Thumbs Up to Loose Part Materials.

I've been thinking about the use of Loose Parts in the daycare setting for the last couple of years.  A few years ago I presented a workshop on Loose Parts and enjoyed researching as I prepared for that.  Since then, I have experimented with using loose parts in an infant room and a toddler room and a shared infant/toddler room.  It matters what loose parts are offered and how much.  It matters how they are presented.  It matters what the educator's expectations are.

What I love the most as I observe young children explore and use loose parts is that they allow them to be curious and imaginative. For the toddlers, I like having a mix of open-ended toys in the room as I find when they are coupled with loose parts, the child has a basis from which to work.  For example, I like pairing cars with planks, blocks, tree cookies, fabric, tiles, tin cans, and pipe.  Today I saw a toddler driving a wooden car in one hand, and in the other hand, he held a mardi gras necklace.  He was driving the car through and along the necklace.  Was it a road?  Was it shiny and attractive?  I'm not entirely sure what he was most fascinated with, but what I did notice was the extreme focus and concentration on his little face.  He was learning and engrossed and that was good enough for me!

For the infants, I just love to present treasure baskets or place loose parts around the room for them to discover.  They use all of their senses to explore them.  They can mouth,  drop,
carry and dump and if the proportions are right it is all very manageable.

I was able to spend this past weekend with my grand-daughter who will be seven years old in January.  She has been playing with loose part materials since infancy.  I have to confess that I am that grand-parent who gives her a lot of them!  What was incredible to me is that she is still playing with a lot of the same ones.  Things that I gave her when she was two years old are still in circulation!  Even though I believe in the value of this style of materials and play, it's really great to see it work!  Her imagination is incredible and I can attest to the fact that playing with open-ended toys and loose part materials is one of her favorite ways to spend time.   She engages in epic "plays" that can last for days.

This is a fairyland she created.  The loose parts she used are:  gems, coins, chestnuts, wool, wool felt shapes, a Magna former, small unicorns and a fairy,  and a homemade crystal all carefully laid out on a metal tray.

In this instance, she and I had a contest.  This girl loves contests!  She shared all of the loose parts and open-ended toys, made up all the rules and then we had to create our own design.  The trees, leaves, squirrel, and flowers are all part of some felt stories and songs I gave her years ago.

Thumbs up to Loose Parts and Open-Ended materials!

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