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The Benefits of Loose Parts Play

We are all aware of the hours of fun at the heart of a cardboard box...for a child this blank, empty box holds endless possibilities of exploration and imagination.

The awe and wonder in a child’s eyes as they begin to explore and discover items (which hold these endless possibilities) is exactly what ‘loose parts play’ is all about!

Providing ‘loose parts’ for heuristic play facilitates opportunity for exploration and experimentation, allowing children to follow their own interest and create meaningful experiences.

By its very nature, loose parts play allows children to seize the opportunity for sensory exploration- a characteristic we know is crucial for learning. Throughout this sensory play children are free to to discover without restriction (there is no right or wrong!).

These objects can be perfectly manipulated by little hands as they are grasped, stacked, balanced and rolled - just to name a few! As children feel, see and hear what happens to these items as they play it captures their curious minds and they start to develop an early concept of shapes, sizes and textures; helping them to understand the world around them. For children to truly develop understanding they need chance to return to experiences, repeating actions and changing them as they explore. These items allow them to do just that, giving an ongoing opportunity to practically experiment.

The best thing about these opportunities is the sense of achievement! The open ended uses of loose parts provides children with the satisfaction of meeting their own goals, whilst they discover there is no ‘wrong way’ to use them as they experiment and invent. These feelings enable children to celebrate and share their own achievements, an important part of their personal and emotional development.

The magical aspect to these items is the way they grow with the child. The endless possibilities of loose parts play reflect a child’s imagination and creativity. As the imagination develops the way to use the loose parts grow! Within my own classroom of 3-5 year olds there is not a day that the loose parts are not in use. As a teacher I consider them my most valuable physical resource. The range of scenarios I could share of highly engaged children exploring and learning with these items are vast! For instance: loose parts for construction - building towers and bridges. Loose parts for small world play from fairy gardens to safari parks. Loose parts being used in role play as food for dinner or as money and items in the shop. The list could go on and on! Naturally the use of these items supports development of so many skills within these scenarios, including communication and language and early literacy and maths as children play and explore.

Playing with loose parts throughout the early years (from babies and beyond) naturally encourages a curious nature, a characteristic of a lifelong learner - always eager to discover and grow!

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