Loose Parts Play in the Backyard

Over the past week, I have posted a number of photos of Alex and Frankie playing with loose parts on our social media pages.   The weather is starting to warm up, so I wanted to have a few new items in the back yard that the kids could play with.   I always find that if our backyard has places to explore, things to jump on and climb over, items that are movable then both our kids are really happy to be out there playing, some days they just spend all day outside in their imagination.

I love loose parts, probably as much or even more than the kids and over the past year, our small collection has grown in size.   It’s exciting to stand back and see how they interact with them and what they create.  I love seeing how determined they can be to learn how to physically do something such as balancing and climbing.

Alex spent a good length of time working out how to balance the wheel.


Once you start your loose part collection it can get quite addictive, everywhere you go you will be on the lookout for open-ended items that your children can create with.   If you are an actively creative person, it’s a little bit like collecting supplies for your creative kit.   You can never have enough pretty papers, stamps, art pens, pencils, fabric etc.   Most artists and creative people have cupboards and drawers and even rooms dedicated to their supplies.

What is a Loose Part?

Loose Parts are everyday objects that can be found at home, the end product of something such as a wooden cord reel, natural items, boxes and containers that something was packed in.  It’s really just using your imagination and seeing beyond what the item is.   Sometimes just giving your children something that you are about to throw away or recycle can be a good way to see what works and what doesn’t.

Our small backyard collection


Why have loose parts?

Loose parts don’t have a set of instructions, loose parts don’t just do one thing, they can be connected or combined with something else to create something new.  For example a toy Paw Patrol vehicle is always just that I toy Paw Patrol vehicle, however a block or a stick can be a Paw Patrol vehicle or it can be a Car or a Boat, it then can be connected to another stick to make a fishing rod or a sword, or could be connected to a dozen sticks to make a fort or a hut.

In this post, I will list a few items that we use at home in our own backyard.  The bonus of these is items is they don’t cost anything and most can be recycled or reused.

Wooden Cord Reel: Last week we were given a large wooden reel.  If you can get your hands on one of these I personally think they are a must have for any outside loose part collection. I am sure everyone has memories of using these when they were a kid.   Alex was super excited when he saw it.  I could see his brain ticking over with all the ideas that this cord reel was going to be used for.  Since these reels are made from untreated wood they do need to be painted or stained so they don’t rot.

These loose parts were made into a pirate ship.

Cardboard Tubes and Plastic Pipes:    We have had a number of cardboard tubes over the past year, we collected ours from a Curtain shop, but anywhere that uses and sells fabric will have these and most places are happy to give them away.   The great thing with cardboard is that once they are past their use by date you can pop them out to be recycled.   I would love to get ahold of some old plastic tubes or down pipes, I think these would be great to create water runs in the summer, to float home made boats or plastic balls.

The reel and tube were made into a tank.

Wood Rounds and Stumps:  Alex loves wooden stumps at the moment, we have ones that he can easily move around.   Alex loves to jump from one to another and we have played games where there is hot lava and we can’t fall off otherwise we will be burnt to a crisp.  We move the distance between the stumps to make it a bit more challenging each time we go around the circuit.

Frankie gaining confidence  walking across the platform

Wooden Off Cuts and Planks:  We seem to always have odd pieces of wood in the garage from my husband building something, we pulled them out, check for nails and then the kids would use them for ramps and building.

Other items you could add to your collection:

  • Old tyres
  • Kindling sticks
  • Driftwood in different sizes from large pieces to sticks
  • Large rocks and stones
  • Fabric (for making huts and secret hideouts)
  • Containers
  • Natural items, leaves, and flowers,
  • Wooden saw horses
  • Crates

These are just some ideas that you can use at home, you are only limited by your imagination.

Do you have loose parts at home or at your Kindergarten or Daycare?  I would love to know what items you use.

Becks 😀



Mud, Mud and More Mud, DIY Mud Kitchen

Guess what today is? – It’s  International Mud Day!  They have days for everything these days, but hey celebrating mud is a good thing isn’t it because well who doesn’t like playing in the mud!  Even grown ups love playing in the mud, they may not run around in muddy puddles at the park but they play in the mud in 4×4 drive vehicles, motor cross, rugby, hey they even host charity mud runs, getting adults out there running and sliding in the mud.

If you follow us on Instagram and Facebook you will see my kids love mud and dirt, any chance they get they are in it.  Yes at times I think, ahh not more muddy clothing, not more muddy footprints in the house or a muddy handprint on the window.  I have learned to embrace it, we now always have spare clothing in the back the car because chances are if we are out in nature someone is going to get muddy.  At home, we just run a warm bath, throw the clothes in the wash and hey presto everyone is clean again.

So to celebrate our first ever official Mud Day, I thought I would show you how you can embrace mud at home because there are loads of benefits of letting your children play in mud and dirt, not to mention most kids will really, really enjoy it.

Here we go an easy DIY Mud Kitchen.


I’m not going to show you how to make a fancy Pinterest style kitchen that would take me days and dollars to make, we like to embrace thriftiness here and use items we already have or that we can find cheaply.  Also, I want something that any mum or dad could whip up in minutes and not hours.   At the end of the day, children do not care if the mud kitchen is going to make it into the next House and Garden Magazine, they just want to have fun!

Firstly I headed off to the second-hand store to pick up some old pots, pans, and other items.    A couple of good strong spoons etc.   Again it doesn’t have to be expensive and you may find things around the house that may be past it for use in your own kitchen but perfectly fine for the kids to have fun with.

Find an area in your garden that you are happy for the kids to make a bit mucky.   Our back garden is a bit like a wilderness garden at the moment, so I set it up where they wouldn’t get lost in the grass.


I scrounged around the woodshed and found two similar rounds of wood and then raided my husbands shed for a plank/board that I could use as a bench.  Again it doesn’t have to look Pinterest beautiful, it just needs to be usable, and not wobble.  If you have an old kids table this would work equally fine.  We have a low table that I will use in the future because I found that they needed more space to work.

Set up the kitchen in a way that they can see all the utensils and items.   I had a bucket of wet dirt and then a teapot filled with water.   We picked some flowers and leafy branches and had those available for decorating or mixing into the mud.

Alex and Frankie spent ages playing at the table, filling, pouring, stirring.   Alex made a star cake and decorated it with flowers and grass.   He is really into baking at the moment, so this gave him an opportunity to get creative in nature’s kitchen.


So there you go, this is very simple and fairly easy way to let your children experience dirt and mud at home.

So get out there and celebrate Mud on Internation Mud Day, and not just today but let them experience mud any day of the year.

Becks 🐾🐛












Super Easy Cooked Playdough Recipe

It must have been the week, last week, for Playdough, as I saw so many photos and posts about Playdough.   We have had quite a bit of inside time as I was struck down with the horrible flu and have not ventured out unless I absolutely had to, so it was a week of inside play for us.  While all the Playdough photos were shared there were also many people asking for the recipe, so I thought I would share our Cooked Playdough version.

There are a few different recipes out there, but I found this recipe one of the best for nice, soft dough that lasts for ages, (three months in fact if you keep it in the fridge). This is also the recipe my mum used when I was little. I also add a few drops of essential oil, which makes it smell lovely, try lavender, orange or peppermint.  Homemade dough is super easy to make and you then know exactly what has gone into it.

All you need:

  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Oil
  • 2 Teaspoons Cream of Tartar
  • Food colouring of your choice
  • Essential oils of your choice (optional)

Pop all the ingredients apart from the essential oils into a saucepan.  Stir well on medium heat until mixture comes away from the pot and forms a ball.  Don’t overcook otherwise the dough will go dry.    Place on a board and knead well and then leave to cool. Once the dough is cool, knead in a few drops of essential oil.  The dough should keep for three months if stored in an airtight container in the fridge.   P1040928I give the kids a variety of utensils to use with the playdough rolling pin, cookie cutters, a plastic spork that I saved from something, cupcake wrappers, flowers and leaves for decorating, the ideas can be endless.   On this day Alex made a number of things and ended with cupcakes, he then made an oven out of a wooden box and some blocks.   These were then decorated with leaves and flowers and will be cakes for Daddy’s Birthday. P1040929

So there you go, a super easy recipe and you know what all the ingredients are.

Becks 🌻🍄

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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.  

Heuristic Play (Everyday Object Play)

I have never been a huge toy person, even before children I always thought a lot of toys were pointless.  As a child, we never had many toys and much preferred the outdoors, imaginary games or lego if we played indoors.  I am not perfect and I don’t want to deprive my children of something but I still try and keep our toys to a minimum.

On my journey with my own children, I came across Heuristic Play, which is the formal term used for babies/toddlers playing with everyday objects.

Heuristic play is very peaceful, out with the plastic toys that are loud and colourful and feel the same.  Bring a sense of calm, with objects that are tactile and used or seen in the everyday.

When Frankie was around 6-9 months and sitting comfortably on her own we introduced her to a treasure basket.   The treasure basket contained everyday items such as wooden spoons, a set of measuring spoons (which she loved jingling together), shells, a felt ball, a piece of wool and so on.

When introducing the treasure basket, it’s always good to have a clean and tidy space, free from other distractions.   Sit your child down and just observe how they interact with the items.  

Other items you could add are sponges, wooden rings, pumice stones, pinecones and anything from the kitchen that is safe for a child to play with.  Try and stay away from plastic items. Pinterest has some great ideas for treasure baskets.

**Please note when creating a treasure basket, always choose items that are not a choking hazard, small stones or shells, beads etc.