‘Loose Parts’ are items and materials that children and young people can move, adapt, control, change and manipulate within their play. They provide a high level of creativity and choice as there are endless possibilities for how they can be used. When a child is playing with sand, it can become anything they want it to be, whereas many bought toys lack such flexibility. Studies show that children and young people prefer to play with loose parts (such as water, sticks, sand, pipes, string, hoses, air conditioning ducting, crates, ribbon, plastic containers, bottle tops, wheels, tyres, bubble wrap, sheets, paper, ropes, boxes etc) than traditional toys and play equipment because they can use their imagination and have greater control in their play. In the saying “children prefer to play with the box than the present inside”, the box is an example of a loose part and loose parts have a very high play value for children.
Simon Nicholson was an architect who came up with the “Theory of Loose Parts” in 1971. He said that in any environment, the degree of creativity and inventiveness is directly proportional to the number of variables in it. Nicholson suggested that a beach is a good example of a loose parts environment with plenty of movable and adaptable materials such as sand, water, rocks and shells. Loose parts are the reason that most children are absorbed in play for hours on a beach.
We love donations of loose parts, please help us recycle and create flexible learning environments for your child and bring in your unwanted items.