Enhancing Play with Loose Parts at Home

The other week I was sitting at an outside cafe in Napier with cousins that were visiting from Kapiti.   At this cafe, they have oversized checkers counters.  Every time we go to this cafe I see children playing with these counters.  Either stacking them up, placing them side by side, moving them about, the list is endless as to what you can do.   This day the boys (after making a number of towers and smashing them down) had decided to space them out and jump across them like stepping stones.  It was interesting watching them discussing what they would make, working as a team and then playing on the end creation.

The definition of loose parts:   Loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. They are materials with no specific set of directions that can be used alone or combined with other materials.

Loose parts don’t just to have be something at Kindy or Daycare, they are great to have at home too and usually, you can find many items for free or for a small amount at opportunity shops.  Your collection can be built on, refreshed with the seasons, and you can feel good that generally, it doesn’t have a huge impact on the environment.

Listed below are items to start you off, ideas can be endless, it’s just keeping an open mind when you find something.

  • Blocks – this is a give in.   We have a number of old school wooden blocks of various sizes.  Useful to have a number of the same size.  I have picked up all our blocks up from second-hand stores or markets.  You can also find them locally (Hawkes Bay) at Hohepa or on Trademe.  Kmart has boxes of smaller building blocks.
  • Cardboard cylinder rolls – These are something I saw at Kindy and have picked them up from places that process photos.
  • Shells and driftwood.
  • Feathers, small Pinecones and Acorns, these have been treasures we have picked up around the parks. Frankie will put these items into her baskets to transport around the house.
  • Stones
  • Nesting containers, these can be anything really, from you commercially bought ones to paua shells that stack into each other.
  • Kindling sticks – See featured image.  These kindling sticks which you should be able to buy soon from places like Mitre 10 and Bunnings.   Endless tower building fun with these.
  • A wooden rainbow
  • This week I have added some small coasters.

All these items can be used to build, make patterns, be transported or used as anything the child imagines.    Last week Alex used a piece of driftwood as motorbike handlebars and raced around the backyard.   Frankie is currently enjoying transporting items in small baskets.

Loose Parts are displayed on a shelf in our lounge, this is where we spend the majority of our time when inside. I don’t have everything out at once, but gauge what Alex and Frankie are enjoying.  I have used baskets and containers bought from Op shops so that items can be seen.   One of the first things Alex will notice when he comes into the room is if there is something different on the shelf.

If you want further inspiration, Pinterest has loads of photo ideas, just search loose parts. Or check out our facebook page for photos.  

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