What is ‘loose parts’ play?
‘Loose parts’ play is not a new flash-in-the-pan initiative, it has been first dated back to 1971 where architect, Simon Nicholson described fun and exploratory activities children freely engage with, he explained the need for a variety of items or ‘loose parts’ to create and make connections
In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it.
It is a form of relaxed parameter learning, aimed to encourage and foster curiosity-led learning in children by offering ‘loose parts’ to pique interest and spark the imagination for play. Loose part play is strongly featured in the Reggio Emilia approach as well as being recognised by Early Years forerunners such as Montessori,Piaget and Froebel.
Why is ‘loose parts’ play beneficial in Early Years?
Due to the popularity of loose parts play in nursery settings, several studies have investigated carefully the necessity of having curiosity-encouraging provision within Early Years, and from a practical, everyday perspective the benefits are obvious! The opportunities for social, physical, and developmental growth they found are listed below.
Play is so versatile; it can be solitary exploration or span to a multiplayer wizard and dragon battles. Facilitating a provision where the possibilities are endless is a large task, but when created with thought and understanding of the aspects of play wanting to be developed, it can be the best part of their day.
Research has found the following observable social benefits:
The aim for productive play opportunities is to develop the whole child: socially, personally, physically, and emotionally. The suggested ideas listed below are a great way to encourage both indoor and outdoor exploration of loose parts play in your nursery.
Outdoor opportunity allows for physically active play: running, jumping, climbing, pushing, and pulling. As well as developing strength, coordination, and stamina, which are all fundamental to leading a healthy life, the smaller objects suggested encourage the gross and fine motor skills needed to develop school-ready skills in an engaging way.
All benefits available when the children in your setting engage with curiosity-based play intertwine with the four guiding principles from the 2021 Early Years Framework. Encouraging progression within learning, building on their own interests, strengthening positive relationships all whilst advancing their competency at the different play stages.
Who supports the use of ‘loose parts’ play in Early Years?
The detailed descriptions of loose parts or curiosity play have been well documented for decades, it has developed and matured through the years but remains as flexible as your setting needs it to be. It is supported by several theorists (Piaget, Parten and Smilansky) with the development of play stages; loose parts play offers the perfect opportunity to progress in each stage.
There are no set ways Ofsted prefer to see learning through play, it relies on your own setting’s needs and the needs of the children. The best settings, find creative methods of hitting all the prime and specific areas of learning and development through a mixture of adult and child-led practice.
How can you make your provision as effective as possible?
We all are aware of our children’s favourite games to play, but do we really think about what type of play we are observing? We have collated different types of play and what to look for, to highlight the progressive stages of play.
In an ideal budget world, you could stock up your room resources with a host of fancy, sparkling new gadgets from a catalogue. But as the premise behind loose parts play is a learning method, the materials used to get the children to learning can be flexible, allowing the importance to be the journey itself. So, with the natural world and sustainability in mind, we have created an extensive list for your resources. A list that will be able to facilitate over 38 ways to encourage curiosity play and learning, without breaking the bank.
We have chosen to split into four main categories: Natural, Man-made, Temporary and Fiddly bits!
Falling into the same ideas to use can be easy, especially when they love exploring in that way! We have used the lists above to create 38 fun and easy ways to refresh your loose parts play ideas.
There is nothing more rewarding than creating the nurturing, supportive environment necessary for children to explore boundaries and interests within play. You, as practitioners, plant these seeds every day.