Loose Parts Play

girls playing with shells at preschool

The Theory of Loose Parts was developed by Simon Nicholson in 1971. Loose parts are open-ended materials which encourage children’s exploration, problem solving skills, and creativity. When children play with loose parts they observe, investigate, construct, and engage with their peers. Unlike toys with one single outcome (ex. pop up toys, toy instruments), loose part play provides infinite possibilities, meaning there is no correct way to play.

children playing with pinecones at preschool

Infants and toddlers learn through investigating, discovering, and problem-solving through trial and error. It is important for caregivers to give children the opportunity to safely provide the environment and tools needed for this type of learning. Since there is no correct way to play with loose parts, it is perfect for all ages and developmental levels. Infants, toddlers, and young children are able to play with the same parts but will manipulate them based on their skill level.

Natural Loose Parts:
● Leafs
● Sticks
● Rocks
● Pine Cones
● Branches
● Seed Pods
● Tree Cookies
● Shells

play supplies for preschool

Small Loose Parts:

  • Buttons
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Corks
  • Marbles
  • Bottle Caps ● Beads


Large Loose Parts:

  • Buckets
  • Boxes
  • Cups
  • Toilet Paper Rolls
  • Egg Cartons
  • Bottles
colorful cabinet at preschool

Loose parts promote self-knowledge by understanding their own body, abilities, and feelings. Self-regulation by controlling bodily functions, emotions, and maintaining focus. Their self-esteem rises as they realize they can master new abilities and take pride in what they have created. And lastly, their social skills develop as they build relationships with the adults and children they are playing with.

So next time you are taking a walk, stop and collect items you see and be amazed at what they come up with!

Blog Categories:


Follow us:

Get Monthly Updates

Enter your email to receive our monthly newsletter containing updates on the school, upcoming events, and other useful information.