Guest Blog Post by Alex Trichilo (Speech Pathologist and Mum of three)
Are you ready to discover just how much your children can learn from loose parts?
I sat down to write this post thinking I would just be writing about creativity and play development, but then I spent a few weeks watching my children play with our loose parts boxes from Nesk Kids and realised that the list of skills they were developing was massive!
The beauty of loose parts is that there is no prescribed way for children to play with them. I will occasionally set up a play activity for my kids that is suggestive, e.g. an ocean scene, but usually they just go and get the boxes of loose parts by themselves and they do something different every time.
So give your kids a box of loose parts, grab a cup of coffee (and drink it while it's hot), and let me share with you all of the skills that our kids are developing through loose parts play.
- My 2-year-old daughter opened the Nature Play Box and within 5 minutes she had made cupcakes, bowls of ice cream and sandwiches with the little wood slices as plates. This made my heart sing because she was demonstrating symbolic play. Symbolic play is where an object can represent something else even if it looks nothing like it and is an important part of a child’s development of play skills.
- She then went on to offer to make me some cupcakes and took my order. This was her role-play skills kicking into action, which allowed her to develop her social skills of turn-taking and taking an interest in the wants and needs of others.
- She spent some time quietly exploring the different bits and pieces in the Nesk Kids Nature Play Box and seeing which pieces she could stack to build a tower. This was an opportunity for me to add some new language to what she was doing, but quiet time is also important for all kids. She had an attention span in this time of 30 minutes (huge for a toddler!) during which she demonstrated some problem-solving skills – trial and error, persistence when the tower fell over, setting a new plan of attack, looking at shapes and how they go together. Here we see the emergence of basic scientific thinking.
- Later in the day my 3-year-old daughter opened up all three of our boxes at once. She was excited to find the letters that represent the first initial in each of our names in our family and then she recreated each letter using sticks, flowers and our grapat pieces. We don’t do any literacy activities at home, she was just genuinely interested and I followed her lead in her interest in the shapes of the letters.
- She then went on to clean up the ‘mess’ that my 2-year-old had created. We chatted while we packed away and she thrived on chatting about the sizes and shapes of each piece and then sorting into the compartments of the box. Sorting activities are extremely powerful in allowing children to become more organised, not just with their toys, but also within the storage centres of their brain.
- I went on to create a sensory play tub for the girls to enjoy when they woke up from their nap which included some green split peas, little snake toys, grapat “trees” and “water” and some nature bits and pieces. Sensory play is fantastic for kids, as it allows us to add vocabulary to new sensations, but also gives kids the opportunity to explore light and shadows, balance, building structures, weighted objects, and to create stories and make-believe events.
As a Speech Pathologist, I can’t help but get excited about communication skills. Communication forms the foundation of so many life events – going to school, playing sports, making friends, getting a job and more. Loose parts play allows for the development of problem solving and creativity that goes into life, and so much diverse language to go with it!
Your child might not do all of these things the first time they play with loose parts, especially if they are used to playing with toys that have very defined uses. But over time, their creativity will grow, especially if you play alongside them and show them how imaginative you can be! The key is NOT to tell your child how to play with loose parts but to offer ideas, admire and play alongside them.
If you’re feeling stuck, take a look at my Instagram, we love loose parts play and I’m sure you’ll get lots of ideas. Loose parts can be anything you have around the house or bits and pieces that you find in nature, but Nesk Kids has made it so easy for you, and all kept in beautiful boxes.
Speech Pathologist and Mum of three