Sometimes, the best toys aren’t even toys!

As a parent or educator, you’ve probably encountered this at some point in time: you  prepare an activity thinking your children will have a blast. Instead, they are more interested in playing with the cardboard box you carried it in. Maybe you wonder why your little one would rather hunt for rocks or collect sticks than use one of the colorful plastic sand toys you lugged along.

This type of play – that is, when kids play with random objects or “non-toys” – is known as Loose Parts Play and there is a reason they like it as much (or maybe even more!) than the fancy store-bought toys they own. Loose parts play is free and open-ended – there is no limit to where the kids can go in their imaginations. Something like a plastic car is just that – a car – whereas a stick can be anything; a snake, a magic wand, a fishing rod, or a spaceship, even!

The best thing about this kind of play is that the children are learning so much as they partake in it. To name a few of the skills they are practicing: problem solving, creativity, and inventiveness; using their fine and gross motor muscles; developing their language and social skills; and more! It gives them the opportunity to grow across all of the developmental domains.

You’ll find tons of “loose parts” in play at Sunnyside Daycare in Pierrefonds. In fact, the loose parts are so important to us, that in some classrooms, they even outnumber the toys!

Some loose parts are natural;

Playing with seashells and home-made play-doh.

Playing with seashells and home-made play-doh.

Some are messy;

Playing with water beads, slime, and kitchen utensils.

Playing with water beads, slime, and kitchen utensils.

Some are clean;

Playing with cardboard tubes and wooden planks.

Playing with cardboard tubes and wooden planks.

Some are found;

Creating a "campfire" with branches, pine cones, and pieces of bark they collected.

Creating a “campfire” with branches, pine cones, and pieces of bark they collected.

Some are bought;

Playing with cooked and coloured spaghetti and assorted plastic containers.

Playing with cooked and coloured spaghetti and assorted plastic containers.

Some are recycled;

Playing with cardboard tubes.

Playing with cardboard tubes.

and some are not even “loose” at all;

Playing on a bike rack at the park.

Playing on a bike rack at the park.

I don’t think any adult-directed activity can offer as rich of a developmentally-appropriate learning opportunity as loose parts can offer. I challenge you to find one!

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