“Giving meaning to loose parts requires us to think about the possibilities of how a child learns and consider the materials and environments she uses.” The art of loose parts is removing objects from the classroom that have a singular purpose. Why give a child an object that limits their natural instinct to create and imagine? Loose parts can be anything from scraps of fabric, to recycled coffee canisters, to magnets. When a child is given a toy with a singular purpose, there is no imagination necessary. The car goes around the racetrack, or you push a button and an animal pops up. When a child is given real materials that don’t have a specific purpose, then the possibilities are endless. I’m sure you’ve seen it before. Your 3-year-old is opening presents on Christmas morning, but she seems to be more interested in the box or wrapping paper that the toy came in. Give a child a giant empty box and their imagination can go wild! It’s all about bringing back the basics, which is a core element to my childcare philosophy.
The term loose parts was first coined by Simon Nicholson. Nicholson was an architect who would carefully consider the landscapes and environment that would form connections. Nicholson believed that “we are all creative and that loose parts in an environment will empower our creativity.”
Today, there is so much pressure for a child to conform to the box that is modern day early childhood education. We are so focused on keeping them inside the lines that we forget that they are children. Life is meant to happen outside of the box. It’s where we create, explore, make mistakes, and grow. Children should learn outside of the box with materials that are outside of the box, real materials. Where a store-bought toy can bring about excitement and interest, loose parts encourage creativity, problem solving, curiosity, and imagination. We can create an environment for the child to learn in their own way. With loose parts there is no specific direction, no single purpose, it is up to the child to create the direction and purpose. Having loose parts in the classroom helps redirect the focus back on the child.
When it comes to learning, the possibilities are endless if we provide an environment where the child can be authentically themselves.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash