Loose parts play refers to any type of material that can be used to expand play. Loose parts are typically collections of objects that can be used in a variety of ways. There is no end goal with loose parts - only child led play!
Loose parts play is filled with benefits. It builds cognitive skills, like early literacy, math, and spatial reasoning as children tell stories, categorize, and build with items. Loose parts play also builds creativity - it is truly child led, so they can build, arrange, create, and design as they wish! And one of my favorite things about loose parts play - it’s inexpensive (and sometimes free)! No fancy materials needed for this type of play. It’s as simple as raiding your recycling bin, collecting some nature treasures, gathering bits and pieces from around your house, or hitting up a nearby dollar tree!
Our top 10 inexpensive loose parts:
Glass gems - glass gems are easy to find in the floral section of most dollar and craft stores
Pompoms - Also easy to find at dollar and craft stores
Tree slices - if you are handy, cut a log into small slices yourself. If not, grab some from a craft store or Amazon. Leave plain or decorate with acrylic paint or tempera paint sticks.
Seashells - find some on your next trip to the beach OR purchase a set from the store.
River rocks - another great thing to slowly collect on outdoor adventures. Leave them plain, paint them solid colors, or use paint pens to make story stones.
Popsicle sticks - save them after eating frozen treats or buy a big box from a craft store.
Acorns - gather in the fall or purchase wooden acorns for painting or staining
Wood rings - I buy sets of these on Amazon and dye them with liquid watercolor!
Buttons - you can often find these at second hand stores or dollar stores
Pouch lids - these little recycled pieces are perfect for stacking, scooping, counting, and arranging.
Need ideas for simple play set ups?
Add a tray of loose parts your block area.
Gather in plastic jars or clear containers and add to the play kitchen.
Pair with metal bowls and spoons for scooping, pouring, and dumping.
Place on a work surface with a big piece of felt or a mirror for transient art making.
Add to sensory play.
Pair with letter or number magnets for exploration.
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