Nature Play On Vancouver Island

Nature Kindergarten On Vancouver Island

Exploring Loose Parts

Loose Parts is a wonderful term coined by architect Simon Nicholson who believed 'that we are all creative and that loose parts in an environment will empower our creativity". Many play experts and early childhood educators have adapted the theory of loose parts. In fact using loose parts has been around for a long time and has played an important role in primary classrooms alongside many other learning centres. However loose parts recently have begun to play a much larger role in learning-  taking over some classrooms replacing the traditional less open ended materials traditionally used in areas like block, sand, house, construction and art.

Loose Parts are materials that can be used alone or combined with other materials. They can be carried, stacked, rolled, sorted, counted and reimagined by children creating endless possibilities and inviting creative thinking. Because they come with no directions the materials are open ended and encourage the children to explore, problem solve, collaborate and create.

Loose Parts can be natural or recycled materials like egg cartons, wooden spools, buttons, tree cookies, wooden beads, stones, wood, shells, bark, glass gems, pine cones, sticks, beach wood, chestnuts.... Loose parts can also be water, sand, pebbles, rice... I like to gather large collections so that the children are not restricted. The larger collections seem to be more open ended as the children can play in groups, building large structures or designs.

Loose Parts should be stored in the classroom so that the children have complete access, are well organized and easy to see. Often the children combine loose parts moving them from one part of the classroom to another. Refreshing your loose parts reengages the children just like any play materials offered in your classroom. Baskets, boxes, glass jars and transparent containers are all ideal containers for storage. 


Loose Parts can be introduced as a provocation inspiring the children to use the materials in open ended ways. When children have had minimal experience with loose parts, playing with them and providing a provocation will help them transition from traditional closed materials to open ended materials. Because my students spend a lot of time on process they take many risks refining their ideas, collaborating and reinventing their designs. 

For ideas on how loose parts are being used visit my pinterest at and begin to collect posts which inspire you.

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