Loose Parts Play

Toy tools and cubes on a light background. Toy for children.

Loose Parts Play: Ages 3+

“Loose parts” is the label given to any collection of natural or man-made materials that can be used to expand upon children’s play. Loose parts have no specific function or goal. They can be moved, arranged, designed, taken apart and more!

Why?

Loose parts can be used in so many ways and the possibilities are as endless as a child’s imagination. And although the word “play” may indicate otherwise, a great deal of learning happens when children engage with loose parts! One of the greatest benefits of loose parts play is that you can use the same materials with a range of ages and because they are open-ended, there is no shelf life! The same materials can continue to be used in a variety of ways over an extended period of time.

Materials:

  • bottle caps
  • straws
  • cardboard tubes
  • empty containers and bottles
  • baby food jars
  • marker caps
  • bubble wrap
  • foam peanuts
  • wrapping paper scraps
  • cardboard and Styrofoam inserts
  • cardboard boxes and scraps in a variety of sizes
  • recycled spools and wheels from thread and ribbon
  • plastic cups and lids
  • corks
  • cans (make sure there are no sharp edges)
  • egg cartons
  • rubber bands
  • paper scraps
  • soda can tabs
  • fabric remnants
  • silk scarves
  • ribbons
  • glass gems and mosaic tiles
  • doilies and handkerchiefs
  • yarn, embroidery thread, twine, rope
  • curtain rings
  • bowls
  • containers
  • baking tins
  • spoons
  • forks
  • potato mashers
  • scoops
  • funnels
  • old picture frames (glass/backs removed)
  • hair elastics and scrunchies
  • paper clips
  • bangles/costume jewelry
  • beads
  • pompoms
  • pipe cleaners
  • craft gems
  • balls
  • marbles
  • napkin rings
  • golf tees
  • puzzle and game pieces
  • clothespins
  • wood scraps
  • nuts and bolts
  • wire (make sure there are no sharp ends)
  • ceramic tiles
  • magnets
  • washers
  • dowels
  • PVC pipes
  • wooden pegs
  • paint sample cards

Directions:

This is a very loose, open-ended activity. Put the collection of items out for the children to use, and let them play. They’ll use their imagination and creativity. This is an opportunity for them to imagine, play, and create without much guidance from adults.
This will look like chaos; just controlled.

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