Saturday, October 15, 2011

12 outdoor storage solutions for loose parts in the playground

The blogosphere is just so darn useful. 

Whenever you float out a question you get the answers flying at you from educators all around the globe.

Do you remember earlier this week I asked:

"How can we organise and store the loose materials in our playground?"

I received so many helpful responses that I just have to pass them along to all of you:

1.  Kristin from Exploring the Outdoor Classroom suggests:
Milk crates, milk crates, and more milk crates! The sand falls out easily, you can spray everything in them when needed, and they are large enough for entire sets of loose parts. We take a photo of the items we want in each bin, we put it in a page protector, then attach it to the crate. The great part about crates is that when the objects are in use, the crates become another loose part!
Like Kristin, we couldn't do without our milk crates.  To store our pots and pans for the outdoor kitchen we hung milk crates from the gazebo with S hooks.:

Being off the ground, the milk crates drain easily when it rains so the contents don't get so muddy and dirty.

2.  Juliet from I'm a Teacher Get Me Outside of Here shared her experience:
I've also found that resources storage always needs adapting to meet the needs of each new cohort of children. What works beautifully one year can often go pear-shaped the next.
3.  Andi has found that :
Lots of stuff is okay for staying outside, but things like the sheets of fabric we had, need to be brought back in after play to keep them usable.
4.  Polly has an outdoor alternative to fabric:

Instead of using fabric for something that is going to be outside all the time, we look either for ripstop (parachute) nylon - you can often find end pieces cheap or shower curtains - not the icky vinyl ones, but the ones that almost feel like fabric. Both of these are also very light and easy for children to manouever.
 Funnily enough Polly, just this week I found similar ideas on Pinterest:

Outdoor Cubby using plastic tablecloths from ikatbag

Outdoor tent using a tarpaulin from Create With Your Hands
5.  Dani says:

We have used an old block shelf and placed loose parts in containers with photos of the items on them so the children can see what is there and also pack away easily. It works a treat

6.  Joey from Made by Joey says:

We use a garbage can  ! A neighbour was giving away a new metal can for free and it's really worked great! We live on the rainy "Wet Coast" of BC so having a lid so that things don't get waterlogged is a must! I suppose drilling holes in the bottom would let any water drain out too?! It's surprising how much a small garbage can can hold! The kids often just tip it over to empty the contents!
7.  Kristin from Sense of Wonder suggests:

I have large bins out side that I keep things in (my loose parts aren't quite as big as yours). I also have an area that looks sort of like a sand box but with out sand for larger items that don't fit in the bins.
8.  se7en has ideas for all of those smaller bits and pieces:
We keep all our natural factual things in a corner of the garden, it is under a large tree...things get moved and shuffled and played with and it never looks quite the same two days running but because they are natural things it never occurred to me to store them anywhere other than out doors and in the open - exposed to the elements for wear and tear.  
Here is our nature corner - kind of a large natural table - that is totally available for play and reearranging:

 9.  If anyone knows loose materials, it is Pop up Adventure Play.

On Governors Island we stored our loose parts in extra-large deck boxes. Then again, we loved leaving stuff out so kids and grownups could play when we weren't there. There can definitely be a tension between a play site seeming like a junk yard and being too manicured. It's really all in the eye of the beholder! Striking the right balance is always a fun dance for us.
10.  I found this idea from Dover Street Preschool over at Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning - perfect for storing those smaller loose parts for play.

11.  Learning through Landscapes shared this from a Primary School in Scotland:

12.  Karen from the wonderful Flights of Whimsy responded with a whole post on her fabulous outdoor storage boxes:

How do you store your loose parts?


  1. Our loose parts live in Rubbermaid totes with lids. This keeps the water out, but they are simple enough for tiny hands to open. We have a separate shoe box sized one for our chalk. Right now, we just play on the deck, but I LOVE the milk crate idea (I have about a dozen in the basement) and think we might try that when we move down to the yard!