Blog

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

References

https://www.playaustralia.org.au/sites/default/files/LibraryDownloads/loose-parts-toolkit.pdf

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 https://www.nu.edu/resources/why-is-early-childhood-education-important/#what-specific-outcomes-does-early-childhood-education-have-on-a-childs-future

What Is the Purpose of Early Childhood Programs? Early Education Central. https://www.earlyeducationcentral.com/educational/purpose-early-childhood-programs/

Wilson, J. (2020) Loose Part Play Kits. https://playgroundideas.org/loose-parts-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.

ALL INCLUSIVE

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. 

STEM

The Nüdel Kart 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).

LOOSE PARTS

Nüdel Karts are highly engaging, encourage 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.


A Nüdel Kart can instantly change a community group or event into a family and child friendly environment, where kids can play and learn for hours on end.

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

Jeni Wilson

References

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

https://www.playaustralia.org.au/sites/default/files/LibraryDownloads/loose-parts-toolkit.pdf

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.


References

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.


15 Apr
Loose Parts in Primary Schools: From Impossible to Possible
Posted by client_admin
By Jeni Wilson

“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’

I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!”


― Lewis Carroll

This blog is for teachers who believe hands on play, kinaesthetic learning, and student centred curriculum is fundamental to student learning. Loose parts have an important place in primary schools.

Do you want your students to be active, problem solvers and problem posers?

And do you understand the importance of curiosity, creativity and action-oriented learning?

Then this is for you.

Why are loose parts important in primary schools?

If you really believe that the impossible is possible, if you devote enough time and effort to it… then you can change the way you work in schools. Students can make many decisions for themselves that we sometimes routinely make for them. 

And if you are looking for opportunities to develop lifelong learning skills and dispositions without contriving contexts to do so, then read on. 

Enter loose parts play

One of the key benefits of loose parts play is the open-endedness and ability for the students to be self-directed. The buzz words student voice and agency are naturally integral. 

And learning to learn skills and dispositions such as thinking, cooperative learning, problem solving, negotiation, conflict resolution and resilience are inherent when using loose parts play in classrooms and beyond. 

Sound impossible?

Well, there are so many opportunities in primary schools for students to construct and reconstruct, design, invention and reinvention, and to be creative when using loose parts

Loose parts play is great for:

  • Unstructured, open-ended play during class time to improve student well being;
  • As a context for student-centred/led activities;
  • Adding value to a playground or play area for students to use at break times;

Enter the Nüdel Kart

The Nüdel Kart is the ultimate ready-made, research based loose parts kit

It is a mobile playground, a kart that explodes into more than 200 pieces, and is filled with loose parts that children can manipulate, build and play with. It has been designed for 3 yrs to 12 yrs, is not gender or culture specific, and is highly supportive to people of all abilities.

And it can be packed up into an area less than a metre square.

The Nüdel Kart can be used inside or outside, alongside curriculum, or during break time, providing unlimited activities and stress relief for all students.

The Nüdel Kart can be used:

  • – During inquiry tuning in tasks for immersion;
  • – For experimentation; 
  • – To explore different materials; 
  • – For specific engineering tasks;
  • – To make a simple machine;
  • – Or make a tower, bridge, town, borough, city, shelter;
  • – To design a café and be a waiter;
  • – To explore physics, eg to make ramps, force;
  • – As part of mathematics, eg informal measurements, trading and comparisons;
  • – For sorting and classification;
  • – To learn about shapes;
  • – As part of role play tasks across the curriculum;
  • – As a context for practising skills such as team work and collaboration;
  • – For problem solving challenges;
  • – To play theatre games;
  • – For skills workshops/practise; 
  • – To show learning through play;
  • – For students to use their imagination;
  • – To be creative and develop resilience;
  • – To develop oral language;
  • – For help children learn to be ‘citizens’;
  • – As props for performance;
  • – To facilitate communication between mixed groups of children;
  • – To develop a relationship between students and teachers; or
  • – Just for fun!

See the Nüdel Kart Manual for many more ideas.

Designed to meet world wide 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).

Nüdel Kart unpacked
Nüdel Kart packed up
References

https://www.playaustralia.org.au/sites/default/files/LibraryDownloads/loose-parts-toolkit.pdf

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.