Inspire Hands-On Learning Through Loose Parts Play

Loose parts are any open-ended natural or man-made materials that can be moved and reconfigured in multiple ways. These materials can be combined to create patterns and designs, they can be lined up, used to build structures or even used for math play.

Young girl playing with Guidecraft's Nature Feel and Find toy set

Loose parts play boosts creativity, imagination, focus and concentration, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills, hand-eye coordination, literacy and numeracy, along with spatial reasoning. It allows children to independently harness their skills and unique interests into their play, in an unscripted way.  This free play allows children to explore texture, shape, color, size, space and early engineering and physics concepts as they stack, line up and sort the materials.

Children incorporating found loose parts into outdoor play using Guidecraft's Wood Stackers River Stones
Tree shape using Guidecraft Branch Blocks and Little Bricks
Tree image created during loose parts play using Guidecraft Big Branch Block Builders, Little Bricks, and assorted blocks and toys

Loose parts play can be supported and prompted by leaving out open-ended materials which can be a combination of nature and man-made items. To create an enticing invitation to play, materials can be left out in a basket or tray, on an easy-to-reach play shelf or on a low table for the child to discover. Without instruction, children will transport, combine and transform the materials. When working together in groups or pairs, social-emotional skills are developed as children communicate, brainstorm and collaborate with one another.

Two young children playing with a Guidecraft building toy in their playroom
Child playing with Guidecraft Little Pavers and found natural loose parts

If you want to prompt creative play, a basket or jar of loose parts can be left out with a large roll of paper that has an outline of a person, animal or thing drawn.  Children will use the loose parts to fill and decorate the outlined drawing.

Young girl placing a flower into a Guidecraft Treasure Tube

Loose parts can be left out with prompt cards to help guide or inspire play.

Young girl building in a playroom using Guidecraft Tabletop Notch Blocks

Another creative play prompt is to arrange natural loose parts (such as flowers or leaves collected from a nature walk) alongside a weaving frame so children can incorporate them into their weave pattern.

Child's hand weaving blades of grass and flowers through the notches of a Guidecraft Discovery Frame

Materials can also be left out with paper and markers so children can explore tracing letters, shadows and shapes, or even combining loose parts materials with their own drawings to add layers and dimension to their work.

Guidecraft Big Branch Block Builders in the shape of a capital "A" and a lowercase "a"

Loose parts can be combined with dry grains, legumes, flowers, leaves, sticks, sand, water and mud for an exciting sensory experience. 

Guidecraft Little Pavers being used with mud during outdoor play
Guidecraft Coral Connections set in a bathtub
Loose parts can be used for pattern play, by creating a pattern with various items, leaving out a tray with the same materials and having your child replicate the pattern or complete it.
Little Bricks, Tabletop Notch Blocks, and Branch Blocks arranged in patterns during loose parts play

Loose parts can also be used to prompt numeracy or math play. The hands-on approach with visual and tactile materials helps to reinforce math concepts, making them more concrete versus abstract. Sticks or stones can be used as a frame or base with which to create 5, 10 or 20-frame counting boards. Children can use smaller loose parts as manipulatives with which to practice one-to-one correspondence as they place the loose part and count.

Little Bricks, Tabletop Notch Blocks, and Branch Blocks used to create numbers and aid in numeracy play
Young girl stacking Guidecraft Little Pavers during outdoor play
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