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

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.