Loose Parts

Have you heard the term loose parts in relation to early childhood development, but aren’t really sure what that means? Loose parts is a broad name given to a collection of materials (natural or man-made) that can be used for a child’s play. There’s no specific goal or function to any one piece, just endless open play opportunities for children to use their imagination. 

The term loose parts comes from architect Simon Nicholson, who believed that open-ended items could facilitate and encourage creativity and exploration for children. It supports the idea that children will often gravitate towards items with open possibilities as opposed to toys meant to be played with in a certain way. Imagine those scenarios when a child chooses to play with the tissue paper and the bubble wrap of a gift, rather than the item inside. 

One of the amazing parts of this type of play is that you don’t need to look much further than your own home to create a wonderful collection for your little one. Try to incorporate items of different sizes, textures and materials from both inside and outside of your home. Ideas can include: nuts, bolts, paint chips, small containers, craft supplies, costume jewelry, pieces of fabric or other material, buttons, marbles, sticks, pebbles, pinecones, shells and so much more. 

Please remember, small items may be a choking hazard for younger children. Loose parts play can be incredible for older babies and younger toddlers, but use your discretion and choose safe parts for your child. A loose parts collection for an infant will look very different from one created for a preschooler. 

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