Monday, March 1, 2021

Local Loose Parts Nature Play Options Available

Local Loose Parts Nature Play Options Available 

Work/live within 1.5 hours of Goshen, Indiana? Feel free to reach out to me about visiting your school, party, club, or community event! 


A variety of options are available. We can do a combination of options that fit in my vehicle. Please list top three you would like to have your students experience. Of course, all of these things can be used in conjunction with other items. There is no rigid definition of what should be used in what “zone” or area. Loose parts are free to mingle amongst the play! Supporting books are available for all zones upon request. Fees start at $60 depending on number of participants, options requested, length of session, and location. Send me an inquiry at with desired date(s), approximate time, location, description of your outdoor space, contact information, and top 3 play options.


Suggested Options (though I can work custom magic as well!):


Cardboard Construction! We both supply cardboard. I bring cardboard tools, tape, connector examples, and accessories for large and/or individual cardboard builds. Items with cardboard and tape only can stay at your site or go home with the child/family. Specialty cardboard connectors would go home with me. 


Build Your Own Obstacle Course An open outdoor space is perfect for children and families to create their own obstacle courses! Large outdoor loose parts and stop watches will be available. 


Mud Play! Any space can be turned into a snow, potion, or mud station, depending on the weather. I bring mud friendly pots, pans, utensils, and accessories to transform your area into a small mud zone. You supply the mud (or I can bring a smaller amount), I’ll bring jugs of water depending on how large your group is.


Simple Machines Outdoors Explore basic concepts of simple machines through outdoor loose parts! Try options around levers, pulleys, screws, wedges, inclined planes, and wheel and axle. This is a fun play option with open-endedness to have hands-on options to experiment with simple machines.  


Ramps Explorations! Large PVC, wooden, and specialty ramps, height building materials, and many rolling, sliding, and non-rolling options to stimulate ramp inquiry! Indoor options can also be provided.



Math, Loose Parts, and Nature Math is all around us in nature! Let’s take the tools of math outdoors, as well as use natural and manufactured loose parts to explore numeracy and mathematical concepts. 


Small World Play A variety of small world play can be available such as dinosaurs, fairies, local animals, and vehicles. Combine characters with tree cookies, pine cones, glass pebbles, rocks, and more for children to create small world play. 


Building Blocks and More Building is a great adventure! I’ll bring a variety of wooden blocks, tree cookies, specialty blocks, and loose parts add ons for open-ended building options. 


Pulley Play Try a variety of pulley options and challenges. Trees with lower branches or other structures to throw a rope over are essential for this zone. I’ll provide ropes, baskets and containers, stuffies, weighted materials, noise exploration, and ways to make colors fly. 


Fort Building Large pieces of fabric, tarps, rope, clamps, crates, building sets, sheets, and clothespins, along with existing on site materials, are available to create forts, dens, and other construction options.

 Nature Play Field guides, bug catchers, tweezers, scavenger hunts, and other open-ended nature play options will be available along with several themed nature play “kits” with materials to support a particular topic (birds, amphibians, shapes in nature, transient art, etc.) 


Dramatic Play Scarves, greenery, pieces of fabric, costume materials, and dramatic play options will be available to enhance play. 


Transient Art Large frames, natural items, sticks, and some manufactures items will be available to create! I’ll bring examples from various artists and look forward to seeing the children’s imaginations soar! 


Music and Movement A variety of handmade and manufactured musical items, scarves, hand ribbons, and items to explore sound round out these noisy options! 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Workshops, Presentations, and Keynotes

 Loose Parts Nature Play 

Workshops, Presentations, and Keynotes

Dr. Carla Gull is an online instructor for beginning courses at the University of Phoenix. She has been in education for over 20 years and hosts the Facebook group Loose Parts Play and the podcast Loose Parts Nature Play. She leads professional development and academic research in outdoor classrooms, loose parts, tree climbing, and nature play. She facilitates classes with Tinkergarten, leads local nature and environmental education programming, and consults with Nature Explore. She loves finding frogs with her four boys.


Contact Info: 317-750-5645

Feel free to reach out for availability and a quote.  


Nurturing Nature: The Educators Role in Loose Parts


Interested in including nature in your early childhood environment, but not quite sure how? Already including nature, yet want to make it more meaningful? Nature is an essential part of developing wonder in early childhood. Learn how to cultivate your own sense of wonder as we look at the foundational practices of including nature play in your space.  As educators, we are the gatekeepers for children getting outside and experiencing nature. Learn how to make daily nature play an enjoyable learning experience for all.  


30+ Approaches to Loose Parts


The term “loose parts” has grown in popularity recently as educators and parents have rediscovered this timeless approach to play. Loose parts play can be as simple as finding a stick and using it in play or it can take a more complex approach to open ended landscapes. The term “loose parts” became popular with the Theory of Loose Parts by Simon Nicholson.  He advocated for movable items in outdoor play settings in his work as a landscape architecture. Today, the term is fairly ambiguous with some guiding principles: open ended materials and lots of options. Explore thirty plus approaches to loose parts as we define loose parts as a group. 


Math, Loose Parts, and Nature


Nature is full of patterns, cycles, shapes, and numeric opportunities. Take a walk outside with a mathematical lens to discover possibilities. Observe how children naturally experiment with mathematical concepts as part of outdoor play. Notice counting (as children gathered 1, 2, 3, 4 sticks), matching of elements (leaves that were the same), application of geometric shapes (creating rectangles for a house), sequencing (working through the order of the tasks they planned out), symmetry, and understanding perimeter. Nature provides many non-standard examples to deal with complexities. Explore related tools and books to connect nature, loose parts, and mathematics. 


Nature Play for Preschoolers


Learn about the five types of nature play, benefits of outdoor play, options for teaching in nature, and the supportive role of the educator in nature play. Bring the inside out and the outside in. Gain fresh ideas and practical takeaways around loose parts nature play. 


Outdoor Loose Parts


The outdoors is a great space to explore loose parts! Natural and manufactured materials pair naturally for outdoor play. Define loose parts, the educator’s role in loose parts, and gain great tips to implement loose parts in your space this next week. 


Rethinking Nicholson’s Intent


Have you ever wondered why children are drawn to sticks and cardboard boxes? Using hands-on and reflective approaches, explore how the theory of loose parts can enhance creativity and imagination in your setting. During the workshop, we will explore loose parts, look at benefits and opportunities, find many approaches to loose parts, rethink Nicholson's intent, search through connected books, create environmental art, and more!


Rolling into Physics: Early Childhood Ramp Investigations


Explore ramps, motion, inclines, and all things that roll in this playful experimentation and workshop. Understand how and why children are drawn toward ramp play and how to support it with inexpensive items you probably already have. 


Simple Machines in Outdoor Classrooms


Outdoor Classrooms are a perfect space to explore STEM concepts, such as simple machines. Investigate ways to use the pulley, inclined plane, wheel and axle, wedge, screw, and lever, examine safety considerations, and set up STEM challenges with simple machines in available outdoor spaces. 


Tree Climbing and Risky Play in Early Childhood Settings


Due to fears around injury, liability, and judgment, some childhood activities are being limited, such as tree climbing. Explore the benefits, as well as the risks, of risky play tree climbing in this nostalgic and informative session allowing children the freedom to explore the great outdoors.


Turkey, Salamanders, and Frogs, Oh My! Hands-on and Playful Animal Experiences


Investigate the logistics of why we might connect children to animals, addressing concerns around connecting to animals, safety issues, and legal considerations. Learn the basics of creating and enhancing the habitat for animals, adding tools to study animals, consider policies, seasonal considerations, and developing nature table collections. Explore how to find evidence of animals in the wild, bringing animals to the classroom, taking field trips including animals, and embracing animal play as part of the classroom through tools, technology, and resources.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Rolling into Physics: Ramp Play!

Ramps Podcast Episode:

Simple Machines Podcast Episode:

Resources on Amazon:


Tutorial to make PVC ramps for outdoors:

Kodo Kids Simple Machines: RAMP handout


Meeting Standards: Tinker guide page 25 LEARNING GUIDELINES The Physical Sciences #20. Investigate and describe or demonstrate various ways that objects can move.



Rube Goldberg machines:


Brain Game Rube Goldberg clip:


Marble Sand Video:


KodoKids Webinar:



Kindergarten Lesson:


Things that Don’t Roll:






Questions to Ask:


Book Pick (aff links):

STEM Learning with Young Children: Inquiry Teaching with Ramps and Pathways:

Mousetrap Game:

Magnetic marble run—


Choke Test Tube:



Saturday, September 5, 2020

Math and Loose Parts in Nature

From observing and leading natural loose parts play, facilitating workshops on math and loose parts in nature, and using mathematical tools outside, I have gathered a few key concepts for exploring math outside.

·     The world is alive with mathematical learning opportunities. Nature is full of patterns, cycles, shapes, and numeric opportunities. Take a walk outside with a mathematical lens to discover possibilities. Observe how children naturally experiment with mathematical concepts as part of outdoor play. Nature Notes, an observation sheet from Dimensions Education/Nature Explore, helps me and other educators notice counting (as children gathered 1, 2, 3, 4 sticks), matching of elements (leaves that were the same), application of geometric shapes (creating rectangles for a house), sequencing (working through the order of the tasks they planned out), symmetry, and understanding perimeter. Nature provides many non-standard examples to deal with complexities.

·     Nature can provide!While I love loads of manufactured loose parts, nature often has plenty of sticks, rocks, seeds, and pinecones. If not, they can be gathered locally for free. As children collect their own natural treasures, student choice and voice becomes prominent in their play and learning as they create squares, patterns, and solve challenges.

·     Bring the tools outside. We often hide away our math tools and manipulatives in closets, only using them when teaching a specific concept. Let’s take them outside so tools can be another “variable” in students’ play. 

o  Make grab and go kits. Having “starts” for the week in small backpacks make it easy to get math options outside as part of play. 

o  Create a math cart. Curate a larger collection of basic math supplies in an outdoor cart to make easy to transport to nearby nature areas. 

o  Use digital tools to support play. Depending on the technology you use and have available, digital devices have cameras to document and record information, timers, stop watches, tally apps, and other basic math tools. 

o  Consider mathematical tools to extend play.

§ Number and Operations—arrays, number lines, dominoes, yard dice, calendar numbers, sticks, milk or applesauce lids, ten frame, dice, fabric 100s chart

·     Arrays may include egg cartons, ice cube trays, muffin tins, tic tac toe or checker boards, sorting trays, and other sets organized in rows and columns.  

§ Geometry and Spatial Sensing—frames, 2D and 3D shapes (both found and from a set), attribute blocks, mirrors

§ Measurement—rulers, yardsticks, ribbons, yarn, rope, measuring tapes, sand timers, digital timers, scales, trundle wheel, balances, sticks and ropes in standards sizes (feet, two feet, yard, six feet for COVID)

§ Patterns and Algebraic Reasoning—pattern blocks, game pieces 

§ Displaying and Analyzing Data—garden lattice, tally sheets

§ General Items—chalk, wooden planks, milk crates, light colored fabric squares, recyclables, sticks, rocks, acorns, sweet gum balls, driftwood, pine needles, mark making tools and paper

·     Solve real life problems.Nicholson, the landscape architect who coined the term “loose parts,” explained in his theory that loose parts and learning should help solve real life problems pertinent to the students. The 4 questions of data analysis are a perfect way to support inquiry and emergent learning. As student start wondering about something, we can support and guide them through this process.

o  What do you want to know?

o  How can you find out?

o  What tools will help you collect the data? 

o  How will you use the information? (from Messy Maths)


As educators, we can help support and extend mathematical learning in our emergent curriculum as we follow students’ questions, use mathematical vocabulary, observe and anticipate mathematical supply needs, assess learning, and allow children plenty of nature play. In our research, my colleagues and I found the role of facilitator in loose parts to be: 

Loose parts are open-ended, interactive, natural and manufactured materials that can be manipulated with limitless possibilities. Interaction with loose parts includes experimentation, exploration, and playful interactions with variables through creativity and imagination. Participations have the freedom to explore variables, combine materials, and react to complex themes and ideas that emerge. Facilitators encourage participants make loose parts available, stimulate discovery, provide opportunities, allow for open-ended play, and prompt meaningful connections and experiences. Through loose parts exploration participants develop imagination, creativity, and collaborative skills. Process is more important than the end product fostering overall growth and development. (Gull et al., 2019, p. 51)

You’re ready to see and support natural mathematics exploration in play! 


Resources to Help


Math Resources and Tools on Amazon (including book suggestions!)

Mirrors for Mirror Books

Resources from Juliet Robertson:

Suggested materials for maths outdoor—good list of basics to consider

Messy Maths Handout--Great content! 

Sammy the Metre Snake—consider a yard snake in the US


Books from Juliet Robertson:

Messy Maths—great book that goes through all mathematical domains

Dirty Teaching—general information about learning outdoors


General suggestions for outdoor maths from NAEYC—good suggestions to consider! 


Math Vocabulary—terms to consider to use

Kindergarten math vocabulary with definitions


Nature Notes-- Documentation Option, p. 62-63


Conference Presentation on Early Maths—inside focused--vocabulary, activities, potential sequencing lists, etc.


Big and Small Outdoor Action Card Prompts—action prompts to explore big and small


Gull, C., Bogunovich, J., Goldstein, S. L., & Rosengarten, T. (2019). Definitions of Loose Parts in Early Childhood Outdoor Classrooms: A Scoping Review. International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education6(3), 37-52.