Loose parts is the label given to any collection of natural or man-made materials that can be used to expand upon children’s play. Loose parts have no specific function or goal—they can be moved, arranged, designed, taken apart and more! The concept was originally created in 1972 by architect Simon Nicholson who describes the use of open-ended materials in a child’s environment, which he believed was strongly linked to creativity and critical thinking later in life. In practicality, loose parts play has been around as long as there have been children to tinker with just about anything they can get their little hands on!
Now the concept is widely applied in children’s educational settings around the world. Introducing loose parts play to children provides them with infinite opportunities to think and create. Loose parts can be used in so many ways and the possibilities are as endless as a child’s imagination. And although the word “play” may indicate otherwise, a great deal of learning happens when children engage with loose parts! One of the greatest benefits of loose parts play is that you can use the same materials with a range of ages and because they are open-ended, there is no shelf life! The same materials can continue to be used in a variety of ways over an extended period of time. Playing with loose parts encourages problem solving and often collaboration—all skills critical in today’s world.