The Theory of Loose Parts


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“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.” – Simon Nicholson



Loose parts are open ended materials that can be used to create something new.  They are items that can be found on a nature walk or odds and ends from around the house.  The addition of loose parts to any preschool setting will change the way children engage in play and interact with classroom materials.  They can be used for structured activities as well as child initiated play.


Teachers often worry about the safety and care of loose parts when using them with preschoolers.  When materials are introduced effectively and intentionally arranged within an environment, children will be more respectful with their use.  It’s still important to know your own students and be aware of choking hazards in a busy classroom.


If you’ve ever incorporated loose parts into your curriculum you know that it can quickly turn into a giant mess!  Embrace the mess as much as you can because the creativity and imagination that come from these activities are so valuable to the development of the young child.  During clean up we often save time by gathering all of the small loose parts into one big container and create a sorting activity later in the day to get everything back to its original place in the classroom.  This could even be a regular classroom job.
It’s also helpful for some teachers to set boundaries for loose parts by defining the space that the children are using for the activity.  This could be a rug on the floor, a tabletop, or smaller boundaries created by frames, trays, construction paper, or even masking tape.  Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children by Lisa Daly and Miriam Beloglovsky is full of fun ideas for exploring loose parts.  There are also so many inspiring ideas for loose parts on Pinterest!
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