In the Playnest house, as you may have noticed, we love to use everyday items for play. I'm quite specific about the toys I buy and collect for the kids and we certainly do not have a lot in the effort to live a fairly minimalist lifestyle. But over the past few years of parenting and child care I have begun a collection of 'Loose Parts'. This term was originally coined by an Architect (Simon Nicholson) who described them as materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways, therefore maximizing creativity. Some of these things I have purchased but many are collected from walks or excursions, thrifted from op shops and quite often spotted at dollar stores and the like! Having a collection of sorted loose parts in my store cupboard is so valuable for my kids' play and has absolutely endless possibilities. The best kind of play in my book, where creativity is nurtured and the play has no boundaries...except maybe the ones that keep them safe...like no beads in the mouth...or stones poked into the speaker holes...gah! This morning my 16 month old son played for almost an hour on the kitchen floor with a small dish of little felt balls, he put them in containers, poked them through holes, shook them in a cup. The same little balls were part of a posting game my 4 year old made up the day before! Loose parts can either be used collectively by building and making, put out on a tray together as an invitation to create, or on their own as a way to extend existing play and animate a game. You can learn so much about your child's play and their interests by observing what they do with loose parts!
So what can you collect? Well, anything! A great start would be to head out to the beach or garden: river stones/pebbles, small twigs and sticks, pinecones and driftwood. Op shops are great for things like buttons, ribbons and beads, or head to the dollar stores for pom poms, jewels and wooden pegs. Then there are many house hold items that are great too: toilet/paper towel rolls, bottle caps, jar lids (these are great for filling up with rice or sand). The idea is to have a group of the same things. Get creative and start collecting! I like to store mine in jars or larger baskets for the bigger items and keep them tucked away as something to pull out as needed rather than having them always accessible. That would just be messy...
Is this something you already do? What have you collected and how do your children play them?