Here at RufflesAndRainBoots, we’ve always been keen on exploration, art and creative play without really subscribing to any theory other than our own mantra, “if it doesn’t tell her how to play with it, it’s probably a good toy.”
Are you familiar with the Theory of Loose Parts? You might not know it yet, but your kiddos will love the fun they can have incorporating it into their daily play!
Click on “Read More” to see the theory in action.
Update: this post is being updated to allow for the hastag: #growyourgoogleplus. It’s a great idea to help bloggers get to know each other and find each other (and followers). Check it out by searching the hashtag or go here: The NY Melrose Family.
I’ve become a regular follower of Nuture Store and came across this post from them a while back. It spurred me into doing a bit more research and the theory of loose parts play is not only interesting, but it makes total sense to me because exploration, tinkering, and creativity are the natural ways a child learns.
The Theory of Loose Parts was developed by Simon Nicholson in the early 1970’s and his basic idea was that environments and materials that can be moved around, toyed with, and used as absolutely anything a child’s imagination can come up with, are more valuable to creative engagement than static materials and environments. That is but a nutshell (and a poor summary at that) and I urge you to read more about this if you’re interested.
Elise (26 months) has always had certain objects, manipulatives, or toys that are not included in the toy rotation, but are out all the time for her to freely access with limited supervision. We feel these toys are useful in igniting her imagination (blocks, cardboard pieces and boxes, clothespins, sticky canvases, scraps of fun fabrics, empty plastic bottles and bins, small cups, etc.).
We have always – without knowing it – incorporated this type of play in our crafting because it is a controlled environment and we can closely monitor her use of items like play dough, pom poms, small manipulatives, noodles, toilet paper rolls, and the like. As Elise has grown, more and more of these types of objects can now be left out for her to use without safety concerns and I am very excited to see what she will begin doing with them.
If you’re interested in getting some ideas of some items that can be left for children to explore on their own, the Nurture Store has a great list (and printable) to help parents like us get started.
Keeping this theory in mind now, I look for opportunities to encourage more and more of this type of play. An easy place for us to find some fun and safe loose parts is right outside our front door!
Walking with Elise in the neighborhood is a common activity for us, but recently Elise has been very interested in what she comes across. Where our walks used to be about how far she wanted to go or how fast she wanted to move, she now stops to investigate without our prompting.
Pine cones, puddles, pokey balls*, leaves, nut shells, and sticks have become fascinating to play with and learn about. Because my pockets are loaded down already with a snack for her, a cell phone, keys, and the normal mommy detritus, I have assigned Elise a “nature pouch” with which to place all her gathered materials for play.
Gigi might recognize this – it’s a handmade Panamanian purse she got Elise. She is so excited to go on walks and wear her nature pouch as a cross body bag.
The zipper is a bit frustrating for her at times because she just yanks the zipper and expects the desired action, but it is great practice for her so we talk through it and I help out when asked. She has now taken to leaving the zipper open until she has decided it is “all full” and requests it be zipped up before we head back into the house.
She calls them her nature treasures (“tweasures” is how it comes out right now) and I couldn’t agree more! After arriving home with her loot, she would study each piece and we would talk about each one in detail.
Elise, like most 2 year olds, loves exploring textures and this was a great activity for that. She liked to tickle herself with the pine needles and bamboo leaves, press on the “pokey balls,” and crunch the dry leaves to bits with a good squeeze.
She then asked if I would play a game with her. Her game? Rolling the “pokey balls” along the couch (it’s leather and gets cleaned regularly because of activities like this) and it was amazing because she started “teaching” me how to roll the pokey balls for her game.
If you’re wondering how to play her game, the 2 year old launches them over hand and watches the mom they’re playing with quickly duck out of the way before having to retrieve them so the fun can resume.
After our pokey ball rolling game, Elise wanted to make a craft with her treasures. We had a sticky canvas (contact paper affixed to a blank canvas with blue painter’s tape) from our Alphabet Love activity that was getting kind of tired from all the love it had received, so we used that for some sticky nature art.
She was meticulous about where each piece went and placed (and replaced) items many times. Frustration hit however, when she wanted a large pine cone to become part of her art but wouldn’t stick. Again, a quick discussion as to why and she moved onto other items she figured would work.
The items that we collect (that haven’t made it onto her nature art canvas) are played with as well. Elise keeps her “nature treasures” zipped up safely inside her nature pouch and asks for help when she wants to play with them. Just today, when I was cleaning up from a sticker activity she sat down to play with her pieces. Here’s what transpired:
Elise (holding a pokey ball up to a pine cone): “I’m sorry you fell out of the tree and got an ouchie.”
She then had the pokey ball kiss the pine cone and said, “I kiss it all better.”
She remembered our talk about how the pine cones and balls fall from the trees and related it to when she falls and hurts herself. Do you know how cool I think it is to get to watch her make these connections and move into a pretend play mode with such simple objects?
I think it’s very cool, indeed.
*Note: I have no idea what “pokey balls” are really called and I promise I will look it up via a Google image search one day. It will be a day where I’m not typing up a post at midnight before a grueling early morning personal training session… :) I’m pretty sure Elise will still call them pokey balls, though, no matter their real name.
If you have any ideas for materials we could incorporate or environments we could create to encourage more “loose parts play,” let us know in the comments section. We love hearing from you!