What is Loose Parts Play?

Loose parts play is the most basic kind of play that exists. Simply put loose parts play is letting the child be creative and decide what they want to do with the parts put in front of them.

Loose parts toys can be anything from wooden coins, to sea shells to pompoms to toothpicks. Its all about letting the kids decide what they want them to be

Maybe they want to build a rocketship or fairy garden. Maybe they want to make a soup or magic potion. They might even just sort everything by color or try and lay out a pattern. Its all about letting them explore and create as they see fit.

How to Encourage Loose Parts Play

The best way to encourage loose parts play is to create an invitation to play and then step back and see where they go.

My personal favorite way is with a playdough tray. It’s a great way to spice up regular playdough play and it can act as a vehicle for the loose parts. Sort of like decorating a sandcastle you can build the base but until you add the decorations is it really done?!

A fall themed loose parts play dough tray for creating and discovering

I will also add some loose parts to most of our small world set-ups. It allows for further world-building as well as provides some additional pieces for her to use in her imaginative play. One day the wood coins will be stepping stones, the next it’s a plate for food the next they are stacked up tall with an animal perched on top.

a small world set up that uses wood cons, rocks and gems to help set the scene

We also really love adding loose parts to our sensory bins as an added element of fun! Her favorite thing to do with them currently is cooking. So we make lots of soup and muffins with our loose parts play.

a loose parts sensory bin using table scatter, nuts and pumpkins for loose parts play

Head outside

Do you ever notice that by simply taking your kids outside they take on the world in a new light? 10 minutes ago they were moaning about being bored, now they are racing through the yard with an arm full of leaves and sticks telling stories of the dragon they need to feed before it eats the princess?!

By taking away some of the distractions of modern life, kids are left with their imaginations and that creativity is the very root of loose parts play! 

Examples of Loose Parts around your home

Loose parts can quite literally be anything. Most often they are not toys so much as the random bits and bobs from our everyday life. Things like buttons, toothpicks, pipe cleaners, etc… Also, let’s not forget the original loose parts toys. Sticks and Rocks.

Most everyone has at least one loose parts toy even if they don’t know it. The simple wooden building blocks are great for loose parts play. They don’t tell a kid how to play with them or what to build. It’s all up the imagination of the child. From the tallest of towers to sprawling cityscapes blocks can do it all.  

Some of our favorite loose parts are table scatter (think like vase filler but in various shapes and colors), pipe cleaners, wooden coins, wood rings, pompom, and googly eyes.

If you have been around for a while you would have seen my posts about our DIY Loose parts. These are more of a modern take on loose parts toys and by no means is necessary for loose parts play. Just a fun way to add to your collection and invite some new ideas!

Independence to create

Your recycling bin is a great recourse for loose parts play, for older kids especially. Let them have access with some scissors and tape and maybe some paint and see what they create!

Allowing access to the leftover art and crafts supplies is also a great way to encourage some loose parts play. Without any instruction, it can be fun to see what kids will create! Just make sure to ask them about it because the story behind it can be just as good if not better than the creation sometimes!

So Much More to Loose Parts Play

What is loose parts play and how you can get started at home today

The open-ended nature of loose parts play makes it hard for me to know where to stop! I think I will leave this here, as an introduction to the idea of loose parts play. Just dipping our toes into the water, so to say.

Check back soon for some more posts on loose parts, but in the meantime, I want to know what kind of posts you would like on the subject?! Different invitations to play and create with loose parts? More on playdough trays? A massive list of ideas for loose parts? Let me know down in the comments!

If you want some other recourses in the meantime check out my Pinterest board: Loose Parts Play

Other Posts you may like
DIY Loose parts tools for invitations to play
Tools for Loose Parts Invitations to Play
Orange Loose parts sensory bin set up
Orange Loose Parts Sensory Bin Setup
DIY rainbow loose parts toys for loose parts play and creation
DIY Rainbow Loose Parts Toys

5 Replies to “What is Loose Parts Play?”

    1. Thank you! I know the struggle! Divided trays are strangely hard to find! The one with the lid is from Hobby Lobby and the 3×3 is actually a Melissa and Doug tray from a car set.

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