Understanding Loose Parts Play and its Benefits

This article has been written by early years consultant, Anne Rodgers, from ATR Consultancy.

Loose parts play is about having a variety of ‘loose parts’ i.e. materials which can be moved around, carried, stacked, lined up and manoeuvred in multiple ways to enhance creativity when playing. First proposed by architect Simon Nicholson during the 1970s, more and more settings are adopting the idea that children can design their environment by themselves through loose parts play and that it can be re-designed at will.

Items such as crates, wooden logs, pallets, tyres, bricks etc. can be stored outside and made available to the children to create with. Adults can start off designing an area for the children and then just leave them to explore for themselves once they know that they can. Storage for the loose parts is important so that they will last through seasonal weather changes and be useable time and time again. Regularly replenishing with new items to build from will enhance the longevity of play and add to what is already there. This will also help to stimulate and engage children in their play and promote and support creativity and imagination and allow children to develop their own ideas.

When visiting other settings it is always good to see children using loose parts to construct their own ideas and use their imagination in how they interpret the materials they are given to play with. Whether it is den making equipment such as blanket and clothing rails or lots of water play equipment such as bowls and tubing, bottles and scoops. Children can utilise the equipment how they want to and learn to cooperate and communicate ideas, problem solve and share resources.

This is also a fabulous opportunity for staff to observe their key children and see how they play and learn. Children should be allowed the freedom to move the equipment around to suit their play needs and also to incorporate other media such as sand, water and mud to explore scientific ideas and create freely.

Loose Parts Play and the EYFS

Personal, Social and Emotional Development – children get to choose the way in which they construct and use the loose parts leading towards independence and collaboration with others

Communication and Language – discussing ideas, listening to others and expressing size, shape, colours, how and why they are making something and learning new words

Physical Development – using materials and promoting large and small motor skills

Literacy – work on books and stories they have heard in order to promote play

Mathematics – size, capacity, classifying, sorting and grading, designing and building

Understanding The World – learning about properties of materials and where they come from, recycling and sustainability

Expressive Art and Design – creating freely, experimenting and using imaginations

link to shop loose parts play resources

About Anne Rodgers

Anne Rodgers is an Early Years Consultant (ATR Consultancy) and Writer. Anne has 36 years’ experience of working in the childcare and education sector – including training practitioners, managing numerous settings over the years and writing articles for Early Years Educator and the CACHE Alumni website.

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