The term Loose Parts Play was coined by architect Simon Nicholson, in 1971. He believed that all people are creative and that materials like loose parts, that are opened ended, empower our creativity.
Okay, but what are these loose parts we are speaking about?
Loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, lined up, stacked, taken apart and put together again. They can be natural or synthetic. Something that will inspire imagination and allow children to uniquely approach it. Think of the natural things you might find a beach – driftwood, flat rocks, seashells, sticks, sand, water, buckets and more. It is chalk full of moveable and adaptable materials which absorb children (and adults!) for hours. There are no directions for loose parts play – none are needed.
Where to find loose parts:
Nature - Pine cones, stones, grass, branches, stumps, shells, dirt, etc.
Home – Blankets, play clothes, containers, baskets, paper, fabric, blocks, washers, toilet paper roll holders, cardboard, caps, lids, funnels, spools, popsicle sticks, muffin tins, dice, old game pawns, etc.
Scavenge – Tires, logs, hoops, rope, crates, pieces of pipe, wood, etc.
Once you start thinking about loose parts – you see options EVERYWHERE. Just go with it. Everything about loose parts is open ended.
Make Tinker Trays for your little ones filled with bits and bobbles. Think small washers, paper clips, string, buttons, stones, clothes pins, shells, spools, marbles, etc.
Pack a basket of loose parts and bring it to your local park – changing up the environment completely changes the play. Bring the basket to the beach next time.
Build a town, home or any structure from toilet paper holders, muffin liners, popsicle sticks, cardboard, corks, milk jugs, seashells or anything else you can find.
Here is a great blog post on 30 approaches to Loose Parts Play.
If you're looking for sources for Loose Parts - we recommend Hando Co. Canadian company who curates a collection of thoughtful, imaginative toys.