The ‘Loose Parts Theory’ and Play

16 May 2019

Have you ever noticed that if you leave old junk around, whether it be empty boxes, rope, string or pieces of wood, that your child will almost inevitably play with it? Or perhaps you have observed your child occupied with the package a toy came in while the toy itself remains untouched? These are all examples of Loose Parts Play.

The ‘Loose Parts Theory’ has been around for generations. In fact, the term was first used by Simon Nicholson in 1971 to describe the fundamental materials that can be manipulated and used by children in their play environment.

Loose Parts open the door to a child’s self-directed creative and imaginative play.   These humble materials, when combined with time, space and the support of an interested parent or carer have many benefits for a child’s learning, growth and development. For example, playing with loose parts:

  • Increases physical activity
  • Enhances cognitive skills
  • Increases focus and engagement
  • Boosts natural curiosity
  • Invites conversation and collaboration
  • Develops higher levels of critical thinking and problem solving

Home is the perfect environment for you to introduce Loose Parts Play with your child, and the only limitation is your imagination. Nearly any safe household object or garden item in your natural environment can encourage and inspire Loose Parts Play. As adults we often forget how an object can be used in play so here are some ideas you can use to engage in Loose Parts Play with your child to spark your imagination:

  • Rope, bedroom sheets and laundry baskets are wonderful tools for building forts and cubby houses indoors during the wet and colder months
  • Colanders, frying pans and metal bowls make great musical instruments
  • Leaves, petals, dried flowers, feathers, shells and paper are natural resources to make a collage masterpiece.