My children and I discovered the joy of “Loose Parts” earlier this year. This is a fantastic activity if you have school age children with you all day this summer. It also works wonders for young children, modify your loose parts to keep the little ones safe. You might be wondering, “What ARE loose parts?”
Loose part play is when children use random materials you have provided (or happen to have in your backyard) to create their own wonderful inventions and imaginary scenarios. Loose parts could include logs, stumps, rocks, wood, sticks, shells, tubes, buckets, fabric, hula hoops, planks, pebbles, tires, rope, etc. Anything that is open-ended could be used as a loose part. Children are fantastic at using whatever materials they have and adapting them to fit their current need.
One day we set up a balancing walkway with our loose parts in the backyard. We used our thin slices of stumps and extra wooden boards we found in the garage. The children were not sure how to start, so I showed them a few ideas. This was all they needed to set up a long bridge. They then pretended they were walking over water that was filled with crocodiles!
One of the beautiful elements of loose parts play is that it can quickly transform a competitive atmosphere into a cooperative atmosphere. You can encourage your children to work together to build something or figure out how to overcome an obstacle. The children were interested in taking turns going through their crocodile water pathway. I would suggest that you have enough loose parts so that everyone has a chance to add a piece to the group project.
Friends of ours have a wooden balance toy that my children love to play with when we visit. The kids decided to make their own balancing toy with a simple teeter-totter design.
Once the initial walkway was mastered the children felt compelled to use the large stumps. They created a more difficult balancing walkway above the ground. This activity was a great learning experience in balance, coordination, gravity, structural building, material strength, social cooperation skills and more.
However, the most important part was that the children viewed it as just plain old FUN!