Loose Parts Play: 5 Ways to Incorporate It in Your Home

By Amanda Llyod

Loose Parts Play is an interesting concept that came about in the 1970’s. It had a significant influence on early childhood educators as well as those who designed play spaces for children. According to architect Simon Nicholson, including “loose parts” in our child’s environment empowers and stimulates creativity.

What is Loose Parts, and how does it apply to us?

Quality Area 3 of the National Quality Standards speaks to us about the importance of the physical environment, in promoting competence and independent exploration amongst children. Loose parts is a great way of introducing these concepts, by using simple materials that children are able to move, carry and use to design creations.

Children can engage with loose parts in multiple ways: to line up, pull apart, put together, combine with other parts or use as their own.

Here are 5 steps to successfully incorporate Loose Parts Play at home:


1. Safety first

Before commencing loose parts play, it’s important to assess the space where the play will take place. This can be a small area inside your home right up to a large area outdoors. If you’re using large parts, it is important to ensure that you check the space for any possible hazards i.e. Glass windows. Think of the age of the children that will be accessing the loose parts, and provide them with appropriate play items accordingly. If you’re unsure, please feel free to speak to one of our qualified educators who will be happy to guide you.

2. Support your child’s creativity

By providing your child with open ended learning opportunities like loose parts play, you can support their love of being creative. To make this possible, it’s vital to ensure that you have the right resources available.Loose parts enable children to collaborate and work together, which in turn builds their planning, negotiating and problem solving skills. Nicola Butler, chair of the campaigning charity Play England says: “At the toddler stage, play is all about exploring everything around them and working things out for themselves, through new experiences. When they’re playing, they are completely absorbed, concentrated and learning at this time.


3. Teach sustainable practices:

In Quality Area 3, we also learn about the importance of sustainable practices, and the multiple purposes of resources. What better way to teach children about sustainable practices than to introduce recycled items, and have them think about its different uses? A great way to source these materials is by asking families if they could help out and bring in cleaned, recycled items for you to re-use. You could also contact local communities/businesses for donations of things they no longer need. They will be happy to give them away and not have to worry about disposing their unwanted goods themselves. Think about natural and recycled materials. Below are just a few things that are cheap or free to locate and are redesigned by the children daily. Natural materials could be everything from pebbles, sand, and bamboo to flowers, sticks and twigs. On the other hand, recycled materials could range from cardboard tubes and milk crates to kitchen utensils, clothing pegs, tyres and buttons to name a few. 


4. Communicate the importance of maintenance:

During this time, it’s essential to talk to your child about how to look after these wonderful things. A good idea is to create a ritual with your child that includes them in the process of keeping their items neat, clean and organised. Talk to them about those items they’d like to keep, and others that could be given away or reuse for different purposes.


5. Encourage imagination:

By observing and listening to your child as they play, you can learn so much about them. Do they like to use the items to make art pieces, structures or even music perhaps? Loose parts play allows children to let their imagination run wild. Nicola Butler says: “At the toddler age, children come up with very imaginative ways of using things, and their own wonderful logic. You can show them how things work but let them experiment, without a prescribed ‘right’ and ‘wrong way’. Who says a colander isn’t fabulous headgear?”

Loose Parts Play is all about giving children the opportunity to learn and develop, while having fun. So be safe, get creative and let them have a great time!


Josie Wood – Penguin Ravenhall Danille McGinty – Headstart Altona North   Websites www.aboutkidshealth.ca www.danah-henriksen.com www.learninglandscapes.ca http://www.acecqa.gov.au/

Reading resources Morgan Leichter – Saxby & Suzanna law : Loose Parts manual  Australian children’s education & care authority : National Quality Standards


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