here are some really easy ways you can introduce your kids to loose parts play.
1. Patterns/Pictures- Loose parts, particularly the small wooden pieces, can be used to make and teach patterns, create mandalas, create faces with different emotions. A great account to follow for this is @a.day.for.play.
2. Counting- Say a number or use a number flash card and get them to assign the correct amount of loose parts to the number. Super Easy!
3. Colouring Matching/sorting- This is a great one for slightly younger kids. You can actually buy sets, or make your own, and encourage them to match all of the same colour together. This is a fun way to incorporate colour recognition and language skills. It also, provides more visual learning.
If all the pieces a jumbled together, they might enjoy grouping them or sorting them. Eg. sorting shells by shape or size. You can also buy these beautiful sorting trays, that double as storage for your pieces.
4. Stacking and Balancing- Another easy obvious one. When kids are presented with peg people, coins and rings, stacking is almost always the first thing kids will do. As they start to get the hang of it, they then might progress to seeing how they can stack things differently and experiment with balancing items.
5. Pretend Play- Loose parts can also be used in things like small world play, or the can be props in other role plays. We like to use wooden coins as much when we play shops.
There are many benefits to 'loose parts play'. What is important to remember is that, there is not right or wrong way to play, keep it simple, and let your little explorers lead the play.
With all play, please make sure the toys are appropriate for ages, to avoid any choking hazards.