Loose parts play is an important component for learning in young children. It’s a free and unstructured play that gives children the opportunity to be creative with regular materials (not high-end toy products). Loose parts simply means moveable materials that children can use to move, combine, carry, design, redesign, stack, take apart, and put back together. Loose parts play is important because it allows for daily inspiration, endless possibilities, a chance to think, invent, and problem solve, and encouragement to be creative.
“We’re not only talking about creative play from an artistic point of view – although loose parts do provide great materials to sculpt and build – but creative play that encourages brain development, scientific experimenting, mathematical thought, risk taking, and trial and error learning.” –Cathy James
Through unstructured play, children are able to use what they already know to explore, create, and construct what they do not know. At Little Wonders, we like to encourage children to play with loose parts and let their imaginations run wild. Instead of instructing the children how to use the loose parts, we allow them to make mistakes, build, justify their creations, and improvise!
One day a child was working independently with play dough and loose parts. Loose parts play is an excellent way to work on fine motor skills, which is exactly what she was doing. By using her fingers to make tiny adjustments in the play dough, grip the sticks of wood, and adjust the placement of the design, she was giving her fingers a chance to communicate with her brain and complete tasks that require small and careful movements. We love play like this because it gives the child an opportunity to be creative, however it’s still highly educational. For example, this activity will indirectly help in perfecting this child’s writing because it focuses on her finger movements and manipulations! While her final piece may look like a block of playdough with wood sticking out of it, this was a creative outlet for this child and more importantly, it improved the communication between her hands and brain that will help her tie her shoes, use a computer mouse, and write her name!