What are Loose Parts?

Loose parts mean alluring, beautiful found objectives and materials that children can move, manipulate, control, and change while they play (Oxford Play Association, 2014).

Loose parts may be natural, reclaimed or recycled or known materials (beads, fabric, metal, paper, etc.) that are open-ended (can be combined in endless ways). They have no specific directions. Being open-ended, materials encourage conversations, interactions, and collaboration. They are fundamental to higher thinking skills.

While materials are open-ended, they still need to be have their intentions scaffolded by adults, who model…

That the materials belong to the group and are part of the class community (not hoard or hide).

That care and attention is given, and therefore care of materials is sorting and returning to original containers thus displaying their aesthetics and possibility.

That use of materials, require intentionality of how and why we use them.

For educators, there is a mindset. Acknowledge an intention in introducing the materials, both sharing their possibilities but also take caring not to assign limiting attributes to materials (this is used for wheels).

Acknowledgement that loose parts are open-ended and celebrate children’s imagination – often in joyous and messy ways

When thinking about your environment, how might you introduce loose parts into your classroom?

How might you incorporate materials (and their rights to be other things) into your classroom environments?