I learned about loose parts as an activity from James’ preschool (shoutout to Ms. Rebecca) and it resonated with me so much. She enjoys playing it and it takes nearly no thought on my part. It allows her to be completely creative, and keeps her busy for a long time. She usually will be doing loose parts for around 30 minutes to an hour.
What is loose parts?
Loose parts are a set of materials that can be used together or separately in any way the user chooses. Basically, you gather materials together, and let your child play with them however they choose. Loose parts is open ended and NOT adult directed.
What materials can I gather for loose parts?
I use a dollar store chips and dip container. This container has multiple sections around a circular section in the middle. In the middle I usually put play dough there. I found a recipe for homemade playdough if you’d like to make some safe (and edible…though I don’t recommend eating it because it doesn’t taste good). Around the playdough, I put some loose parts in each section. I often buy these loose parts at the dollar store, or James and I go collect these loose parts from our backyards.
Here are some materials that we regularly use:
Pom pom balls
Popsicle sticks (from eaten popsicles…no need to buy)
Toilet paper rolls
Why loose parts?
Do you ever notice when your child gets gifts during holidays and birthdays, they often are found playing with the boxes, bags, and wrapping paper more than the actual gifts? This is because children love to use their imagination and play in unique ways. So often toys have one or few function(s), and this limits what children think they can do with them. Also, often I will find my daughter using a sock as a pretend car seat buckle for her babies, or legos as food to feed me. Kids love loose parts. They love to create.
Also, loose parts is free or cheap. They can play this together with friends or by themselves. The options are truly limitless. My daughter has made airplanes, people, ice cream, and the list goes on and on.
If your child is under three years old, please make sure the items you provide for loose parts will not be choking hazards. Look to make sure these pieces are large enough that your child will not choke on them.