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 😀



Exploring the Historic Lindsay Limestone Water Race

Exploring in the dark is super exciting for children, and not only is it super exciting it’s also really good for their sensory development.  So be open to adventures which take children into the dark or outside at night time.

Alex and his cousin Meeka were so excited when we told them we were going to be visiting a cave this past weekend.  They quickly rushed off to find their headlamps they were given for Christmas and proceeded to explain to each other what they were going to be doing.    The cave is a historic 200-metre limestone tunnel that was used as a water race for Mt Vernon station near Waipukurau.   The race starts near the river and has been dug right through the hill, where it then would have connected with water channels. There was a number of these across Central Hawkes Bay, with a larger more well known one near Onga Onga which my great, great grandfather helped build.  You can still see these raceways next to the country roads around Onga Onga.

Growing up in Central Hawkes Bay and attending the local high school I can’t ever remember hearing about the Lindsay Tunnel, so this weekend was my first time visiting.


Getting there can be a bit confusing, so please bear with me while I write the instructions.

Lindsay Road is off State Highway 2 just before Waipukurau (north of the bridge). Drive along Lindsay road and then turn into Scenic road which takes you to Lindsay Bush. Instead of going into the bush car park continue driving along the stopbank until you get to the end.   We parked on the stopbank, but you can drive down into the small turn around area at the bottom of the stopbank.

From here walk along the river heading west, there is a bit of a track, you will need to go around a makeshift fence and then keep walking until you see a gap between the blackberry.  Walk up the hill to you reach the track then continue on walking West along the track until you find the tunnel.   We found this the easiest way to get through without having to climb fences or scramble through Blackberry.


The height of the tunnel would be roughly 1.5 metres at the entrance gradually getting smaller and the far end would be roughly 1 metre.   Because we had not been there before we were not sure how small the entrance way at the other side would be, we had been told that we would need to scramble out the other side.

The thought of this, mixed with me talking about previous caving experiences brought on a bit of a panic attack and I freaked out 3/4 of the way through when the tunnel started to enclose.  Thankfully Grandma and Aunty Jeanie continued on with the kids telling them a story that I was too tall and kept hitting my head, while I practically ran all the way back to the entrance, gasping for air in a dramatic fashion as I found the outside.

(I have been caving in the past, through something they referred to as the birth canal and there was no way I was ever going to be doing something like that again).  As you can see from the photos below it isn’t as bad as that.  I most likely could have gone right through the tunnel, maybe next time.


Everyone else made it safely to the other side.  The kids all wanted to come back through the tunnel, so safe to say it must not have been too scary for them and they enjoyed using their head torches.

Next time you are in Central Hawkes Bay this is a really cool off the track place to visit, and if you want a longer walk the Lindsay Bush is just down the road and has a 45-minute loop track.  Next time we are down we hope to have time to walk around this track and I can let you know more about it.

Happy Exploring.

Becks 🌳🔦

** Photos by Jeanie Butler **