Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children

July 20, 2018 - 3 minutes read

By Lisa Daly, Miriam Beloglovsky and photographs by Jenna Daly

Have you ever gotten a child a gift only to find that they actually preferred to play with the box that it came in?!   I so vividly remember my own children (3 and 5 years old) last Christmas, after having opened the many gifts under the tree, choosing to spend most of Christmas day playing with a cardboard box.  They decorated it with markers and turned it into a race car as they took turns sitting in it and pushing each other around the house (a.k.a. race track).  The next day it was converted into a rocket ship and then later a pet carrier of some sort.

Children are drawn to materials that are open-ended and that allow them to be creative in their own ways. Loose parts are “alluring, beautiful found objects and materials that children can move, manipulate, control, and change while they play.”  The benefits to children when they play with loose parts are plentiful.  One of my favorite features of loose parts is that they are developmentally inclusive – there is no right or wrong way to use them and all children can gain competence, build on their strengths and feel successful while using loose parts in ways that are interesting to them.

Be prepared to be inspired when you pick up this book!  The authors have compiled hundreds of beautiful images of loose parts being used in both indoor and outdoor early childhood settings.  As you flip through this book, you will find ways to use loose parts to awaken children’s senses using color, texture and sound; to foster creativity through art, design and symbolic play; to promote action and movement; and to promote inquiry.

Simon Nicholoson, the British architect who coined the term “loose parts,” says that “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.”  This book is sure to help you to enhance your own environment with a variety of loose parts that will provide meaningful ways to spark children’s curiosity and creativity as they play.

Reviewed by:  Anna Owen