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Have you ever seen your child spend the day obsessed with a stick?

No matter how many sticks they have brought home in the past, the newest one always seems to be the best one that they have ever found. To them, they are never just sticks; they are magic wands, pencils, spoons, even flying broomsticks! Children have the natural ability to use their imagination to create games and narratives out of what adults would consider ordinary objects. This is called loose parts play, and at Eden Academy, we love to encourage loose parts play to aid in the development of a wide range of skills and concepts. 

Loose parts play is all about taking bits and pieces that you have around the house or that you find in nature and allowing children to create with them as they please! This could be the sticks, stones, and shells you collected on your weekend visit to the beach, perhaps the loose buttons that you never sewed back onto your clothes or even the caps, lids, and bottles in your recycling bin.  

Because these objects do not have an obvious job (for example, a toy keyboard is clearly only designed to be used to make music) the child must use critical and creative thinking skills to assign each item a purpose in their creation or game. There is no right or wrong when it comes to loose parts, so the child can play with no fear of failure! 

A loose parts play table, set up with a mirror and a variety of natural loose parts.

Loose Parts Play at Eden Academy

Not only is loose parts play a fantastic tool to encourage creative and analytical thinking, but it teaches children to find wonder in everyday items. Educator Laurene Tubo encourages the children to gather loose parts during their Nature Walks.

I love going for nature walks with the children!  You can find all these natural loose parts materials everywhere if you just look around.” And children do, they look around, they observe, and loose parts play helps to foster their natural curiosity.”  

But loose parts play is more than just sticks and stones. Our experienced educators use a range of natural and manufactured pieces in their loose parts experiences. Some parts are specifically designed for loose parts play, and others are recycled and repurposed materials! Junior Kindy Educator Christina Joyce makes the most of what local recycling centres have to offer, by purchasing unique and interesting loose parts for her classroom that children may not have seen before.

“I believe that loose parts play is all about capturing the natural curiosity of a child and providing them with the resources that are going to encourage them to explore and investigate. Recycled and repurposed materials are so good for that because they can really be almost anything!” 

Interacting with loose parts is woven into numerous facets of your child’s day, sometimes without them realising it! Laurene’s classroom includes a learning provocation area where children can explore, experiment, and investigate loose part materials. However, she also incorporates loose part materials in sensory play, arts and crafts, and in the sandpit.  

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Loose Parts Play in the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) 

The EYLF is the curriculum on which Educators base their planning to facilitate children’s learning. Learning outcome 4.2: Children develop a range of skills and processes such as problem solving, inquiry, experimentation, hypothesising, researching, and investigating, highlights some of the core skills and concepts that are developed when interacting in loose parts play. Toddlers Educator Stephanie Martinuzzo believes:

“the benefits are endless. The amount of creativity and critical thinking they get out of it is so powerful, and it’s a bonus of how freely they can explore with it.” 

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Loose Parts Play at Home 

Most homes are filled with loose parts just waiting to be played with! Try beginning your search in your recycling bin and placing the items you find in a basket for your child to search through or by spreading them out on a large table. While your child is playing, make sure they can explore and make their own decisions without you doing it for them. Perhaps, your child wants to build a rocket ship using old boxes and bottle lids and has asked for you to join in. You would know exactly how to make their vision come to life, how to stick the caps onto the boxes to create buttons, how to cut the boxes into the right shape, and which colours to use to mimic real rockets. But there is an opportunity for learning to be had by encouraging them to figure each step of the process out for themselves. 

Your local Eden Academy is always grateful to receive loose parts donations. Talk to your centre director to discuss making your donation. 

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