Loose parts are items and materials that we can move, adapt, change and manipulate. Play with loose parts is not only fun, it also develops literacy skills as children use creativity, problem solving and language as they negotiate what an item will represent.
The materials come with no specific set of directions, they can be used along with or combined with other materials. Children can turn them into whatever they desire. These objects invite conversations and interactions; they encourage collaboration and cooperation. Loose parts promote social competence because they support creativity and innovation. All of these are valued skills we need as adults.
Examples of loose parts include stones, buttons, wooden cubes, twigs, leaves, pinecones, fabric, beads, balls, rope, sticks, shells and Q-tips. The list goes on.
Children acquire their first math skills and numerical concepts when they manipulate small loose parts. Using blocks and bottle caps for sorting, classifying, combining and separating is math in action! Children learn one-to-one correspondence when they make connections among those loose parts. You will commonly hear them counting and arranging the parts in specific sequences, patterns and categories by color, type and number.
Loose parts come with no instructions - rather they invite children to use their imaginations to build, invent, choose, collaborate, consider and more.
With loose parts play, the possibilities are only limited by our imaginations. Who knows where loose parts play adventures will take us? It is an exciting mystery tour of fun and learning!
Community Literacy Coordinator
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy – Trail and Area