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What are Loose Parts?

Loose parts in early learning environments refer to open-ended objects that children can use in creative and imaginative ways. These objects can be anything - natural materials, recycled items, or specially designed loose parts.

Open-ended materials are materials that can be used in multiple ways and do not have a single “correct” use. For example, a toy phone, a set of plastic fruit, or a puzzle are all close-ended materials because they are designed with one purpose in mind. Close-ended materials are fun in early learning environments for one type of play.

Open-ended materials, such as loose parts, allow children to explore and manipulate them freely according to their own imagination, creativity, and interests.

When given the opportunity to use loose parts children are provided with the opportunity to:

Use their imagination;
Develop problem-solving skills;
Explore sensory materials;
Stimulate cognitive development;
Become environmentally aware;
Develop fine and gross motor skills;
…and so much more!

If children aren’t used to engaging with loose parts, they may need initial support in how to interact with them and use them. As an ECE you can model using loose parts in your own parallel play, or if a child is looking for a particular material you could suggest an open-ended loose part to fill that need.

Once children become more familiar with using loose parts, ECEs often appreciate the versatility of loose parts because they can be adapted to suit the developmental stage and interests of each child. By providing these open-ended materials, ECEs create an environment that encourages exploration, experimentation, and a love for learning.

Did you know?

AECENL (click here) has a Loose Parts Trading Post group on Facebook for all AECENL members (click here) that you can check out to learn more about how they promote and support the use of loose parts in early learning environments right here in our province!


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