Bits and Pieces of Loose and Lost parts are all the rage right now at Discovery Early Learning Center. Treasure hunting is what the children are calling it and it's filled with imagination, detailed storylines, and loose parts as props to extend the narrative.
I have only noticed this way of play since I let go of providing invitations and displays of loose parts in themed baskets, trays or whatever way I was presenting the materials.
Loose parts are just that, LOOSE and they are found in all shapes, sizes holding a wealth of possibilities in every corner nook and cranny of our indoor and outdoor classroom.
Finding, collecting and gathering these materials is chalk full of whole child learning. When children hunt for materials they are mobile, actively engaged and working towards a goal, they assess materials for their value in their play. A game of shipwreck calls for loose parts that hold a certain set of characteristics while a game of house has a different loose parts agenda.
They use their large and small muscles to transport and collect materials building on to their script as they go. This sparks language and takes children into a sort of heightened state of imaginative play where they are embedded into the script in such a way that it feels so real.
They sort, classify, and count materials, they think critically about the alternate uses for open-ended materials and extend their ability to play symbolically, holding fast to their ideas and points of view.
This process of collecting or "treasure hunting" seems to be vital to the building of their play. It's like they build up to a climax where their reach that zone, the zone where they all buy into the storyline, they are fully in character and what seemed hard or challenging is now the possible, what seemed above their physical and developmental potential becomes second nature.
It takes time, it takes space, and it takes adults who do not feel the urge to over organize.
We can provide a pretty array of loose parts for children to play with and explore, or we can design spaces using the loose parts concept in all areas of the space allowing children to explore parts that are truly LOOSE.
So what does this mean?
- Allow children to mix and move materials from one area to another
- Allow materials to travel from inside to outside
- Provide creative tools for transporting ( bags, boxes, buckets, baskets)
- Don't feel the need to arrange or display loose parts perfectly.
- Let loose parts at play stay at play ( no sorting at the end of each night)
- Provide loose parts with a variety of properties ( size, shape, weight, purpose etc)
- Replace closed-ended toys with open-ended loose parts.