Loose parts play is so much fun! Here is one of my tinker trays filled with natural and open-ended materials.
Hi, thanks for stopping by! I am here today to tell you how important the loose parts play is for a child's development. In this article, you will find ideas on how to incorporate loose parts into everyday play, how to present them, and what materials to choose. I hope you enjoy reading! 

What are loose parts?
Perhaps you've seen your child playing for hours with empty bottles, a ladle or pieces of wood before. Choosing loose parts over traditional toys. Kids are those who see no limits when it comes to playing possibilities, so when provided with the right materials, they can make more uses out of them, than any adult would.
By the 'right materials,' I mean simple, open-ended elements which the child can manipulate in multiple ways. There are no restrictions or instructions for playing with loose parts, so the child is free to decide what that acorn or a wooden block becomes.

What are the benefits of the loose parts play?
Loose parts encourage creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving. They help to build up the child's confidence because there is no right or wrong way to play with them. It's all about exploring, testing, learning and fun. When the child aims to place pine cones on the top of his block construction, he sees that some of them are too big and they keep on falling. These are some of the early science experiments when a little person familiarizes with gravity, constructing and balancing.
Loose parts play encourages exploring the beauty of Mother Nature and bonding with her. The child will happily collect the leaves and twigs on a nature walk, and, with time, learn to identify which tree/ where they came from. They will see how different each pine cone is, and how proudly shiny the round tummies of conkers are.
And think how empowered the child feels when he realises that he can create his toys, re-design them and re-arrange the scenes he builds with the simple materials provided.
Your child never gets bored when playing with loose parts, because they are much more than just pressing a button or two. And what is incredible about them, is that they are eco-friendly- most of them are natural and bio-degradable or upcycled. And they either cost nothing or are very affordable

Examples of loose parts materials
When choosing the materials for loose parts play, try to go with natural pieces or upcycle metal/ plastic trays, bottles and boxes that you already own.
I would suggest to chose larger pieces for babies and young toddlers, to avoid choking hazard. Also, please ensure that they are of the right (safe) weight and size for them and that they aren't sharp. 

Some of the commonly used materials include:
  • pine cones,
  • conkers,
  • leaves,
  • dry flowers,
  • acorns,
  • pebbles,
  • sand,
  • twigs,
  • all sizes of wood pieces,
  • bowls,
  • trays,
  • baskets,
  • scarves,
  • fabric scraps,
  • cardboard boxes,
  • blocks,
  • plastic bottles,
  • wine corks,
  • beads,
  • popsicle sticks,
  • buttons,
  • shells (from ethical source),
  • cardboard pieces,
  • peg dolls,
  • glass pebbles,
  • bottle tops,
  • ball (regular or wooden),
  • and whatever else you wish to provide for your child :)

How to incorporate loose parts into everyday play and how to present them
The loose parts can be either available for the child at all times or played with from time to time (some parents chose to hide the small pieces away to avoid the choking hazard). It is best when the child can freely access the materials, though. In our house, I always have larger pieces (boxes, blocks, pine cones, wooden bowls, scarves, leaves, twigs and baskets) easily accessible for Kian, and he plays with acorns and all small pieces under my strict supervision. 
You can display as many pieces as you wish (after a few days of observation you will be able to estimate how many pieces work best for your child). If you have room to create a separate loose parts play area, I would suggest trying it out. If not, you can simply display them in your child's toy storage/ shelves. When your child can freely access them, they will incorporate them into all kinds of play.
Also, loose parts are so much fun combined with playdough or kinetic sand. 

In terms of presentation and storage, you can use whatever suits you. I store the smaller pieces in tinker trays, the bowls and baskets on the shelf/ easily accessible for Kian, and scarves in a large basket, which is also always on display. 
If you don't own a tinker tray, you can store the smaller pieces in jars, baskets, bowls or trays. 

A few important things:

  • when providing your children with smaller materials, please supervise them,
  • there are a few great brands out there providing loose parts (for example Grapat or Grimms, they both are wonderful), but please never feel pressured to buy all the toys that bloggers/ vloggers/ neighbours recommend, 
  • the creator of The Loose Parts Theory is called Simon Nicholson, in case you wanted to read more about him 😊

I hope that I have encouraged you to provide your child with loose parts, and if you were familiar with the concept before, please let me know what do you value about them. I love watching Kian manipulate the materials in infinite ways, and he always amazes me with the ideas he comes up with. 
Have a wonderful day and thank you for your time! 
Gosia x

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