Written by Lisa, teacher, play advocate and mother to Benji and on behalf of Nesk Kids
I am a big advocate of loose part play; it’s engrained in our everyday life and big component of Benji’s daily play. Loose part play is a type of play where open ended materials can be lined up, grouped, moved, stacked, and lots more. There is no specific instruction or goal. Loose parts can be used by itself or in combination with other resources.
Loose part play offers great possibilities for a child’s learning. By playing with loose parts, children are:
- Creating their own rules and designs, focusing on the process rather than the product
- Developing fine motor skills by grasping and picking up small objects and manipulate them
- Engaging in problem solving and abstract thinking
- Strengthening their gross motor skill when working with larger and heavier items
- Being encouraged to think outside the box, and find divergent ways to make and create
- Developing social and emotional skills by working together, taking turns and responding to ideas of others.
Loose parts can be all kind of different things, Small loose parts can be items such as buttons, corks, leaves, bolts and pom poms. Larger loose parts would be: buckets, crates, boxes, bottles and egg cartons. Loose part house hold items would be items like spoons, fabric, whiskers, containers and ice cube trays.
There are some toy brands such as Grimms and Grapat creating wonderful open-ended loose part play resources. This blog will describe some of our favourite activities to do with these.
1. Create Cakes
Combining the Grimms rainbow and semi circles with the Grapat mandala pieces is a wonderful way to create a non-calorie but very festive birthday cake. It’s a lovely tradition, all our family members and friends, near and far get elaborate Benji-made-cakes and an out-of-tune-song when it’s their birthday.
2. Sort Them into Colour Groups
Grapat Mandalas are wonderful items to sort into colours. You can use coloured bowls, the paint strips you can grab from hardware stores, egg cartons or even Connectix tiles. To make it trickier you can use the gradient colours from said paint samples. Using tweezers makes it an awesome fine motor skill workout too!
3. Stick them to the Wall for Vertical Play
By taping a piece of contact to the wall (sticky side out), you can create a wonderful vertical play experience. Pushing them onto the wall and pulling them back off, is a great activity for the younger kids, while older children can create beautiful landscapes when combining them with nature finds.
4. Dig Them Out of Sensory Rice
Sensory play is a massive hit here. If I’m in need for a success guaranteed activity, I will pull out a container of rice, hide a bunch of mandalas in there and offer Benji scoops and containers to pour, scoop and dig. It just shows that simple play is often the best play.
5. Count Them
Loose parts are amazing to be used as a part of early numeracy, but they are also fantastic for older children as a hands-on material. Younger kids can group, count and order lower numbers. While with older children you can use parts to do data collection, create graphs and practise time tables. The options are so versatile that it deserves its own blog post!
6. Create Patterns
Recognising and creating patterns is an important skill for early learners. Draw some shapes on butchers’ paper, or use painters’ tape on the floor and start a pattern for the kids to complete. Or, to make it even more fun, create an outline of yourself!
7. Combine them with Sensory Materials such as Playdough or Kinetic Sand
Mandala pieces make great playdough stampers, and do very well as treasures hidden in kinetic sand. It’s such a wonderful way to offer an invitation to play. Sometimes our mandalas are ice-cream sprinkles, while using the same set up, the next day they are pirate treasures.
8. Post Them
Posting is a very loved activity by many young children. We have a beautiful wooden house with lots of doors that are very loved. But our DIY shoebox with wet wipe lids is just as popular. And by changing the stickers on the lids to shapes, colours or numbers, it’s a different activity each time. We also use left over cardboard to create temporary lids on our ikea flisat table for some fun posting activities.
9. Create Flatlays and Mandalas
This is one for the older children and the adults amongst us, and something I love doing for myself as a way to wind down and relax. You only have to check Instagram to view the most amazing looking creations! Give it a try!
10. Plan No Specific Activity
Sometimes the most wonderful thing you can do is just handing over a bunch of loose parts, with no instruction, no pre-planned activity, nothing. Just sit back and see what happens! I promise you; you will be surprised by the ideas kids will come up with!
I can’t wait to see how you will be incorporating loose part play into your play routine! Make sure to tag us on Social media so we get to see it!
Love from Lisa (& Benji)
For all your Grapat and Grapat Mandala needs, visit Nesk Kids Grapat Collection.