Why Little Legend Choose Loose Parts

At Little Legend we are a big believer in the power of loose parts and how they assist development in the early years.

We have a two-year-old daughter and when she started enjoying the world of play, we were always surprised with her choice of toys.

Her favourites were not usually the toys that we bought for her! She would walk around the house carrying a stick, a wooden block, or a box. She would often sit in a straw basket used for carrying clothes. These days, she’s loves playing with a tiny miniature cork!

THEORY

These are deemed “loose parts”, and this theory was invented in 1970 by Simon Nicholson, an architect, who said all children are born inventors:

“Children learn most readily and easily in a laboratory-type environment where they can experiment, enjoy and find out things for themselves.”

Nicholson believed all children, not only the gifted few, are creators and need to be surrounded by open-ended materials in order to flourish.

Natural, open-ended materials include dough, pieces of wood, silk, clay, stone, rubber – anything which can be used and manipulated in many ways. A container could become a castle, a spaceship, a tunnel or a person! A leaf found outside, under a tree, could be a dress, a boat, or a hat.

Kids have incredible imaginations and surprise us constantly with their creativity and ideas. Loose parts open the doors to these magical worlds of discovery for kids, which have no bounds.

DEVELOPMENT

Loose parts come in all sizes. They could be as big as a giant wheel, or as small as a button. The smaller loose parts, like we sometimes use in our playsets, must be used under strict supervision with toddlers as they are a choking hazard.

SO WHY DO WE USE THEM?

 

FINE MOTOR SKILLS

When our children grasp and pick-up small objects, they are developing their fine motor skills. These skills will be required throughout their childhood and the earlier they engage with small objects, the faster they develop these skills.

It really is a joy to see our little girl delicately placing objects with her finger and thumb, constructing her little worlds with loose parts. Kids learn so, so fast when they are empowered to create.

BRITISH EARLY YEARS CENTRE : BUILDING AN ENVIRONMENT THE REGGIO EMILIA WAY

GROSS MOTOR SKILLS

At home we have a tree stump, which our daughter loves to move around as she plays and sits down on it (and sometimes falls off). The larger loose parts help to develop a child’s gross motor skills, which are more about body movement, awareness, reactions, balance and strength. Rubber car truck tires are fantastic for this purpose. Children develop their gross motor skills interacting with these objects, climbing in and out of tires etc. Lifting them, rolling them.

COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT

We all want our kids to develop healthy, thriving brains. Loose parts engage a child’s critical thinking skills, problem solving abilities, abstract thinking and exploration of trial and error.

With open-ended materials, children must use their brain to come up with a function for the material. They learn to solve problems, they ask themselves: how can I bring this object into my imaginative world and make it useful?

This is what makes playdough so magical. With the freedom to shape and mould as they please, it truly brings the genius out in our children!

When kids start building, they also learn (through trial and error) how to create balanced, sturdy structures with loose parts. Little architects are born!

CREATIVITY

Whether you are a creative person, or not, we believe that all children are born creators. With loose parts, children are encouraged to think outside the box and find creative and divergent ways to make and create. Creativity leads to invention and the discovery of new worlds, new frontiers. Which leads us to the next point …

WATCH VIDEO : Playdough with Loose Parts

CONFIDENCE

New discoveries lead to joy and satisfaction. The confidence grows the more a child is given the freedom to explore. The look on a child’s face when they are fully focused on a task, utilizing their brain, is beautiful to watch, as a parent. These moments are endless when you bring loose parts into their environment.

Loose parts excite children, and inspire them to delve deeper into their learning environment. The confidence they get from building a structure, or perhaps, making their own cakes to share (which our daughter loves) is what life is all about. Confidence will be needed as they come of age in this competitive world.

They are engaged, they are learning, they are having fun, they are in their element – because they are doing what they were born to do. Humans are born to shine.

IN SUMMARY …

Our children can thrive and develop rapidly in an environment rich with loose parts.
Smaller loose parts, which can go into mouths, should always be used under strict supervision with babies and toddlers.

Bigger loose parts (which are safe to handle) should be available for your children to interact with, always, if possible. The more they can interact with loose parts, the faster they will develop in all the key areas mentioned above.

Below is a table of ideas, for natural loose parts you can use at home.

Water (ice), Sticks, Shells, Straw (baskets), Wood (tree stumps, containers, sticks, blocks), Flowers, Pine cones, Pebbles/stones (all sizes), Grass/hay, Silk, (handkerchiefs, scarves), Wool, shells (many sizes!).

Read more about Loose Parts : Empowering Your Child With Loose Parts

Meaningful Gifts For Your Two-Year-Old Child

(Developmentally Appropriate Gift Guide)

Is your child in the TREMENDOUS twos?

They say “terrible twos”, but just think what magical changes are taking place with your child at this age.

Their language and communication are starting to flourish. They begin to build things and socialise with other children as the confidence hits new peaks. They are literally surprising you every day with their smarter, more developed brains and what they have learned the previous day. They may be testy, but they certainly are not terrible.

A two-year-old brain is reaching its all-time peak! Brains are around 80% of their adult size, and the connections being made in their brain are hundreds of thousands, per minute! How much they absorb is heavily on the environment they’re in, and what tools they have to play with!

So – what can we get our two-year-old children during the New Year to maximise this window of learning opportunity? Here’s a few ideas.

LOOSE PARTS

Loose parts have been a revelation for us at Little Legend. Loose parts can be any material or object, which has no specific purpose or direction. The child is the direction.

First, with our daughter, we noticed the level of  engagement when we brought in loose parts to her play time. Something as simple as a box, buttons, pieces of wood can spark brilliant ideas from your children that you would never have thought of. That’s because when there is no clear purpose, their brain, and imagination, will work hard to create a purpose.

Loose parts may seem dangerous to any mums or dads reading. Small things can quickly go into mouths.

The key to getting the most out of loose parts is supervising your child while they play with them. The benefits are truly worth it. Loose parts support problem solving, confidence building, and cognitive growth amongst countless other benefits.

The beauty of loose parts is, they can be found everywhere – nature provides them. If you want a Little Legend loose parts set, we have gathered a selection of our favourite loose parts to brighten up your household at Christmas.

ART SUPPLIES

“Children are effective communicators and through the creative arts, children learn to make meaning and freely express their thoughts, ideas and feelings. Drawing also acts as a powerful way for caregivers to understand how a child is feeling”. (Jola Sung)

A blank piece of paper is a canvas for expressing oneself, even at the age of two. Drawing starts to take more shape during the twos, so let’s get a variety of art supplies and have some paper available, so they can scribble whenever the mood takes them.

During this spell of childhood, we will see more controlled drawing movements as the fine motor skills improve rapidly. Children will start to name their drawings and produce lines, zig-zags and even circles.

Drawing alone, is a great sensory activity for toddlers as they experiment with different colours. A Little Legend, we believe in multi-sensory learning and we created a crayon made from pure beeswax, which has natural therapeutic aromas all from mother nature.

While they draw and admire their colourful art, they can smell each crayon and identify the relevant colours they are associated with.

BOOKS

Books, beautiful books. Our source of knowledge and inspiration. At the age of two, bedtime stories start getting really fun for parent and child.

That’s because our children start understanding emotions at this age, and fundamental concepts. They begin to appreciate characters and how they look, and crucially, how they feel.

The level of engagement is very high and everything you teach them during story time is being absorbed by their brain faster than we even realize.

Lots of beautiful diagrams which clearly convey the story is important, and we are the narrator! We are the educator. We can start to explain why things happen at this age as the concepts slowly start to sink in. For example: “Look at the giraffe. Why is the giraffe sad? He’s sad because he’s COLD” and so on.

At Little Legend, we love stories by Julia Donaldson, and also books about nature. A good nature book can help us describe the real beauty of life around us and how it all works! We would recommend the following books about nature/the environment.

  1. “Slow Down” by Rachel Williams
  2. “Lots” by Marc Martin
  3. “The Lost Words” Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris

BUILDING BLOCKS

Block play is magical in so many ways, and somewhere into the early twos, children start to really enjoy building epic structures!

Block play is an open-ended activity, which allows a child to express themselves through building. It’s a creative task which will fully engage them until they are satisfied, or their structure has collapsed too many times!

Children tend to thrive when they are following their imagination, and won’t need to look at a picture or follow a plan. In open-ended play, the whole point is that they are the directors, they are the creators. That is why a set of wooden blocks, ideally of different shapes and sizes, is so ideal for their development.

Block play requires fine and gross motor skills, and problem-solving skills. They will improve their mathematics, science, and self-esteem as they complete their monumental buildings – it will leave them feeling good. Mission accomplished.

PLAYDOUGH SET

Playdough is an absolute MUST BUY for two-year-old children.

Good quality dough, which is natural and free from chemicals, will be the best thing you ever bought your child. Why is playdough so good?

At Little Legend, it was always a winner for our daughter since the age of 1.5 years old, but when we did our first Sensory Playdough Workshop at Little Treehouse Nursery, we recently saw that ALL CHILDREN LOVE IT, and so do their parents. It’s a universal activity.

The reason is simple. Children at this stage learn through their senses. The feel, smell and sight of playdough is a beautiful experience, not to mention what they can create with it. Again, it’s an open ended activity, which brings out the best in our children and forces their brains to work in overdrive.

The possibilities, and the benefits of dough for their development is endless, but we must stress – get organic playdough to ensure that if something goes in their mouth (which it will at least once) it’s not harmful.

Little Legend provides organic, homemade playdough which is naturally scented and free from chemicals. We don’t just provide the playdough, we design nature-inspired playsets, which combine dough with loose parts to create magical playdough sessions, time after time, day after day.

SENSORY CRAYON – THE JOURNEY AND WHY WE MADE IT!

A Product Made From Pure Passion

Little Legend was born out of a mother and father’s passion for the ultimate responsibility, which is parenthood.

Seeing the positive, uplifting, calming impact nature had upon our baby girl led to us exploring this topic more and more. The environment she was in, and sensory experiences, determined her mood and ability to learn.

Thus, we made it our mission to surround her with a nature-inspired environment, and play, as often as possible. Mother nature has never let us down.

We naturally gravitated towards organic, chemical-free products for our girl, and when we discovered naturally-scented, homemade playdough it was a revelation for us.

A eureka moment. Our child, and all children we subsequently introduced the dough to, entered a state of high engagement, creativity and flow with this multi-sensory experience. They were learning through playing with this amazing product, and their brains went into overdrive.

We studied this topic more, and research that has been done, and concluded that pre-school children have a phenomenal ability to absorb and learn while they play, and when their senses are engaged.

Science has taught us that there is a strong connection between our noses and our brain, indeed, smells and our emotions.

As a mummy, Penny (co-founder of Little Legend) loved exposing her little girl to a variety of natural smells, but she couldn’t understand why there was no naturally-scented crayons on the market in Thailand. If there can be naturally scented, organic playdough, then surely we can create a pure, naturally-scented crayon from beeswax?

Crayons made from beeswax are so unique and wonderful – there aren’t many creatures in nature more important than the bee. Any mummy who wants the purest ingredients for her child, will choose a pure beeswax crayon (we hope!).

Penny consulted with a good friend of hers, a cosmetics scientist, and scent-creator called K. Karn, who loved the idea and became the maker of our Sensory Crayon! All in her little laboratory in Wong Wian Yai.

K. Karn (Kanpoohdiary) – A Magical Collaboration

When we approached K. Karn about this idea, her excitement for this project was overwhelming. We discussed making scents from natural, therapeutic aromas such as lavender flower. We wanted our scents to be meaningful, and impactful, potentially even calming for children who were unsettled, or uplifting.

K. Karn took to this project with her heart and soul, and together we came up with five colours, which would be made from a natural process, to be matched with their relevant scents. Yellow – lemon. Green – eucalyptus. Red- rose. Orange – orange. Finally, purple – lavender.

K. Karn told us that she loved the idea of creating a crayon which could benefit visually impaired children too. This was another huge source of motivation for her to collaborate with us. Each scent comes from essential oils, and each oil has its own unique, therapeutic benefits.

Such a beautiful collaboration it has been.

Sensory Crayon – The Packaging

Every detail is crucial to us, at Little Legend. We are bringing, in our opinion, one of the purest and most natural crayons money can buy. Yet, we wanted to give more than just a crayon to draw with at home. For us, the benefits of the crayon needed to be meaningful and long-lasting.

We have included in the Sensory Crayon box five individual eco-bags for each crayon. Why? We really value our crayon and these eco-bags are important for five big reasons:

  1. Maintaining the natural aroma
  2. Not getting the smell mixed up with other crayons
  3. Zero waste, ethically-sourced packaging teaches kids to care for their environment
  4. Sorting and classifying is something children can learn very early in life, each time they pack away their crayon, they’re becoming little, organized legends!
  5. The eco-bags are TRAVEL FRIENDLY! No mess in mummy’s bag and can be carried anywhere, on any journey. The perfect travel companion.

A Final Word From Us …

The speed which our little kids learn is astronomical, trillions of new connections are being made in their brains during the early years. Sensory experiences matter. That’s how our brains receive information in our pre-school years.

We not only wanted the purest crayons for your kids’ little fingers to grip, but each smell will trigger something in their brain. They will learn faster, be more engaged and even more emotionally balanced.

So yes, it was a long process making these crayons. Those busy bees had lots of work to do! But you can always count on us for one thing: our products will always be nature inspired, as pure as can be, and they will be designed to bring out the best in your children.

Great things take time, especially when using the purest ingredients from mother nature.

We hope you enjoy this multi-sensory experience with your children, and thank you for following us – your support means everything to us.

Finally, Finally!

We have made a video of “The Making of the Sensory Crayon” and you can watch it right here. We hope you can see the love that has gone into this product and we would like to thank the amazing Star Studios for filming and editing it – they’re a very skilled and professional outfit.

Multi-Sensory Learning in Early Years

Our role as parents and educators is more critical than ever before. Science has taught us that our children, in their first five years, absorb information primarily through the senses. This information shapes how they perceive the world. They learn through their experiences, both good and bad.

We have also learned that our pre-school brains are highly sensitive and receptive. Our brain activity in pre-school years, and potential for growth, is the highest in our entire lives. As a result, the exposure to multi-sensory activities and experiences determines how fast the brain develops.

 

Brain Development in Early Years

 

BRAIN CONNECTIONS

New scientific research has made one thing crystal clear: pre-school children are capable of learning far more than we ever thought before. The neural connections inside a child’s brain, made in the first five years, will last a lifetime – shaping our memories and behaviour for years to come.

Children at the age of two years old are already laying the foundations for their brain power later in life. This is due to their brain’s “plasticity”, and the number of “synapses in their brains.

“By the age of two, a child’s brain contains twice as many synapses and consumes twice as much energy as the brain of a normal adult” (1997).

Synapses are the special link in the brain, which connect the all-important neurons, allowing the brain to grow. The plasticity of a young human brain means they can learn new concepts very quickly, and very easily. This window of rapid growth starts to close after the age of five years old.

The early years are a huge window of opportunity for US, the parents, to give a child’s brain the information it craves so much. How do we do this? BY EXPOSING OUR CHILDREN TO MULTI-SENSORY EXPERIENCES.

 

Sensory Activities at British Early Years Centre 
(where our daughter goes)

 

WHY SENSORY LEARNING?

Once more – CHILDREN LEARN THROUGH THEIR SENSES in their early years – simple as that. They absorb and retain information via their body and hands-on experience. The brain and the senses work together to create a meaningful world.

The seven senses are a child’s channel of discovery, and must be engaged in order for their brains to receive the information.

Our seven senses are: TOUCH, HEARING, SIGHT, TASTE, SMELL (which everyone knows) and also, which we weren’t taught in school! BALANCE, BODY AWARENESS

“For a small child, discussion and verbal learning have little educative power without actual experience. Learning rather happens through all the sensory channels. Children must live through, explore, and try things out to attach meaning to them” [Hendrick 1990:6].

As research has proven, the more senses engaged, the more connections made in the brain. Multi-sensory learning is the key to unlocking a child’s brain power.

 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The brain receives information from the senses, processes it, and tells the body how to respond. The brain learns from sensory experience, and stores information. Then the senses, in particular SMELL, can act as a trigger for the brain, forming memories. Yes, through giving your child beautiful sensory experiences, they will form happy memories.

A smell, in particular, can bring positive memories flooding back for years to come. Maybe it’s the smell of perfume reminding you of someone you love, or a rose, which takes you back to your garden when you were young.

Multi-sensory experiences are, therefore, critical for how a child will behave later in their lives. Sensory play helps shape a child’s perception of the world, what they believe to be positive and safe in their brain.

What can we do with pre-school children to ensure their brains are engaged via the senses?

PLAY!

Sensory Playground at The Little Treehouse Nursery

 

The best way to develop and improve your child’s sensory development is through play. Through play, children learn what no one can teach them. For young children, play is the lifeblood of learning. [Hendrick 1990:6]

Children are meant to play, it’s in their nature. Play, in particular, role play, is their way of acting out the world around them. The world which their brains are soaking up like a sponge, in the form of TRILLIONS of neural connections being made. Here are some simple, sensory activities we recommend:

  • Play dough – this is a MUST for your kids. The possibilities are never-ending with play dough, and for the full MULTI SENSORY EXPERIENCE, get the naturally-scented playdough from Little Legend.
  • Scented Crayon – Little Legend have launched a product called the Sensory Crayon, so children can smell natural, therapeutic aromas while they draw, giving them a MULTI-SENSORY EXPERIENCE.

 

Empowering Your Child With Loose Parts

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.