Loose parts play

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At Hamersley Early Learning School, we promote ‘Loose Parts Play’.

What is Loose Parts Play?

  • Loose parts play uses items and materials that the children can move, control, change, adapt and manipulate when playing in our garden. It provides a high level of creativity and choice, with endless possibilities for how the materials can be used. When your child is playing with sand, it can become anything they want it to be – many bought toys lack this flexibility. Research shows that children prefer to play with loose parts such as water, sticks, sand and boxes rather than traditional toys and play equipment, because they can use their imagination, and have greater control in their play. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Children prefer to play with the box rather than the present inside”. That’s because the box can be used for many different adventures.
  • Simon Nicholson came up with the ’Theory of loose parts’ in 1971. He said that in any environment, the degree of creativity and inventiveness is directly proportional to the number of variables in it. Nicholson suggested that a beach is a good example of a loose parts environments, with plenty of moveable and adaptable materials, such as sand, water, rocks and shells. Loose parts are the reason that most children are absorbed in play for hours on a beach.

Where Do We Collect Loose Parts?

  • From nature— pine cones, shells, twigs, grass, stones, straw bales
  • From home— cushions, blankets, junk, buckets, play clothes
  • We buy some— sand, logs, paper, hoops, old tyres, ropes
  • From a Tip Shop such as Tamala Park or Balcatta, which sell reasonably priced recycled materials such as kitchen implements.

How Do We Use Loose Parts?

Children enjoy new, interesting and novel items. They have a natural drive and ability to decide what to do with them in their play. We set out interesting collections of loose parts and let the children decide what to do with them, focusing on the process, not the product. Loose parts are springboards for play, and are an essential element of our rich, child-centred play environment.


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Children in park running towards camera