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All About Loose Parts

The loose parts theory

The concept of loose parts was originally created in 1972 by architect Simon Nicholson.

Nicholson described the use of everyday open-ended materials in a child’s environment in play & learning.

He believed this approach to play is strongly linked to creativity & critical thinking later in life.

We now know that Loose parts play has been around as long as there have been children to tinker with just about anything their curiosity leads them to.

Now, Nicholson's concept is widely applied in children’s educational settings around the world, with some settings choosing to replace all toys with loose parts.

What are loose parts?

We've popped together a list of just some of the loose part resources that may be closer than you think!

  • Baby food pouch lids

  • Corks

  • Curtain rings

  • Egg boxes

  • PVC piping

  • Wooden pegs

  • Shells

  • Pine cones

  • Rocks & stones

  • A mixture of leaves

  • Fabric scraps & silk scarves

  • Beads, pom poms, cotton spools

How to use loose parts in your play

  • Create artwork by placing loose parts onto a template drawn onto cardboard. This can be a self-portrait, or a group project

  • Use kitchen tongs to separate & sort resources

  • Use larger loose parts to create ramps, tunnels & buildings

  • Press objects like shells & beads into play dough to create interesting prints

  • Use long fabric scraps, beads & rings to create 'jewellery'

(Keep an eye on our Pinterest page for more ideas! )

Loose parts & SEND children

We love using loose parts in our settings; that's why our special educational support room will be rich in these resources.

Our experience shows that activities like sorting loose objects help SEND children to understand prepositions & provide a play opportunity free from rules, expectations & pressure.

We'd love to know how you incorporate loose parts into your play at home!

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