Do you marvel at your child’s creativity and imagination? When given the opportunity, and in the right environment, children flourish to a mind-boggling extent. Their cognitive skills transform before your eyes, coming up with ideas we, as adults, would have never imagined!
A laundry basket becomes a magic carpet, a wooden block becomes a trumpet. The possibilities are literally endless with loose parts.
What are loose parts? Loose parts are natural or synthetic materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. Loose parts can be used alone or combined with other materials.
We, at Little Legend, love going to the park with our little girl. A beautiful, green park is home to hundreds of possibilities for loose parts play – dirt, sticks, branches, logs, driftwood, leaves, flowers, pinecones, rocks, pebbles and stones to name a few!
Take one of these loose parts, and you can give your child countless hours of imaginative play. Loose parts are open ended and thus feed the imagination, create sparks and as a result – enhance a child’s ability to think creatively.
In order to facilitate this exponential creative growth, we need to introduce our children to loose parts from an early age. There are countless benefits to loose parts, and here’s our Little Legend top five:
1. Independent thinker
Do you want to raise a little independent thinker? When we give our children toys which have a definite purpose, for example, a little toy guitar, there is only one purpose – to play some music and pluck the strings. That is where the cognitive journey ends with this toy. Our daughter has a toy guitar, and she will pick it up, strum for a few seconds, and throw it down!
Loose parts encourage children to think for themselves, and really use their brain to access their previously learned concepts and before you know it – a plain piece of wood becomes an elegant dress for a character of your child’s creation. They will be engaged for long periods of time given the freedom to create.
2. Inspire Creativity
Simon Nicholson, who coined the term loose parts, believed that we are all naturally creative and that loose parts empower our children. Whether they are used alone or alongside other toys, loose parts spark a creative process in your child’s brain. Your child will use the right side of their brain – the creative side – to make something magical happen. This is because it’s their nature to do so. Empty containers become space ships in the imaginative world of loose parts.
3. Child-led, child is the direction
Open-ended play empowers your child to create their own narrative. They lead the dance. They are masters of their own universe.
We, as parents, prepare, watch, and encourage them as they fly in a state of flow. They will direct proceedings using their innate creative ability to spark the most impressive and hilarious plots within their magical, imaginative world.
The best loose parts, in our opinion, are natural loose parts, created by mother nature herself. Fostering a connection between your child and nature is a very worthy cause and will teach your child to appreciate the natural world while they play, and learn, using loose parts.
4. Language/vocabulary rich play
There is a strong link between loose parts and storytelling. As your child is the creator in loose parts play, they will enter a state of creative flow and language will be absolutely flowing from their little mouths.
They will grow in confidence using the language they have previously learned, and with your encouragement, will become little chatterboxes! As parents, we can watch and marvel as they access previously learned language and integrate this within their play. We can also facilitate and suggest their narratives take a certain direction, which will help them find new inspiration.
The most important thing is that the play remains child-led. The enthusiasm of a child wielding their new-found language is a wonder to behold, and you can unlock this special state of creative flow, and explosion of language, by introducing your child to loose parts.
5. Small budget
Loose parts are readily available right now, in your home! At no cost! Think about all the containers, jars, straws, cartons, corks and boxes you have lying around.
Things like bubble wrap, lids, caps – anything which is big enough so they can’t swallow – although your little legends must be observed at all times with small objects for obvious reasons – things will go in their mouth – it’s inevitable! The benefit of the smaller objects is that their fine motor skills will improve exponentially.
Venture out to the park for a walk and you will find an abundance of loose parts to choose from – all for no cost. Anything that needs to be bought, will cost next to nothing. Pop to your local café and ask for a few extra straws! Watch what can be achieved just using these. Pots, pans, lids and watering cans. Anything like this can become a legendary tool in your child’s imaginative dreamscapes.
You will mostly already have loose parts in your possession – so it’s easy on the wallet and instead of buying the latest toy car – find a big wooden box. Next thing you now, they’re sitting in their flying on a magic carpet!
TIP! LITTLE LEGEND combines loose parts play with our own, Playdough Imagination Set, to create a fun, themed play session! We have tried a “land and sea” theme with our two-year-old daughter, and also a “dinosaur roar” theme (see pictures below). We used stones, wooden slides, and simple wooden blocks and a pine cone – we like to keep it natural! Combined with our yummy-smelling, coloured playdough, it was a huge success! The possibilities are endless with loose parts play.