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;
Some are messy;
Some are clean;
Some are found;
Some are bought;
Some are recycled;
and some are not even “loose” at all;
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!