15 Apr
Loose Parts in Primary Schools: From Impossible to Possible
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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

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.

15 Apr
Play without Playgrounds
Posted by client_admin
By Jeni Wilson

Play comes naturally

Remember play comes naturally to children. They want to play and are more than capable of entertaining themselves, sometimes for hours on end. It may come as a surprise, relief or disappointment that children can entertain themselves with minimal or no input from you. They CAN play without Playgrounds!

Observe Children

Children are imaginative, curious and are problem solvers. In fact, we can be led by their ideas. By sitting back and noticing what children are doing and saying during play, we can find out what’s going on for them, and their perspective on how the world works. We get invaluable insights into what they view as their place in the world and their questions about how things work.

During play children often get to express their ideas and needs, without adult judgement and direction. They may be frustrated, angry, sad, stressed or joyous. Play is therapeutic and it is personalised when directed by children. Cat Sewell, (Play expert), says categorically – “you do not need to entertain them”. 

However, adults can ‘be there’, just not all the time.  Adults can be back-seat drivers, show interest and ask questions. You’ll know when your ‘interested’ becomes interference. When their ideas and play become yours they have lost the ownership that drives their play. See types of play.

Play without playgroundsLoose Parts for all

But fear not if you can’t get to a playground. Fixed playgrounds can be limiting.  Play in nature and with different odds and ends. This type of loose parts play has endless possibilities and a myriad of benefits. See Loose Parts article for ideas on materials. Student or child centred play works for multi-ability, multicultural and multi-age groups. It is non-gendered and non-themed. Loose parts play is suitable for every single child on this planet. All children can use and adapt loose parts according to their ability. They don’t have to be at a particular level of education, they don’t have to be at the same level as others playing, and they can have success. Children can play without playgrounds.

Examples of loose parts:

A pile of boxes, some fabric, a yoghurt container and a wheel off a broken toy could be a scarecrow. You’ve always wanted a scarecrow…but it’s better as a train if that’s what children decide. It’ll be more fulfilling for them, build their confidence, keep them focussed longer and create an intrinsic urge for them to solve their own problem. This is student voice and agency at its best.

Nüdel Kart

Have a look at the videos by the creators of Nüdel Kart. This extraordinary resource includes more than 200 loose parts that children can manipulate, build and play with. Nüdel Kart can be used in many settings, indoors and outdoors. It works across age groups from 3 yrs to 12 yrs and beyond, is not gender or culture specific and is highly supportive to people of all abilities. This resource can be used over and over again because of the unlimited possibilities. Nüdel Kart links seamlessly to world-wide educational priorities. 

Still not sure about play being led by children? 

Take a few minutes to sit back and watch your child/student at play and get an insight into the power and creativity of a child’s brain. 

You can find out more about Nüdel Kart here.

Self directed learning through play using a Nüdel Kart


Brown, K. (2014) What is the Purpose of Play?

Centre for Evidence and Implementation (2019). Nudel KART: encouraging play with children. (Developed for Playground Ideas). Melbourne, Australia.

Kenneth R. Ginsburg, ; and the Committee on Communications and ; and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health Pediatrics January 2007,  119 (1) 182-191; DOI:

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

Sewell, C. in Anna Kelsey-Sugg with Erica Vowels for Life Matters (2020) Stuck inside with the kids during the coronavirus pandemic? Here are some ideas for creative play. ABC Radio National.

14 Apr
FAQ’s About STEM
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By Jeni Wilson

It seems like STEM is the new black!                                                                    This article answers FAQ’s, (frequently asked questions), about STEM.

What does it really mean?

STEM stands for Science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Why is STEM important?

STEM empowers individuals with the skills to succeed and adapt to this increasingly complex, changing, technological world. STEM is intended to lead to innovation necessary to sustain our economy. This innovation and science literacy depends on a solid knowledge base in the STEM areas.

STEM is important because it pervades every part of our lives. Science is everywhere in the world around us and is used to impact people and every living thing on earth.

Why now?

There are multiple reasons why STEM skills are considered more important than ever. Here’s just some of them:

  • 21st century challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy create an imperative to develop STEM skills;
  • STEM skills help to bridge the ethnic and gender gaps sometimes found in math and science fields;
  • The global economy is changing; 
  • STEM Skills and qualifications are considered essential to Australia’s productivity and beyond;
  • Current jobs are disappearing due to automation; 
  • New jobs are emerging as an outcome of technological advances;
  • The continual advances in technology are changing the way students learn, connect and interact every day; 
  • STEM Skills are critical to school success and life;
  • Employer demand for STEM qualifications and skills is high;
  • 75 percent of jobs in the fastest growing industries require workers with STEM skills; (Western Australia Dept of Education)
  • STEM occupations are growing. They are nearly double that of other occupations;
  • The wage for STEM jobs is about 70% more than the national average
  • In 20 years 80% of jobs will require technical skills. (US Bureau of Statistics)

What are STEM skills?

STEM skills relate subject specific skills in science, mathematics, and engineering to generic skills and dispositions. 

This list may vary slightly, but the following skills and dispositions are generic and frequently cited in references related to STEM:

  • Creativity 
  • Inquiry Skills 
  • Critical analysis 
  • Teamwork and collaboration.
  • Initiative 
  • Communication
  • Digital literacy
  • Problem solving 

(See and Western Australia Department of Education)

What are some easy to implement resources for STEM?

There are limitless opportunities to practise STEM skills and learn about STEM concepts when engaging in free or structured play. STEM activities and lessons should be child led and help children learn how to use these skills in the real world.

The Nüdel Kart is a deconstructable mobile playground that can be used in or out of the classroom to help support STEM learning.

How does it do this?

Nüdel Kart is a mobile play kart that can be reconfigured in endless ways to encourage self-directed learning. It contains research-backed specially selected materials to stimulate children’s development.

Nüdel Kart supports educational approaches, such as inquiry that aim to develop skills increasingly in demand in our rapidly changing world. It is designed for children of all abilities and allows all children to adapt the kart to their needs. For children 3-12 years, it engages up to 30 children at a time.

Nüdel Kart provides a tool with loose parts that promotes problem solving and creativity. This helps teach all the principles of STEM and then it can also be used to aid in STEM curriculum and support many aspects of the curriculum.

The following are some examples that link to the curriculum. See the Manual for more details.

Build a tower/bridge

Students use engineering principles to build a tower or a bridge. They can experiment with ways to increase or decrease friction and experiment with force. Measurement with informal and formal units is possible.

Make a Machine

Students use design and technologies as well as creative thinking. Decide what machine your school or community could use most. Make the machine out of the Nüdel Kart. Add more recycled materials to your design, such as cardboard or containers. 

Other ideas include:

  • Students can trade loose parts, 
  • Set up a shop and EFTPOS, 
  • Build a simple telephone, 
  • Create an obstacle course, 
  • Make vehicles or moving things, 
  • Construct a city or town… and  so much more

All of these and more are explained in the Nüdel Kart Manual.

To find out more about the Nudel Kart follow this link.

How do the Arts fit in?

Of course, there’s also The Arts making it STEaM… but let’s leave that for another time.


Engineering for kids, (2016).

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

Seven awesome facts about STEM education Get into energy. Get into STEM.

What is STEM? Western Australia Department of Education

7 Apr
Play and Inquiry
Posted by client_admin
By Jeni Wilson


Play and Inquiry – ‘Perhaps the most pure form of inquiry occurs through play. Murdoch (p119, 2015). And people often think they need to choose between inquiry and play based learning. 

But they don’t!


What is inquiry based learning?

“Inquiry-based learning is a more structured approach to developmental learning. Students operate within a framework supported by a driving question or problematic scenario.

As a curriculum approach, inquiry-based learning builds from a natural process of inquiry in which students experience a ‘need to know’ that motivates and deepens learning. Inquiry-based learning requires guidance from the teacher in the role of facilitator: providing structure and support for students as appropriate to their developmental stage.”*


Types of Inquiry

Inquiries may be teacher guided, negotiated, personal, action-based, problem based, issue based or play-oriented. Play-oriented enquiry is more likely, but not limited to, the early years. Hands-on and sensory activities are seen as crucial for younger children, but all children benefit from concrete materials, experimentation and play-oriented inquiry.


Incorporate play into inquiry

In contrast to more structured inquiry, free play is more hands-on, less teacher guided, can be shorter, and is often more free flowing. No matter what level or focus, children will enjoy play being incorporated into inquiry.


Discover through Inquiry

During inquiry, children learn about the world, their role in their world, and explore and create through play. This can be more or less structured depending on the teacher’s intentions. 


Regardless of the type of inquiry, students work through the same stages. In play-oriented inquiry, students are encouraged to ask questions, build on their prior knowledge, and observe and make their own discoveries. Students will rely on the materials provided and make connections between ideas, experiences and concepts. No matter the focus of inquiry, there’s always ways to integrate play. (Refer to table below)


Some ways to incorporate play into inquiry stages


Stage of Inquiry

  Examples of how to integrate play

Tuning in

  For immersion 


  To gauge prior knowledge


  As a stimulus for developing questions

Finding Out

  Exploration and Experimentation


  Simulation/Role play

Sorting Out

  To practise skills, eg cooperative group *


  As part of skills based workshops


  To process, organise and represent what  has been learnt


  To show learning through play

Reflection & Action

  To demonstrate what has been learnt


  For creation 

*Could be used at multiple stages of Inquiry.


While some materials will be suitable for all inquiries, other materials will depend upon the inquiry focus. 


Materials that might support play within inquiry


Inquiry Concept

Example materials for play

Design and Innovation 

 Recyclable materials such as boxes, cylinders, yoghurt containers, foil, broken   toys and pieces of jewellery.  

Living things

 Seeds, leaves, shells, fossils, magnifying glasses

Expression and performance 

 Steps for a stage, pieces of fabric, scarves

Force- Push and pull

 Levers, wedges, pulleys, ramps, cars, cylinders

The Nudel Kart Teacher and Facilitator Manual provides ideas for multiple focuses.  This includes thirty-six possible curriculum based contexts and extension ideas, with examples for different levels of the curriculum. (4-12 year olds)

Children interacting with the Nüdel Kart as part of curriculum and play based learning

What is the Nüdel Kart?

Playground Ideas created the Nüdel Kart, a social enterprise by non-profit Playground Ideas, ​where 100% of the profits go towards creating stimulating play spaces for children anywhere in the world. The Nüdel Kart is a deconstructable, mobile play kart that can be reconfigured in endless ways to encourage self-directed learning. It contains research-backed specially selected materials to stimulate children’s development.

The Nüdel Kart packed up

For a list of example materials for loose parts play.

When play is incorporated into inquiry, teachers have the opportunity to observe and respond to skills development. These skills are pertinent to all students across different inquiries.


Examples of  skills and dispositions





Asking questions


 Managing  impulsivity

 Speaking respectfully

Generating ideas

 Taking turns

 Showing  initiative

 Explaining procedure

Using imagination

 Managing conflict

 Staying on  task

 Recounting what was done


 Building resilience

 Using trial  and error

 Reflecting on achievements



 Being curious

 Expressing feelings

Being open-minded

 Showing empathy

 Managing time

 Justifying actions




 Speaking assertively


 Being accountable

 Seeking  and using   feedback

 Using language for different   purposes


 Accepting      responsibility

 Being self- motivated

 Presenting information in   different ways

Play enhances inquiry

Whether teachers start with a focus in mind, skills to be developed, a question, issue, problem to be solved, or a collection of materials, play can enhance the inquiry experience providing inclusive opportunities to promote student voice and agency.

 In conclusion, I need to mention the ‘f’ word that is linked to curiosity, self-motivation and resilience.  We can so easily forget the impact when the focus of learning is shifted away from the learners.

…play is the icing on the cake – FUN!  




Murdoch, K. (2015) The Power of Inquiry. Seastar Education, Northcote.

Murdoch, K. and Wilson, J. (2004) Learning Links. Curriculum Corporation, Carlton South.

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.