21 Apr
Who is Dr Jeni Wilson?
Posted by client_admin

You may have noticed a number of articles and blogs that Jeni has recently penned that have appeared on our Playground Ideas website.

Dr Jeni Wilson has known the Playground Ideas Founder, Marcus Veerman, for a number of years, and last year was invited to be part of the writing team to help with the launch of the Nudel Kart and the teacher training manual that supports this.

De Jeni has a wealth of experience as a parent, teacher, and consultant, with much of her work centred around inquiry and student agency.

Because of this experience, we asked her to write about play based learning and other relevant topics such as creativity and STEM,  and speak to how the Nudel Kart can complement and enhance many of these often neglected areas of learning.

You can check them out here: Writings About Play

And you can learn more about Dr Jeni Wilson through an online magazine called Weekend Notes, where she has written nearly 600 reviews/articles

Brief Bio

Dr Jeni Wilson (Dip T, B. Ed, Master of Ed, Phd) is an Associate of the Faculty of Education at the University of Melbourne. She taught at the University of Melbourne in the Education Faculty for fifteen years as a senior lecturer in pre and post service education. Her main area of work was training primary school teachers. She also taught subjects in secondary education and general training fields. Jeni has been the supervisor of varied Masters and Doctoral research projects.

Jeni has extensive experience as a private consultant in schools delivering professional development programs including classroom action research, planning support and in-classroom mentoring/demonstrations. The major focus is on innovative, inquiry based, student centred, differentiated and reflective teaching, learning and assessment.  The majority of her work is on supporting teachers to implement inquiry based curriculum, hands on and personalising learning. These are student centred approaches that listen to student voices and build on student questions and curiosity.

Jeni is an experienced speaker who has worked with large audiences and has been invited to speak interstate and overseas. Jeni is the co-author of over 60 books including many teachers reference books, several children’s texts and teacher resource materials, for example: Smart Thinking, Thinking for Themselves, Integrated Assessment, Self-Assessment for Students and Focus on Inquiry (with Lesley Wing Jan) Learning Links and Learning for themselves (with Kath Murdoch), Contracts for Learning (with Lynda Cutting) and Activate Inquiry. She is the series editor and writer of many books in the series entitled Little books with big ideas and Infotexts. Some of her publications have been translated and many are sold in Canada, America, Japan, New Zealand, England, Indonesia, Slovenia, United Arab Emirates and elsewhere.

In addition, Jeni has had dozens of articles published and presented numerous conference papers here and around the world. Just for fun, in the last few years Jeni have written nearly 600 reviews/articles for an online magazine called Weekend Notes.

She has been invited to be part of the writing team during the launch of Nudel Kart…..

Prior to post education training Jeni was a librarian, an art teacher, classroom teacher and delivered professional development programs on literacy and numeracy. This year she has trained as a wedding celebrant. 

Jeni has been fostering for over thirty years. She has two biological children and is the permanent carer of two indigenous children. She also provides respite and emergency care. As a single working mother she has to be organized, creative and a problem solver to juggle these roles. Jeni has experience with reluctant readers and those who are challenged due to trauma, medical and other issues. She also lives with various animals including dogs and much loved curious cats!

21 Apr
Loose Parts Play in Early Childhood Education
Posted by Marcus Veerman
By Jeni Wilson

The period from birth to primary school is arguably the most important learning stage of a child’s life. Children are extremely curious and adventurous.  They love learning about the world, how it all works, and their place in the world. 

Early childhood education is about the holistic development of all facets of learning. From social and emotional learning, to cognitive and physical learning.  It is about building a foundation for the lifelong love of learning and well being. But it is also about developing capable, curious and future independent citizens of the world.

Play and loose parts (Early Childhood Education)

Children learn through play. They learn to communicate, be friends, to think and change their mind. Play comes naturally to children. It’s instinctive and therapeutic.

Interestingly, young children are often more engaged with simple things like a marble in a bottle than the latest expensive electronic toy.

It is these understandings about the role of play in early childhood development, that educators choose loose parts play to meet their educational aims. 

When children play…

Teachers can:

  • Find out what interests them;
  • Build a relationship with students;
  • Identify special needs;
  • Target specific needs.

Children can:

  • Develop communication skills;
  • Be problem solvers;
  • Be imaginative and creative;
  • Work with others;
  • Develop confidence;
  • Learn to love learning
  • Build skills;
  • Develop social skills;
  • Be curious;
  • Foster independence;
  • Develop resilience;
  • Use conflict resolution skills;
  • Be engineers or designers;
  • Use maths skills.

One of the key benefits of loose parts play is their open-endedness and the possibilities for child-led learning or student agency. Loose parts play provides endless opportunities for construction and reconstruction, invention and reinvention. A range of play types is possible, and the play they engage in can match the child’s level of development. 

Ideas for Loose Parts Play:

The list of possibilities is endless, loose parts can be:

  • Moved, combined, stacked, counted, sequenced, grouped, and changed;
  • Traded at their shop, they can be used to create the tallest tower, a circus, castle or the longest bridge.
  • The fastest rocket, time machine or even a boat.
  • Enable children to make a farm, playground or a train station; or
  • The props at a performance or even the stage. 

 (See other ideas in the Nudel Kart teacher’s manual)

“Children learn naturally by doing the work of play”

Maria Montessori

While fixed playgrounds and toys may be promoted for skill development, they are just that ‘fixed’. They have limited versatility and attraction for children and can be limited. 

How many expensive toys have you bought that lose appeal after 2-3 weeks?

Loose parts Kit

Teachers and caregivers can develop their own loose parts kits. Many of the examples below can be collected from home.

Natural resources and Found objectsmud, seed pods, bark
Building materialswood offcuts of all sized, simple tools, ropes, sandpaper, tubing
Scrap materialsold tyres, plastic pots
Soft materialsribbons, scarves, wool, fabrics
Household materialsfoam, bubble wrap, coat hangers, cooking utensils, pegs, baskets, sieve, buckets

Source: Wilson, J. (2020) Loose Part Play Kits

For the ultimate ready-made and research based loose parts kit, one that can be packed up into an area less than a metre square, the Nüdel Kart is the ultimate design. 

Nüdel Kart is a mobile playground, a kart that comes apart into many different pieces, and is filled with loose parts that children can manipulate, build and play with. Nüdel Kart can be used in many settings, indoors and outdoors. Designed for multiple ages, it is not gender or culture specific and is highly supportive to people of all abilities.

Designed to meet worldwide and whole child learning priorities, Nüdel Kart supports educational approaches that aim to develop skills increasingly in demand in our rapidly changing world in disciplines such as science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics (STEaM). The Nüdel Kart was created to achieve these priorities that are sometimes considered elusive. 

Over 200 loose part play pieces in a Nüdel Kart


Sewell, C. Wilson, J. Laing, B. and Veerman, M. (2020) Nudel Kart Teachers Manual (2020)

Walker, Kathy. (2005) What’s the hurry? Australian Scholarships Group (np)

Why Is Early Childhood Education Important? National University

What Is the Purpose of Early Childhood Programs? Early Education Central.

Wilson, J. (2020) Loose Part Play Kits.

21 Apr
Loose Parts for Community Groups
Posted by Marcus Veerman
By Jeni Wilson

How often have you been attending a community group, maybe with a bunch of kids, and you need something to entertain them while you wait? Or perhaps you have some siblings involved in group activities, and others are not?

How often have you thought, ‘I could do that if there was a way to keep my child actively busy, preferably doing something enjoyable and good for them?’

It is acknowledged that family pressures can lead to less time for hands on experiences and learning through play. Less chances to be curious and imaginative and socialse.

Child Friendly Spaces: Loose Parts for Community Groups

Imagine if you could create an instant child friendly environment to make adult events family friendly…. and give children an experience they will remember.

What would you say if I told you there was such a thing?

An all-inclusive, innovative resource exists that replaces the need to be near a playground. It can provide hours of play and learning with infinite possibilities. This resource is research proven and suitable for ages 3-12 and can be used by up to 30 children at a time.

The Nüdel Kart

Nüdel Kart is a portable and mobile playground made of natural and non-toxic materials, filled with loose parts. It is self-directed and needs very little supervision; just 1 adult. Suitable for spaces big or small, indoors or outdoors, it is easily assembled and packed away with no infrastructure or power required.


Nüdel Kart has been tried and tested in a wide variety of children’s situations around the globe. It’s truly all-inclusive, with specific disability and special school context and occupational therapy contexts. It is multi-cultural and works across a broad age group. The Nüdel Kart is also non-gendered and non-themed. 


It also provides authentic challenges and endless learning opportunities. In educational settings it is used to develop skills increasingly in demand in our rapidly changing world in disciplines such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).


Highly engaging, the Nüdel Kart encourages creativity, confidence, resilience and a sense of wellbeing. This loose parts play kit enables what our rushed modern world has often limited –student agency (child-initiated learning). 

More than 200 loose parts in a Nüdel Kart for play based learning

Loose Parts for Community groups. Who can benefit?

There are so many different settings, groups and activities within the community, that would benefit from the types of play possible with Nüdel Kart

Sports teams, eg footy, basketball, soccer

– Before and after school care

– Living and learning centre groups

– Craft groups, eg knitting

– Political groups

– Welfare groups, eg Rotary activities

– Community farms

– Volunteer groups, eg CFA

– Religious groups

– Cultural groups 

– Refugee support groups

Children engaging in loose parts play with the Nüdel Kart

In three words, a Nüdel Kart is adaptable, portable and flexible.

Instantly change a community group or event into a family and child friendly environment, where kids can play and learn for hours on end – simply by introducing a Nüdel Kart.

Play is fun while learning and when children love learning, they thrive. What’s to lose?

Jeni Wilson


Sewell, C. Wilson, J. Laing, B. and Veerman, M. (2020) Nudel Kart Teachers Manual (2020)

20 Apr
Children: Questions and Play
Posted by Marcus Veerman
By Jeni Wilson

All of these questions are from Children as the result of play

Why do people want things they don’t need? 

• How can I make a machine that sucks all the rubbish off the earth?

• Do people in the bushfires need company?

Is everything we know proved by science?

• Why do we need the letter ‘k’?

• Why did the first people on earth turn out to be gorillas?

• How did Ford cars become such beasts?

• If I become a sinner after my confirmation, what happens? Do I have my confirmation declined?

These questions were unprompted by any elaborate immersion, they are simply what children are interested in finding out. These questions provide teachers with the opportunity to find out what children know, what they are interested in, and their gaps and misconceptions. For children, it’s through questioning, and subsequent play and exploration, that they learn about the world and their place in the world.

Questions are an insight into children’s minds and hearts. 

To stimulate learning, such questions provide a springboard that has more bounce because they are initiated by children. In addition, children are more likely to be persistent and more resilient when they are seeking the answers to their own questions. 

When children start school they can ask hundreds of questions a day. Sadly,  half way through their first year, children only ask about two questions per day! This is a travesty. 

Hopkins and Craig, n.d.

In addition to impacting on the number of questions that students ask, at school there are certain types of questions that children are more likely to ask. Children learn pretty quickly the sort of questions that are valued. Lower order questions such as recall and managerial questions are more likely to be asked and encouraged (Wragg and Brown, 2001). Questions that require creative thinking are asked less frequently.

Higher order thinking skills and creativity go hand in hand (Godhino and Wilson, 2004). What sort of thinking do you want children to use?

Challenging and surprising students with ‘out there’ ideas and questions can help promote creative thinking and promote further questions from them. Open-ended tasks are also likely to lead to creativity and more student questions. The work of Australian’s such as Dalton (1988), Pohl (1997) and Golding (2002), provide ideas for developing creativity, philosophical thought, questions and depth of concepts.

We need more student questions and talk, and less teacher talk and teacher questions.

Those doing the talking are the ones doing the thinking.

A guaranteed context to change interactions between teachers and student, and students and each other, is through open-ended play.  In open-ended play students automatically ask questions, take risks, use imagination, pose problems, solve problems…. the list of benefits is lengthy  (Hyperlink to p 17 manual).

During play students don’t need to wait for others to initiate ideas or for the teacher to ask questions. They don’t have to guess what the right question might be. During play, as a matter of course, students ask questions to:

– Explore possibilities

– Clarify

– Extend ideas

– Make decisions

– Set goals they monitor themselves 

– Organise others

– Get feedback

– Make connections 

– Get answers

– Solve problems

The great news is we can develop student questions within the context of other curriculum directives by using play. Check out the many ideas in the Nüdel Kart Manual. These ideas are linked to the Australian Curriculum with ideas for primary students of all ages.


Dalton, J. (1988) Adventures in Thinking. Nelson, South Melbourne.

Godhino, S. and Wilson, J. (2004) How to succeed with Questioning. Education Services Australia, Carlton South.

Golding, C. (2002) Connecting Concepts: Thinking activities for students. ACER Press, Melbourne.

Hopkins, D. and Craig, W. (n.d.) Curiosity and Powerful learning. McRel International, Australia. 

Pohl, M. (1997) Teaching thinking skills in the Primary Years. Hawker Brownlow, Melbourne.

Sewell, C. Wilson, J. Laing, B. and Veerman, M. (2020) Nudel Kart Teachers Manual (2020)

Wilson, J. and Wing Jan, L. Focus on Inquiry (second edition). Education Services Australia, Carlton South.

Wragg, E. and Brown, G. (2001) Questioning in Primary School. Routledge Falmer, London.