Loose Parts Creative Play
Using loose parts is a great way to develop fine motor skills as well as encourage creativity and problem-solving skills in toddlers. There are various loose parts resources you can buy online, but here I thought I’d do a post with ideas of where to find resources for FREE or very low cost. You could also take this further by creating a scavenger hunt for children to find and collect materials for them to later play with.
Firstly- a safety point to consider: loose parts are not necessarily ‘toys’ and so all precautions to prevent choking and other dangers should be taken. Children should always be supervised when playing with small items and they need to be kept away from babies and toddlers.
Beaches are brilliant places to find all sorts of small objects; shells, pebbles, mermaid’s purses, seaweed… and group or sort them as well as creating art work.
Woodland is a great area to explore for pine cones, feathers, acorns, twigs and conkers. Loose parts are so versatile; they can easily be utilised for early maths work, counting, weighing, balancing, ordering by size or grouping them together. They are also easily used in early art work, exploring pattern, texture and colour. Mirrors can be a great way to add greater depth to the play and learning with loose parts.
Homeware or pound shops often have small items such as flat based glass beads and small containers to pour and tip loose parts from. They also have great boxes and tubs which are really handy for storage! Always a challenge with kids’ resources!
Small toys you already have. Little is partial to using dominoes to create fences for his toy farms, for example. It might be that the kids already have parts of games and toys which can be re-purposed for a loose parts collection- at no extra cost.
DIY- if someone you know has the tools and the skills, there are lots of DIY ways of creating materials to play with. One example is cutting pieces of wood into circles or square blocks. This makes a budget-friendly loose parts resource.
Loose parts is also a great starting point for exploring themes or environments in a story, or opening up a discussion to develop speaking and listening skills. Using a ‘faces’ set up can easily be used to help talk a toddler through different feelings or emotions and think together about ways to start practicing controlling them when they are finding this tricky.
Do you use loose parts in your setting or at home? I’d love to see how you use them, and also how you store them for easy access to play and create- you can share ideas on our social media accounts: Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest.