Loose Parts for Active Play & Learning

The theory of loose parts was first put forward by Simon Nicholson in the 1970s, and states that the creative potential of an environment increased with the number and variety of flexible materials within it. Loose parts are defined as materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. Loose parts can be natural or synthetic and manufactured. They are materials with no specific set of directions that can be used alone or combined with other materials. Loose parts can include a variety of simple equipment pieces. Think balls, hoops, ropes, cones, parachutes, scarves, bean bags. You can enrich your existing play environment with the addition of mobile and low cost active play equipment.

We traditionally use simple equipment to play structured games with rules, but I want you to think about letting the children use these open-ended materials for unstructured play, creating and designing their own challenges and games. What if you put out some balls, hoops, scarves, bean bags

Loose Parts For Active Play and Learning - Sharron Krull

The children may become curious about what the materials are and how to use them.  They will then begin to explore the materials in different ways using their imaginations and strengthening their problem-solving skills. This leads to discovering that the materials can do many things. Discovery results in pleasure.  Pleasure results in repetition. This process of curiosity, exploration, and discovery is the cycle of learning.

Now, I could give you an awesome list of what the children came up with, but I’m not going to do that. I want to suggest that you observe and acknowledge their creations, celebrating their discoveries and experiments. Perhaps the next day add another loose part (i.e., a rope). The ideas of loose parts you can use is only limited by your and the children’s imaginations.

Benefits of Loose Parts:

  • Enables children to manipulate their environment, to experiment, and to interact with materials
  • Helps children actively construct knowledge from their own experiences.
  • Encourages interaction among children and cooperative play
  • Increases risk-taking, conflict resolution, and communication
  • Deepens critical thinking and problem solving
  • Promotes divergent and creative thinking
  • More symbolic and imaginative play
  • Supports gross and fine motor skills
  • Developmentally inclusive

Give children the time, space, and an ample variety of loose parts to discover and create with.

Loose parts are all about active play and learning!

Product Recommendations:

High-Bounce Play Balls Set of 6 (BOUNCE)

Excellerations Brawny Tough Rainbow Parachutes (P6)

Brawny Tough Activity Hoops (HOOPSET)

Zebra Hoops Set of 6 (HULA)

Nylon Jump Ropes (RPST)

Rainbow Movement Scarf Classroom Pack (SCARFSET)

Excellerations Super Sensory Beanbags Set of 12 (COOLBEAN)

Colored Beanbags Set of 12 (CBB)

Colored Cones Set of 10 (SETC)

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Drop & Catch! You’re Next!

A simple and cooperative game that promotes gross motor as well as fine motor development, including eye-hand coordination and bilateral coordination.  Toddlers and even school agers enjoy and benefit from playing with a ball and a beanbag!  Perhaps you will discover the science of physics happening when you play this game. Try it out!

drop catch 1.2

Materials:
6-9 inch ball–one that can be inflated and bounce (sensory or playground ball)
beanbag

Procedure:

  1. Gather group of children in a circle.
  2. Place a beanbag on top of inflated ball.
  3. With two hands, shoulder width apart, hold ball at arm’s length in front of you.
  4. Drop, DO NOT PUSH, the ball.
  5. When the ball hits the ground, the beanbag “jumps” into the air.
  6. Encourage whoever is near the beanbag to catch it before it touches the ground.  (Of course, toddlers love to run and retrieve it and bring it back to you to “do it again, do it again!”)
  7. Whoever catches the beanbag has the next turn.

drop catch 2.2

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Oversized Sensory Balls – set of 3 (SENBALL3)
Best Value Playground Balls – set of 4 (PGSET)
Hand Pump (PUMP)
Colored Beanbags – set of 12 (CBB)

Summer Mini-Olympics

The Summer Olympic Games will take place from July 27 to August 12, 2012 in London, England. But just don’t let the kids sit and watch, why not hold your own Mini-Olympics? Involve them in all the fun physical activity by staging a kid-friendly version on the playground or in your own backyard.

Opening Ceremonies
Provide materials for each child to make their own Olympic Flag (FLAGS). Kick-off your Mini-Olympics Day with a parade as the children march around holding their flags. Play music, such as the Olympic theme or “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Events
In setting up a developmentally appropriate Mini-Olympic Day for young children remember to provide opportunities for every child to voluntarily choose from a variety of Olympic-style events. Set up stations where children can move from one event to another at their own pace and rate. Remind the children that finishing first is not as important as having a good time. The emphasis is more on fun than on skill.

Before starting any of the events, lead the children from station to station and explain and/or demonstrate the “how-to’s” or challenges of the event at each station. To get started, divide the class or group into equal numbers according to the number of stations set up. This eliminates children standing in a long line and waiting for their turn. For example, if you have 6 stations and 24 children, you would put 4 kids are each station. With a blow of a whistle (WHIS), children begin the physical challenge of the event. When they have completed that event they move on the next one and so forth until they have completed all the stations. And, of course, they can go through them again and again!

Let The Games Begin
Target Toss (Archery): Draw a large circle on the asphalt using sidewalk chalk (SIDEWALK). Make smaller circles or place shape spots (SHSPOT) inside the large circle as targets. The players take turns tossing beanbags from a specified throwing line until they hit a target. 

Running Races (Track and Field): Set up start and finish lines about 15-30 feet apart. Challenge the racers to run, walk backwards, gallop, crab walk or creep on hands and knees to get from the start line to the finish line.

Throwing for Distance (Shot Put): Use a small sensory ball (SENBALL) or a tightly wrapped ball of aluminum foil for your makeshift shot put. Show the kids how to hold the ball near the ear and launch it forward by extending the arm. They cannot move their feet. How far can they throw the ball? 

Jumping (Equestrian Jumping): Set up two cones fifteen feet apart. Have kids “saddle up” a ball hopper (horse), hold the handle and jump to the opposite cone and back again.

Disc Toss (Discus Throw): Using a Frisbee or flying disc (FLYD), child will throw the disc (throw away from the waist with a flick of the wrist) as far as he/she can. How far did it “fly?”

Kicking (Soccer): Set up a soccer goal (GOAL) a least fifteen feet from a specified kicking line. Players stand behind the line and kick a soccer ball (SOC) into the goal.

Gymnastics (Olympic Gymnastics): Put out a tumbling mat (TMAT) and encourage children to freestyle dance with a streamer ribbon, do a trick with a hoop, and perform simple acrobatics (tumble, twirl, spin, etc.)

Canoe Race (Canoeing and Kayaking): Set up five cones for children to weave through as they ride (sitting, kneeling or prone position) their scooter board or roller board kayak or canoe.

Closing Ceremonies
It doesn’t matter if there are no medals distributed for this Summer Mini-Olympics. What’s really important is how much fun everyone had as they played together and cheered each other on. Remember, the Olympics are a celebration of friendship, unity and peace!

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Canvas Flags (FLAGS)
Whistle (WHIS)
Colorations® Washable Sidewalk Chalk (SIDEWALK)
Target Toss Game (TTBB)
Shape Spots (SHSPOT)
Colored Beanbags (CBB)
Whopper Hopper (WHOPHOP) and Mini Hopper (HOP)
Sensory Balls (SENBALL)
Brawny Tough Activity Hoops (HOOPSET)
Soccer Ball (SOC)
Soccer Goal (GOAL)
Flying Discs (FLYD) and Soft Flying Discs (FDISC)
Rainbow Dancing Wrist Bands (RNBW)
Angeles® Tumbling Mat (TMAT)
Roller Board (ROLLIT)
Colored Cones (SETC)
Start to Finish (STRTFIN)

2009 Toy of the Year: The Ball!

This year, the ball officially bounced into the National Toy Hall of Fame (NTHOF) at Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. It is the only museum in the world devoted solely to the study of play as it illuminates American culture.

I had heard about this museum and always wanted to visit it. Recently, I happened to be in Rochester to conduct some teacher trainings and I finally had a chance to go to the museum.

For me, a mixed review; it was big and glitzy and much more commercial than what I had envisioned. However, I did like the many quotes about play embellished all over the walls and learning about the museum’s history. I couldn’t wait until we got to the part of the museum that housed the Toy Hall of Fame. Last year the stick was inducted into the NTHOF, and I wanted to see how it was displayed. Another disappointment! It was ensconced in a little cube behind glass! But, I do love the idea of objects being recognized for their play value and do appreciate what the museum represents—PLAY!

The LEGO® exhibit is opening next month. LEGO®s were inducted in 1998 and then named “Toy of the Century” in 2000. My son grew up with LEGO®s, and now his two sons are enjoying them with the same passion as they build and discover. I like to claim that LEGO®s laid the base for my son’s current career in e-commerce. He didn’t have a computer or techno gadgets growing up, but he did have many open-ended toys, including sticks and balls for playing outside! I’ve praised the play-value of a ball before because it inspires fun, movement and creative play.

How do toys make it into the Toy Hall of Fame? They must meet the following criteria for induction:

  • Icon-status: the toy is widely recognized, respected and remembered
  • Longevity: the toy is more than a passing fad and has enjoyed popularity over multiple generations
  • Discovery: the toy fosters learning, creativity or discovery through play
  • Innovation: the toy profoundly changed play or toy design

I really like to talk about and share my ideas concerning toys and educational materials for young children. Many times, as a consultant for Discount School Supply, I am asked to give input on new products being developed. This too, is one of my favorite jobs– especially after seeing an idea become with a finished item for play! Why do some toys literally disappear and others last for a lifetime?

Today there are so many toys that do more on their own than the child does playing with them! Let’s not forget the classic toys beloved by many generations that perhaps, you too once played with: blocks, baby dolls, jump ropes, hoops, crayons, puzzles, marbles, trains, etc.

Parents, grandparents, teachers, caregivers of young children: ‘Tis the season of gift-buying and present-giving, and I say, “Get on the ball!” Make sure that you put toys into the hands of the children in your care that inspire creativity, discovery, and learning through play!