In our last post, we looked at some of our simplest, cheapest playground elements that fit together to create a unique playground that would fit within a school or pre-school ground. But sometimes, we just don’t have the space to create those kinds of structures or designs. Enter Loose Parts and the plethora of possibilities it brings. Have you read through Playground Ideas’ Loose Parts play manual? This has been one of our most popular resources and provides heaps of ideas for how to create a stimulating play space for kids when you have very little room. We want to share our 10 favourite loose parts for play!
We also recently launched Nüdel Kart, a deconstructable, a loose parts playground that can be reconfigured in endless ways to encourage self-directed learning. It contains research-backed specially selected loose parts materials to stimulate children’s development.
It’s no secret that we’re big fans of loose parts! Since 2010 we’ve been encouraging people to forage for play in their own homes and neighbourhoods, so we asked our friends what their favourite loose part was. Nearly 40 responses included all sorts of stories of play in their homes, professional settings, and own childhoods. Some classics are represented, but you’ll also see a number of more idiosyncratic responses. There were so many one-off ‘write-in’ ballots that we had to choose our favourites too! What remains is evidence of children’s endless ingenuity for play, as they make the ordinary things around them extraordinary.
10 Favourite Loose Parts ideas!
1. Cardboard boxes
What child doesn’t love creating a building, a train, a robot, or whatever else their imagination can come up with out of cardboard boxes? The options are endless…
2. Branches, twigs and sticks
Found everywhere and able to be turned into a multitude of creations or purposes.
Kids love playing with water, whether it be pouring it into containers, using it to create mud pies or creating tunnels and channels.
(photo credit: Stomping in the Mud)
4. Fabric, cloth
Raid the fabric stash and see what the kids create… capes for superheroes or curtains for their house?
Soil + water = fun.
Many of Playground Ideas’ designs use car or truck tires as their core element, but they are great to use just on their own as well… see how the kids use their imagination to find uses for them!
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again…. Every playground should incorporate sand!
8. Natural materials, such as pine cones, shells, seed pods etc.
You can incorporate the collecting of natural materials into the kids play, and then let them turn them into artworks, imaginative play games of shops and markets, or fairy gardens (or indeed whatever else they desire!)
9. Dry leaves
Autumn and kids. Need we say more?
10. Kitchen items.
Anyone with a toddler has no doubt at some point marvelled at their ability to entertain themselves with a bunch of kitchen items from the third drawer! Saucepans, whisks, measuring cups, ladles… kids love to make sounds with them, use them to “bake cakes” or as tools in a sandpit or water tub. The options are endless.
What are loose parts and why do they work?
Loose Parts is simply a name for stimulating materials that children can use to learn how the world works. Unlike “normal” playgrounds or most toys, loose parts are open ended and reusable in an infinite number of ways depending on the child’s needs for development.
It is precisely because of their open-endedness that loose parts engage the highest forms of thinking and interaction such as creativity, problem solving, social skills and emotional intelligence.
Loose parts play and tools like the Nüdel Kart support STEM learning through authentic engagement in real world challenges.
They are also excellent for psycho-social support to children from traumatised and disadvantaged backgrounds and can be tailored to the various contexts that it is used in.
Supporting anyone, anywhere to build a stimulating space for play
Please help us to continue creating and sharing free resources, so that you and others all over the world can keep creating awesome play spaces for kids!