Friday, November 12, 2010

a preschool playground of "loose parts"

Walking into our preschool playground you would be forgiven for thinking that you had wandering into a building supply yard by mistake.

You will find tyres, boxes, boards, planks, logs, stumps, pallets and any number of other versatile buildables.  It may not fit everyone's image of a preschool playspace.  It may even look untidy.  So why do we do it?

We do it so that the children can manipulate their playspace to fit their own ideas or visions. 

We do it to send a subtle message to the children " "We value what you have to offer in creating this environment".  

We do it because children are natural doers, set on constructing the world around them

Providing a rich diversity of interesting loose parts that can be mixed, lifted, carried, stacked, shaped, pushed, pulled, gathered and rearranged gives children limitless opportunities to play in creative, productive and exciting ways.

Every day our playspace undergoes a transformation.  One day they are making their own playground ride:

The next they are building a house:

Complete with a tree planted in the front yard:

Today they built their own frog pond around a puddle that had formed after last night's heavy rain:

Who knows what tomorrow will bring!


  1. How fantastic is that garden!
    As a Montessorian I would add that not only is each child learning how to own and manipulate the space but also that s/he is constructing their own personality in the process. A child who feels in charge of their movements and their environment has a quite different attitude about themselves - namely a very positive one, to a child who has no say about his/her environment and therefore has a more negative attitude towards themsleves. his is important because these attitudes are carried on into adulthood.

  2. How wonderful that your playground is always changing and transforming! And those changes are at the hands of your kids. It's a true kids' space, created for and by them. Great job, Jenny!

  3. Always amazing what you do and why you do it !

  4. I love your blog. I have a three year old son and so enjoy your insights into the children's play. Always come away with lots of ideas from your possts. I have an award for you on my blog.

  5. I'm so glad to see the panoramic view of your play yard. Because the photos are usually close up of children hard at work or at play in small wonderful little space, I imagined that your yard must be like a big nature scape. But you made me realize that anything is possible with our play yard as it looks much like yours. And we just got used tires, inspired by some of your posts : ) Thanks for the continued inspiration!

  6. Cheryl - I'm always thrilled that people actually read the blog, let alone take time to comment on it and give it an award! Thank you.

    Beansprouts - I should do a photo tour of the playground! We would love a natural playscape but sadly we run on very little money and it is a case of very small steps.

    This is only our 4th year in this new space, and when we started the playground was one big empty patch of grass - with a sandpit in the corner.

    Adding loose parts is an inexpensive and often free way to add challenge and variety and open ended experiences to outdoor play - but soon I hope you will see more elements like a dry creek bed!

  7. Jenny ... what can I say BUT you are the guru of outdoor FUN!
    Donna :) :)

  8. Way to go with transforming the school yard landscape to suite a diversity of play - highly impressive all around!

  9. I'm so excited to have found your blog Jenny. This post resonates with me - I love watching my children when they get busy and creative outside. It's so good for them and so much fun, and unstructured play spaces are harder to come by these days when safety is so high on everyone's priority list!

  10. This is learning at it's finest! Awesome, just awesome :).

  11. Jenny,
    Your photos of the outdoor play yard, and assorted materials in the yard, brought to mind my childhood experience. My early childhood happened in the late 1950's, and I was free to play in the neighbourhood with my peers, and brothers. We could move quite freely about, checking in at home for mealtimes, etc.

    And we created many structures etc. from various found objects. Today children don't have the safety to move freely around a neighbourhood, but your children are fortunate to have a play environment which provides much of the same possibilities, and adventure.

    Just wonderful, and inspirational!

  12. I love the simple things that you have for the children's learning. It's so rich for their play to imagine and to see visions of what they want. It's given me an idea not to spend thousands of dollars on a playground equipment for a new centre. Keep it simple and effective for the children.

    Yes it's very inspirational and keep up the good work.

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