Loose parts can be made of anything, natural or man made. They can also be found by the child or provided by an adult. To fit the definition of a loose part children should use the items in self-directed way. The items should not be offered with a defined use and must also be accessible to the child without having to ask for access.
Loose parts allow children to really flex their creative muscles since the items don't have a preset job like a bowling set, puzzle or playhouse. While the preset toys can serve a very good purpose they don't offer the length, variety or strength for learning that loose parts offer.
Loose parts are also great for mixed age groups, families and children with developmental delays because there is no right or wrong way to use them. The children choose to use the items in a way that matches their developmental level. This allows them to build on their strengths and develop feelings of confidence.
Alan Binder, Professor of Economics at Princeton University maintains our future economies will need a creative and innovative workforce that develops new processes, products, and industries. Playing with loose parts helps children develop the diverse thinking which will be needed for the future. Children learn best through hands on play and loose parts have high play value because they can be used in a variety of ways. Loose parts put the learner in control of their use. Children use them based upon their current levels of development and interests. Loose parts can moved, manipulated, controlled, changed, lined up, taken apart, mixed and more. These processes allow children to learn concepts of math, physical science, symbolic play, language, literacy, art, texture, music, movement and sensory exploration.
For many years we have collected odds and ends in several coffee cans in our office. Children are inevitably drawn to the collection of loose parts and begin exploring the materials during their visit. It should also be noted our office is a toy library as well so we find it intriguing that children often choose the loose parts over the toys once they have been happened upon.
|River slate rocks. Found while traveling. Not natural to our area so it is a high interest, novel material.|
We also recommend the book, "Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children" by Lisa Daly and Miriam Beloglovsky which we have available for loan in each of our offices.