Loose Parts and Raw Materials

A combination of raw materials and loose parts is essential to the creative development of young children. These materials support children across all areas of the curriculum including music, movement, drama, dance, role play and the visual arts.

Loose parts and raw materials support the development of Creative and divergent thinking and problem solving, these are important skills that children will use, now and in the future – thinking outside the box so that the same processes can be used in other areas of the person’s life.

Simon Nicholson, an architect developed the theory of loose parts in the 1970s. At the time, architects and designers were encouraging the involvement of children in designing and planning environments for play. The Theory of Loose Parts says that ‘in any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kinds of variables in it’ (Taylor. C Foundations of Playwork). In simple terms children are creative, the more access they have to these materials the more flexible the opportunities for them to create, invent, explore, investigate, be curious…..

Loose parts are objects and materials that children can carry from one space to another, indoors or outdoors. Loose parts are open-ended and can be used in ways that children want to use them and not in pre-determined/defined ways. Loose parts should be incorporated into the everyday provision of the early years setting.

Offering children loose parts encourages and supports the development of imagination, they can make their own decisions and choices, their ideas are unique and meaningful. There is no one way to use the material- children will be creative in their own ways.

At Imagine… Creative Early Years we encourage children to combine loose parts with the range of other more traditional early years core resources or, what we call raw materials- clay, paint, sand, water, soil and so on, this enhances the quality of play and learning for children. Differentiation is immediately addressed as children use the materials in many different ways and on many levels – in ways that make sense to them. Loose parts enable adults to observe and see children’s hands-on learning, as they move objects and materials from place to place, line them up, contain them, build/construct, connect and manipulate them in many creative ways. As children’s learning becomes less tangible, loose parts gives us insight into children’s thinking processes as the materials allow them to give full expression to thoughts, ideas, concepts and understanding.

In early years we usually refer to loose parts as open-ended materials. These materials excite and stimulate a child’s natural inclination to learn, by allowing them to deeply engage in what interests them at a level that is accessible yet still challenging. When children play with loose parts and raw materials they search, they question, they challenge. They find solutions. Children are learning how to gather information, how to find resources and how to solve a problem rather than waiting for the answer.

Loose parts and raw materials encourage active learning, discovery, investigation, they support children’s natural curiosity, their observation skills, their listening skills and they allow for appropriate risk-taking. The range of raw materials and loose parts supports the development of children’s creativity, an important aspect of learning for children who need to become flexible, open-minded thinkers, able to cope with the developing and ever-changing world.

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LOOSE PARTS Play – Why Bother?

Loose Parts play is the stuff of Enquiry Based Play and Learning – supporting and nurturing children’s ‘enquiry’ about the world in which they live.
Loose Parts may be familiar objects but placed in unfamiliar ways so giving ‘new life’ to the objects
Loose Parts support children’s natural curiosity and their everyday playing, thinking, exploring
Loose Parts are used by children in their own unique way, in ways that support their daily emergent interests
Loose parts can be used in combination with other materials to support imagination
Loose Parts can enhance or change children’s perceptions of what they already know. This in turn can raise new questions, new lines of enquiry
Loose Parts consist of everyday objects and unfamiliar objects alike however when they are used out of the ‘normal’ context, they provide a new fascination.
Loose Parts can be familiar objects but arranged or placed in unusual or different ways
Loose Parts present opportunities for deep thinking about big ideas that children often present
There are many ways of presenting or offering loose Parts
Loose Parts can be adapted and manipulated in many ways by children
Loose parts support open ended learning

Baljit Gill

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