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Loose Parts Play

Friday 20th October 2017

What are Loose Parts?

Loose parts are items and materials that children can move, adapt, control, change and manipulate within their play.   They are materials with no specific set of directions that can be used alone or combined with other materials.  They provide a high level of creativity and choice as there are endless possibilities for how they can be used.   A beach is a good example of a loose parts environment, with plenty of moveable and adaptable materials, such as sand, water, rocks and shells.  Loose parts are the reason that most children are absorbed in play for hours on a beach. When a child is playing with sand, it can become anything they want it to be, whereas many bought toys lack such flexibility.

Studies show that children prefer to play with loose parts such as water, sticks, sand, ropes and boxes rather than traditional toys and play equipment, because they can use their imagination, and have greater control in their play.  You may be familiar with the saying “Children prefer to play with the box rather than the present inside”, the box is an example of a loose part, and loose parts have a very high play value for children.

Loose parts can be anything. Mostly they are not toys, but random bits and pieces of materials that we can find in our everyday life. The interesting thing about loose parts is that they have no defined purpose: they can be anything and can be used in any way.  Loose parts can be moved around, sorted, stacked, and tinkered with. The opportunities are truly infinite and the resulting play never ceases to amaze.  Loose parts play encourages children to explore experiment, design, create and construct. It gives them the opportunity to figure out that there are different ways of doing things. It teaches them to be critical of their own creations, be flexible and resilient when things don’t work out. Loose parts play encourages independent play, self-motivation and creative thinking.

Loose parts can be natural or synthetic. In a preschool environment we can provide an array of loose parts for use in play such as stones, stumps, sand, gravel, fabric, twigs, wood, pallets, balls, buckets, baskets, crates, boxes, logs, rope, tyres and shells.

Why Loose Parts? There are many reasons why play spaces should include a multitude of loose parts, including:

  • Loose parts can be used anyway children choose.
  • Loose parts can be adapted and manipulated in many ways.
  • Loose parts encourage creativity and imagination.
  • Loose parts develop more skill and competence than most modern plastic toys
  • Loose parts can be used in many different ways
  • Loose parts can be used in combination with other materials to support imagination
  • Loose parts encourage open ended learning.

These photos show the children enjoying making and creating with loose parts at pre-school.  In these images pieces of dry wood, twigs, tape, boxes, tubes and many other items have been provided to encourage the children to use their imagination and creativity.  It is amazing what the children creative, the ideas are endless and limitless.

At pre-school we always provide cardboard boxes for the children to use.  This week the boxes have been made into cars, boats, dens and rockets.  The boxes are moved by the children inside and outside as they continually think of new ways to use the box.

The staff are able to support the children in their play and extend their learning through teaching and incorporating the Early Years Foundation Stage EYFS development matters (the curriculum that Early Years setting must follow) into play.  By teaching children in this way we incorporate the teaching all the areas of the EYFS which include maths, literacy and opens up lots of communication and language.

So how can you help?

To support the children’s experiences and resources we would be grateful for any donations of the following items that you may have to enhance our loose partsprovision;

Planks of wood

Plant pots



Crates (such as bakers crates)

Piping or guttering

Kitchen roll cardboard tubes

Empty Cable reels

Clothes pegs



Thick, heavy rope

We ask that any of the donations you are able to make are clean and safe for use.

Thank you in advance for any items you are able to donate to us.

From all the staff at Courtney Ladybirds.