Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Loose Parts = Imagination + Creativity

If you attended Loose Parts = Imagination + Creativity at the Indiana Early Childhood Conference in April 2015, THANK YOU! We enjoyed sharing with you! We appreciated your patience with the unexpected large crowd.

Here you will find links to the handouts and resources we used for this presentation. Chris Whitmire (Nuts and Bolts Playground and Early Learning Center) and I presented about the topic and created these materials. We hope these help you in your journey to include more loose parts in your programs.

We also started a Loose Parts Play Facebook group. We hope you will join us to explore Loose Parts Play in more depth. Watch for more articles and resources shared on Loose Parts Play soon.

Additionally, Early Learning Center in Granger, IN will be hosting an all day Nature Explore workshop featuring Susan Wirth on Tuesday, July 7. This Summer Institute is sponsored by IAEYC and the Early Childhood Professionals of Northern Indiana. Look for more details soon from IAEYC!

If sharing resources, please only link to this page rather than directly to the handouts. Thanks! If you haven't already, I really encourage you to at least doing the reflective piece. The Loose Parts Play area at Woodlawn Nature Center came as a result of a similar reflection piece.

We started with this video from Scrapstore Playpod. It's a fantastic look at the possibilities of Loose Parts Play! While it may not be completely applicable to your space, what might work?

Loose Parts Options Handout      Loose Parts Planning Worksheet       Loose Parts Reflection

Articles for Review:

Loose Parts: What does this mean? by Penn State Extension
A Few of My Favorite Things: Nothing Wrong with Stuff by Jim Greenman
Open-Ended Materials Belong Outside Too! from HighScope Extensions

A few books were helpful as well:
Beautiful Stuff!: Learning with Found Materials
Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children
The Little Book of Free and Found
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder
How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature
(These may contain affiliate links)


"Nature is imperfectly perfect, filled with loose parts and possibilities, with mud and dust, nettles and sky, transcendent hands-on moments and skinned knees."
~Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods, 2005

“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.” Simon Nicholson

‘Children learn most readily and easily in a laboratory-type environment where they can experiment, enjoy and find out things for themselves.’

Pinterest Boards: 

At the conference, the room was PACKED. Seriously, it was standing room only and the walls were lined. We signed up for a workshop of about 64 people and I would say there about 200 people there. It's great to see the interest!

We had many "loose parts" (mostly natural items) on the tables and gave groups time to explore the materials. We asked them to make a vehicle, building, bird, animal, plant, etc. It was so great to see the educators engaged and trying things out. Loved this part of it! 

As we circulated, we saw teamwork, communication, creativity, imagination, and so much more! 

We shared a few options, like this infant discovery basket on the left. It has fabrics with different textures, scarves, musical instruments, a soft play mushroom and hedgehog, smooth blocks, shell, etc. Loose parts play for infants may look very different for infants or young toddlers. See my Pinterest board on the topic for more ideas.

We also shared the concept of Loose Parts Play "Hacks". There are many things we LOVE in the catalogs and such, but just don't have the money for. A few ideas I shared are the $1 buckets (no handle, but galvanized) from Ikea instead of the $8 buckets from a specialized outdoor play company. Even the hardware store locally might have less expensive options. I also shared a neat mirrored tray that cost about $15. I like it, but found a "silver" tray from the dollar store that gave a similar illusion. I can afford so much more with this cheaper option. An outdoor play catalog also sells an expensive outdoor fabric (kelly green on the right picture". Would tulle or an old length of sheer curtain work as well? We encouraged people to look through catalogs (I like Kodo Kids and Nature Explore in particular, though there are many great ones) and think about the possibilities of doing things with less cost on your own. I then try to save my grant money and such for the things I really, really want and can't find a good alternative.


I also shared some options for play dough. This is my favorite recipe by the way. It's a good base for many seasonal options. I particularly like the pumpkin pie option.  I'm sharing it because people ask me for it all the time. It is a baked play dough but is super easy and lasts a long time. When we have "play dough" time, we bring out the blocks, the foam trees left over from Christmas, googly eyes, cinnamon sticks, regular sticks, pipe cleaners, laminated pictures of animals, pinecones, tree cookies, acorns, tools, and so much more! Adding various elements to play dough really makes a difference. I like the Melissa & Doug Shape, Model and Mold to work with the play dough as well, but am not particularly fond of their dough.

I'll leave you with more pics of the creations. I enjoyed hearing the descriptions of it all! 

Pieces were combined in ways that I've never seen! I love learning from the participants as well. 

It's interesting that the tray became part of the sculpture as well! 

Imagine the possibilities--regular blocks combined with a myriad of other items for new possibilities!

I love this arch on the left and the order on the right. 

Watch for more blog posts in the future on loose parts play and learning!