YWCA New Britain

How to Inspire Play With Loose Parts

By Michele Eathorne

Loose parts are materials that children can use to carry, design, restructure, manipulate, line up, combine, take apart and put back together. They are a collection of wonderful, everyday materials that can be found around the house.

The wonderment of loose parts is that they don’t come with any specific directions and you don’t necessarily find them at stores. They can be used alone or to enhance play with other materials. Since their use is so versatile, they can help kids gain skills in problem solving, engineering, fine and gross motor development, hand-eye coordination, concentration, and creativity.

Here are a few examples of loose parts:
• Fabric strips
• Buttons
• Keys
• Twigs
• Glass beads
• Milk caps
• Bread clasps
• Marker or bottle caps
• Metal lids from baby jars
• Popsicle sticks
• Pebbles

So what can you do with these materials? They can provide a vast array of enhancing props to design and decorate structures built with blocks. They can be used to explore light and reflection as the materials are manipulated on a light table or mirrored surface. Or, children can draw replications of designs they have created with the materials in art. All these evoke imaginative, creative use of materials that have no set, prescribed instruction. There is no limit to how they can be used.

We invite you to gather materials in your own home to use in your child’s play. If your child is in a childcare program here at YWCA New Britain, you are also welcome to bring them into your child’s classroom to build our collections here at school.

Useful resources: