Friday, April 23, 2010

just add loose parts

Children love to play with “loose parts” which they can move about, use for their own self-selected construction projects and incorporate into their dramatic play.  Did you know that studies indicate that children actually prefer to play with stones, bricks, stumps, sand and other natural materials to carefully designed playground equipment?

Today in our series on "how to create irresistible play spaces for children" we will look at how you can incorporate loose parts into your backyards or playground to foster children's imaginative, constructive and creative play and connect children with the natural world.

I'm going to cheat and redirect you to my post theory of loose parts which explores:
  • what are loose parts?
  • why are they so valuable to a child's play?
  • how can I use them in my own play space?
But before you go, I'll leave you with a few inspiring pictures of children at play with loose parts, because we all know pictures speak louder than words.  I hope they give you a few ideas for your own outdoor environment - they have for me:

Read the Full Series
This post is a part of a series on how to create irresistible outdoor playspaces for children. You can start reading this series here. I hope you enjoy it and feel free to share ideas that have inspired or worked for you in the comments section.

Tomorrow:  Series Roundup


  1. Love those tree blocks, we have just chopped down a number of big trees and I intend to do just that with the trunks and some branches, can't wait :)

  2. Another great post Jenny. I am spending the week end at my families holiday property near the little township of 'Jamieson' situated in the Victorian high country, so tomorrow I will be off exploring the bush along the banks of the Jamieson river for lots of loose parts to take home!
    Cheers, Donna :) :)

  3. Thank you, Jenny, for all the work you've done on this series. You should be earning some sort of academic degree for this! You're not just teaching preschoolers!

  4. Jenny I love your post and photos. The term loose parts conjures up to me an image of a child reaching for this and stretching for that. Its such a name. They all have great fun stacking, sorting and rearranging natural objects and they are such easy things (and often free) to provide even in a small garden. I'll be back to read more of your series.

  5. This has been a great series. Thanks so much for doing it. Our loose parts are definitely some of our most popular toys.

  6. Thanks everyone - it has been a labour of love :) I really enjoy trawling around and finding what other people are doing - my 'interesting stuff' file was getting so full I had to share it. There are so many wonderful ideas out there (including yours - I'm good at the research but lagging behind in the actual doing bit) - we are lucky to have the internet to find them all because in real life you don't get to see what other preschools are doing very often.

    And as for sourcing materials - I can picture you on the farm looking around with your preschool teacher eye! And Christie, your little girl will have lots of fun with them. We have a smaller set in our block corner as well. I need to find a tree and someone handy with a chainsaw to get some more!

  7. Jenny, I love 'loose parts' and I've really enjoyed this series, thanks so much for the effort. Do you mind forwarding me the reference for this study on how children enjoy playing with everyday pieces like these. I would be really interested to have a read. Ta

  8. Hi Belinda - the article referring to the studies was here:

    Robin Moore's name keeps popping up in things I read. More on Moore here:

    and here

    Hope this helps.

  9. This is very helpful Jenny, thanks

  10. What great ideas! I'm a fretty-mummy at times with the frills picking up things off the ground and playing with sticks etc - I'm scared to death of funnel web spiders - but I'm also a big believer in letting kids be kids and let them discover.. just have to keep my fretty attacks under wraps lol!

  11. Liss, I know exactly what you mean. I'm always cautious lifting up stones etc because you never know what you might find underneath. (We are in the same suburb if you can believe it!). Although at preschool we've yet to encounter a funnel web or red back I'm sure they are there. Probably just hiding from all the noise! Snakes are what give me the heebie jeebies - we've seen diamond pythons. I think if you worry too much you wouldn't ever get out into the garden!

    My main problem outside at the moment is a bush turkey that has decided our backyard is now home and I can't get rid of it. At least it doesn't bite (yet).

  12. Hi Jennifer

    I'm a big loose parts gal too!

    Although this is a primary school...this video is well worth watching to show the levels of creativity that arise through using loose parts: scrapstore playpods

  13. Love the loose parts! Our children love natural collections inside the classroom - especially all sorts of rocks in the block corner. But I know there is so much more we can offer. Thank you for sharing!

  14. Great ideas! my kids love just playing with random stuff inside! I should do the same outside! The rock pile would be a huge hit at our house.