Loose parts - Let the children lead the way

What is more natural for children than to play? Just as we can’t separate learning from living, we cannot separate playing from learning. There are certain universal urges that can be witnessed in children’s play – things they just feel compelled to do and driven to repeat, in many ways and with many objects.  Urges are repeated patterns of play and thinking, they are biological imperatives. They are innate and totally intrinsic to what children do. If we provide for the urge we can let the children lead the way! 

To outplay their URGES, children need loose parts, heaps of it! 

If we want children to outplay their urges, like construction enclosure, positioning, transporting, collecting, we need to give them access to loose parts which they can use for different impulses and unfolding patterns. Loose parts should be part of every list of ‘core’ resources.  It is basically how we grew up, using those bits of treasure around us and playing outside for hours! How many of you remember building and creating huts and tree houses using blankets, sticks, planks, pegs, ropes.

Loose parts to the neo cortex are as vital as paint for the artist. 

You can never have too many loose parts. The best additives for play are those loose parts that give the neo cortex some gym, the best workout for the imagination.  The more passive and simple the object the more complex and active the mind works.  The power of these open ended passive things combined with the power of the child's unfolding imagination is magic! Our role is to have the core recourses available so they can play to their hearts content. With the loose parts the child literally builds a body of knowledge and these experiences are the most richest as a foundation for learning later.

What is on your CORE list of essential bits and pieces?

Forget all the resources out of the ece catalogue. Allow nature to be the best loose parts, or the local op shop! The golden rule to having loose parts as your core resource is to have lots of the same, so chilren can freely express their urges.   Make sure you always have enough, so all children can outplay their creative ideas and innate urges. The key to housing 'loose parts' is the storage. It’s important to always have plenty of the same thing and great storage. Things look so much more attractive when they are on mass.

Sticks enhance other play things and after awhile they become 'the playthings'.

Take for example a large basket bursting with sticks. Sticks are children's favourite play object since the dawn of time. Imagine a huge pile of sticks, what you see is probably not what the child sees. They see "spoons", "magic wands", “spears”. their imaginations combined with their life experiences ignite and these passive items come alive. The sticks become the perfect vehicle for the outplaying of the urges. The children can collect the sticks, construct with the sticks, rotate the stick, connect the sticks, position the sticks. All experiences with the stick will be fuelled by the child's own inner impulses. The children's constant use with the sticks means their mind is constantly making the stick more and more complex.

The MAGIC in observing children bring life to the 'things' is a gift for the observer.

Observing play when children are fully in the world of their imagination generates a far stronger sense of satisfaction to both the player and the observer than observing children when in a teacher led situation. Often we will see intrinsic motivation,  joint decision making, helping each other, negotiation. Children don’t need set up table top activities. They need experiences that 'hook' into what they naturally are inclined to do. That is what we need to do - offering children all the ingredients they need to follow their natural development. Give them loose parts and a play bubble that is totally dependent on the imagination of the child! The child gets the gift of play, and we get the gift of seeing what and how they use theses open ended treasures. That is MAGIC for all!