Pine cones, shells, twigs, straw bales, bread crates, fabric, cushions and rope. To the uninitiated they might sound like a pile of junk but in the mind and heart of a child they can be whatever they want them to be, a pine cone could be an ingredient in an imaginary soup, straw bales can be used to create the tallest tower or the widest fort. This is the beauty of Junkyard or Loose Parts Play.
Loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined-up and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. They provide a high level of creativity and choice. In an environment that is rich in loose parts, such as sand, water, pebbles, grass and mud, children are more likely to discover multiple ways to manipulate, control, change, move and adapt these and learn through their play.
Simon Nicholson came up with the ‘Theory of Loose Parts’ in 1971. He suggested that a beach is a good example of a loose parts environment with plenty of moveable and adaptable materials such as sand, water, rocks and shells. This is the reason why most children are absorbed in play for hours at the beach.
Loose parts offer multiple rather than single outcomes, its important when developing your outdoor space that you create an environment where children can manipulate, invent, construct, evaluate and modify their ideas through the medium of play.
The benefits of creating an outdoor environment rich in loose parts is well documented;
• Increased levels of creative and imaginative play
• Children play co-operatively and socialise more
• Curriculum outcomes occur through informal play with loose parts
• Loose parts facilitate communication and negotiation skills