Over the past three years, one of my passions has been learning about the utilization of loose parts within indoor and outdoor classrooms. I have been fortunate to have heard the authors of Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children, Myriam Beloglovsky and Lisa Daly, speak on several occasions. In their first publication, loose parts are described as those that “children can carry, combine, redesign, line up, take apart, and put together in almost endless ways.” Loose parts may also be described by the term “open-ended.” For example, dramatic play areas often have plastic food which the children use as it is intended---a chicken leg is used only as a chicken leg. However, when plastic food is not located in a dramatic play area, children may use other materials to represent the food such as rocks, acorns or seashells. Myriam Beloglovsky explained, “Loose parts is an educational philosophy, not a collection of items that
fit into a theme. Loose parts are carefully curated to support children exploring the themes they created.”
Recently, I had the privilege of observing in a prekindergarten classroom at University Presbyterian Children’s Center that had abundant loose parts available for children in their nature-immersed classroom. When children became interested in pumpkins, the teacher was able to provide a variety of gourds and pumpkins for the children to explore. During my visit, the children created a pumpkin patch and a farmer’s market with small pumpkins, gourds and empty boxes. Children had numerous tools available to explore the attributes of pumpkins such as a digital scale, tape measure and magnifying lenses. In the literacy area, the children were using beans to make letters of the alphabet. Within their outdoor space, children were using play-dough and found materials such as leaves and twigs for creations. One child described her creation as “an island with a buried treasure.” When Sandy Stout, prekindergarten teacher at the center, was asked about utilizing loose parts, she said, "We've seen the growth of children's imagination and creativity by not predetermining how an object can be used. It has opened the doors for children's creativity." The engagement, inventiveness and curiosity of the children in this classroom are reflective of the power of loose parts. I have started a Google+ Community if you are interested in joining our group, follow this link: https://plus.google.com/communities/104195744494663684424?sqinv=d2VTaFlVb2pOYXdxLXYzUWUzOHNZM1ZLZU55TGR3 .You can also follow Myriam Beloglovsky on Facebook at Loose Parts: Play Equity Institute.