‘Loose parts’ theory is about remembering that the best play comes from things that allow children to play in many different ways and on many different levels. Environments that include ‘loose parts’ are infinitely more stimulating and engaging than static ones. The play environment needs to promote and support imaginative play though the provision of ‘loose parts’ in a way that doesn’t direct play and play opportunities, but allows children to develop their own ideas and explore their world.
We have developed a wonderful programme within our setting to help support children’s play, learning and development using a wide variety of loose parts and are encouraging loose parts play daily. We use the theory as our guideline and then can put this into practice using our wonderful natural resources we have available allowing the children to really express themselves and let their imaginations run wild.
Through play, loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. They are materials with no specific set of directions that can be used alone or combined with other materials. Loose parts can be natural or synthetic. In our breakout space we can provide an array of loose parts for use in play such as sand, gravel, fabric, twigs, wood, balls, buckets, baskets, crates, boxes, stones, flowers, rope and shells. Having ‘loose parts’ available in our play space allows children to use these materials as they choose. Often we find that children would rather play with materials that they can use and adapt as they please, rather than ‘ready to use’ pieces of play equipment.