With so many play ideas out there for your children (and a huge variety of toys to introduce to playtime), it can become overwhelming to think of play ideas that will keep your children entertained - and also contribute to their development.
Loose parts make it *so* easy to create easy, open-ended play activities that promote creativity, use of imagination, fine motor skills development, and more!
We’ve compiled a list of our favourite play activities for a range of ages - to make your next loose parts experience a great one.
Getting Started With Loose Parts Play
Loose parts play is extremely versatile as it can be done with pretty much any material you can think of. Natural resources such as branches, pine cones, leaves, flowers, mud, dried and fresh fruit, bark, and shells - or items you have around the house including cardboard boxes, CDs, pots and pans, utensils, nuts and bolts, bandages, padlocks, and keys.
If your child is new to open-ended play, or not feeling creative - we suggest you set up some sort of a scenario for them to play with. The possibilities are endless, but we love sorting, counting, art, and fine motor skills activities - and we’ll show you some of our favourites in this blog.
Alternatively, just put some loose parts in front of your child and see how they use them! Children have the most amazing imaginations, and you'll never think of using objects as they do!
For younger children, ensure that the loose parts aren’t able to be swallowed or harm them in any way. For older children - incorporate letters or numbers into your activities for more learning opportunities (more on this later!)
Out In Nature
Going out in nature creates so many opportunities for discovery and exploration. Not only are there endless sights to see - but the natural materials you find along the way can be used for open-ended play that improves all aspects of child development.
Natural materials stimulate children's creativity and imagination as they can be used in play in many ways. For example, a fruit pod can be a figurine in imaginative play, used for imprinting in mud or clay, or currency in a game.
Alex Trichilo uses the Nesk Kids Nature Kit to allow her children to be creative. With this box of nature parts, her 2 and 3-year-olds have created so many different things - this is a cupcake in the picture. They've also made pancakes, phones, icecream, a fairy garden, and more! You might need to use your imagination to see what it is they've made, but this is where they get an opportunity to use their language to explain to you what it is they’ve created.
Little Wild Love Photography takes her children on many adventures, where they find natural treasures along the way. The varied attributes of natural materials encourage your children to identify and explain differences. Listen to your child's explanation behind why they choose to identify objects in a certain way. Accept their explanations and take the time to offer different ones - as different interpretations will broaden their thinking!
You can also use these materials to teach your older children about the environment. Kathryn @cardboardfolk created this gorgeous sorting activity to teach her children about the impact humans have had on the planet. Not only are they learning the difference between natural materials and human-made materials - but it opens up a bigger discussion about how they can reduce the impact humans have with better, more sustainable choices!
Colour Sorting and Matching
Using colourful objects in your children’s open-ended play allows them to classify and sort the objects based on size, colour and shape - and helps them develop a range of thinking skills to build the foundations for later problem-solving.
Grapat Wooden Toys are the perfect companion for colourful, loose parts play. Use them to build beautiful, colourful scenes that incorporate sorting and classifying. While your child sorts through the loose parts, they will be working on their classifying skills as they identify each piece and how they fit with each other.
Create a fine motor skills activity with tape like Sommer at Stay Classy Classrooms - and have your children follow the pattern with their loose parts - encouraging pincer grip, the development of writing skills, colour matching and visual-spatial work! The tape pattern can be less involved for the younger kids, and a detailed maze for the older children that need a more challenging activity.
Incorporating Letters and Numbers
By combining your loose parts with letters and numbers, you create even more learning opportunities for your children.
For younger kids that are just starting to explore writing their names, you can start them off with feeling and seeing the shapes of the letters that make up their names. For this activity created by Alex Trichilo, write the outline of a name on a big piece of paper and then get your child to fill it in with some loose parts. You can also take it one step further and get them to use wooden letters to spell out their name underneath.
There are also some great activities to learn syllables and start spelling words with multiple syllables in them. Use each colour of your Grapat pieces to represent a different syllable in the word, and then use each piece to represent a different phoneme. Spell out some words and allow your children to sound out the syllables and match them to their corresponding colour.
To start your children on the path to maths and number learning, use loose parts and numbers for an easy sorting and counting activity. Natural Learning Life created this activity where you simply put out some number cards and your children can use loose parts to count and match the numbers! You can also use this for addition and multiplication sums where your child has to work out the equation and count out the numbers with their loose parts. This activity can be completely customised to wherever your child is in their numbers journey - which is what we love about it!
Creative Art with Loose Parts
By combining art materials and loose parts, your child can get super creative with the endless possibilities available to them!
Items such as pipe cleaners, feathers, stones, beads, buttons, string, scraps of paper, clay and wooden craft sticks can all be combined to create 3D pieces of art for open-ended play.
Whether you're using the ground, a paper plate, or a piece of paper - experiment with drawing, painting and sticking on your loose parts to see what your child finds the most interest in. Some will love a mix of everything, and some will just want to stick to one type of material and experiment later. There is no right or wrong answer with loose parts play and art - and that's why we love it so much.
Encouraging your children to be creative through artistic activities can reveal children’s thoughts, feelings, and interests. Creative play also helps children learn other subjects such as reading and math - and promotes visual, motor and social development.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this list of all of our favourite loose parts play activities. As you can probably guess, there are endless activities you can create with loose parts. And if all else fails - allow your children to use their imagination and create their own loose parts play - letting their creativity shine!
If you’re looking for regular loose parts play inspiration - we’d love for you to follow us on Instagram or Facebook @neskkids where we post all of the incredible ideas our customers have. We are inspired by them all the time and love seeing how they use various loose parts in creative ways.
To view Nesk Kids' collection of loose parts, visit our store here.