Loose Parts Play

‘Loose Parts Play’ is the wonderfully engaging concept which allows children to have the time and space to play without guidance from adults. By providing a range of different materials to be used in multiple ways, children have the opportunity to explore freely which helps them to comprehend the fast-moving world around them. It is unstructured, and sometimes called ‘free play’. Socially, this type of play is suitable for children of all ages and developmental stages and provides a perfect opportunity for any group of children to play independently on the same level, or to play together. It is common to see this type of play in homes and learning environments, as well as therapeutic spaces. It is universally appealing to children, and something worth including in your regular play repertoire.

In terms of resources/materials the golden rule is to be imaginative, and you needn’t break the budget. If you keep aside some “go to” materials in one place, you’ll be able to mix and match for different play every time. I like to keep things interesting and varied by borrowing resources from my local toy library, but Op shops are also great places to find extra pieces. When setting up this type of play activity, the aim is to try and incorporate different materials, and if you can, include a sensory component.

Think about including items from the following categories in your resources/materials:

  • parts of toy/activity sets
  • craft materials
  • household items
  • natural materials

We know that children thrive when they have regular opportunities for both structured and unstructured play. It’s the unstructured play that can be a challenge in the fast-paced world we find ourselves parenting in.

The open-ended nature of ‘loose parts play’ means that there is no right or wrong way for children to engage and this lends itself to children experiencing success and building confidence. There are so many benefits to this type of play. It encourages invention, problem solving, confidence, fine motor skills and oral language skills. In addition, it sets the scene for dramatic play and storytelling. Children learn by listening to and observing the ideas of other children that they are playing alongside or with, making this type of play a shared learning experience. There are many opportunities for communication and collaboration to be fostered during ‘loose parts play’. It has universal appeal and is therefore one of my “go to” strategies for building independent play skills which supports valuable lifetime habits.

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