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“A “loose-parts” toy, as Nicholson defined it, is open-ended; children may use it in many ways and combine it with other loose-parts through imagination and creativity…. Nature, which excites all the senses, remains the richest source of loose parts.”
“Last Child in the Woods” Richard Louv
When working with children the notion of loose parts crops up constantly, most usually with very young children but I like to bring it into play with all age groups. Loose parts is a term used in play theory to describe resources / objects which can be used in endless ways and which a child can use to represent many different things.
The richest places for children to explore and create are filled with loose parts and open-ended resources (rather then closed-ended things). This has to also be coupled with a space that is conducive to this kind of exploration and adults to support and value this. Loose parts can be many things –empty boxes, logs, stones, bottle tops,
cardboard tubes, leaves… anything which can be combined and used in endless ways.
Talking about working with loose parts links closely to working with no fixing materials such as glue and tape. I do love glue and tape but with young children I often have the glue and tape hidden away because this frees up the imagination and a sense of investigation. It also means you can keep changing your mind about what you are working on – and therefore you make more discoveries. If you can keep constantly re-arranging things and testing out different
parameters, then you find out so much more and your problem solving