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Types of Play: Loose Parts

3 preschoolers playing with loose parts
August 18th, 2022Types of Play

Loose Parts are natural or man-made materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. They are materials with no specific set of directions that can be used alone or combined with other materials. They are materials that, most of the time, you can find around your home or within your daily lives.  Some examples of loose parts are rocks, shells, bolts, pieces of fabric, beads, acorns, spools, tree cookies, ribbon, shower curtain hangers, corks, etc. Loose parts are just that – loose!


The amazing thing about offering loose parts to children is that they all have so many different ideas about how to use the materials, often very different ideas than we may have. It is within this reflective, child-centred play, that we notice how these materials and their endless potential support the development of children’s minds.

How do these materials and this type of play support children’s learning and development?

When we have these open-ended play materials available to the children, we are supporting growth in so many areas including creativity, problem-solving, engineering, concentration, mathematics, science, social-emotional development, coordination, fine and gross motor development… and the list goes on.

3 toddlers playing with loose part shells

Loose parts play a big part in schema play. Our previous Types of Play post listed and described a number of different types of schema play. There are endless ways that children use loose parts and other materials as they discover these various schemas. Some examples are: filling a bucket with pine cones to transport it to another location, sorting buttons into muffin tins or ice cube trays to position or order them, or even tossing ping pong balls across the room (trajectory!) to see how far and fast they move through the air. Here is a great chart that was developed by an ECE, Michelle Thornhill that lists loose parts by various schemas.

3 preschoolers playing with various loose parts

When you observe children manipulating various loose parts and materials as they engage in play-based learning, you observe the incredible power of young minds in imaginative play!

toddlers playing with loose shells outside

Explore Types Of Play

Schema Play
Risk Play
Sensory Play

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