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Benefits of Loose Parts Play

What is ‘loose parts play’?

As I am sure most of you are aware, within forest school we don’t have what would traditionally be considered as ‘toys’ (as found in most indoor settings - barbie dolls, Lego or Duplo bricks, cars or plastic little people).

This is because the woodland provides all the entertainment the children need! We follow the core forest school ethos of nature based play and exploration - nature provides all the toys the children will ever need to play with (a stick can be anything your imagination desires!) and we rarely get asked for toys to play with! This actually opens children’s minds and imaginations to a greater depth as open ended resources can be anything they wish it to be!

Some of you may have read observations where your child’s key worker has written about loose parts play or spoken to you at hand over and mentioned your little one has been creating wonderful things with loose parts; so I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you a little about our approach & method and explain the fantastic advantages of why we are passionate about loose parts within our setting.

I can pretty much guarantee you have all taken part in ‘loose parts play’ when you were little or provided it for your own children at some point. My fondest memories are playing with pots and pans with a wooden spoon at my Granny’s house. Sometimes I would make music and sometimes I would be in her garden making potions. I also remember having the best times playing in a giant cardboard box with a couple of old pillowcases! Any everyday item can be a loose part and provided as a resource for play!

This is what we do as part of our provision; we take everyday objects that are definitely not considered to be ‘toys’ such as drain pipes, tyres, wooden pallets, bamboo guttering, ropes, cable reels, wooden planks, pots, pans, spoons, jugs, cups, hammers, bolts; strategically leave them for the children to discover (after observing particular play patterns) and watch as their imaginations take over to create – we are the facilitators, scaffolding and extending children’s learning and play.

Loose parts play is entirely child led – they choose what they play with and where they want to play without adult interjection. This method of child led play strengthens their independence and their sense of self as well as confidence and sense of achievements as they are making their own decisions. It also supports interactions with their peers as they actively use their imaginations, create games, talk about their experiences, create stories and narratives that then encourages a language rich environment within their play.

From the types of items we provide for the children to freely choose from at forest school mixed with the wonderful resources the forest provides us, the children are actively thinking of cause and effect, solving problems, inventing ideas and exploring possibilities, testing their ideas, learning to manage their own risk and develop their motor skills from lifting big items and climbing up onto the creations they have built (gross motor) to using their hands and fingers with nuts and bolts or weave a ribbon etc (fine motor).

The positive development benefits are endless and are individual to each child, as each child interprets and plays with their loose parts differently to another. But when the group comes together with all their imaginations sparking and working individually, and yet inspirationally complementing one another’s at the same time; this is when we get to see the most awesome and awe inspiring creations from your children using loose parts play!

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