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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Physical Activity for Children with Special Needs

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A child with special needs is one who requires some form of special care due to physical, mental, emotional or health reasons. Children with special needs are also commonly referred to as children with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a child with a disability more specifically as one who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits the child’s ability to care for herself or himself, perform manual tasks, or engage in any other “major life activity,” such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, or learning, in an age-appropriate manner.

Children with disabilities are more similar than different from other children.  Avoid becoming too focused on a child’s disability.  Treat each child as a whole person.  Every child needs to feel successful and capable. Children with Aspergers, autism or attention deficit hyperactive disorder often have the uncontrollable need to move and physical activity can help them learn to do so appropriately.  Most young children need to and want to move frequently and all children benefit while promoting physical fitness (muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility), developing motor skills  (run, jump, hop, walk, gallop, skip, throw, catch, kick, bounce, strike, stretch, bend, twist, turn, balance), improving coordination, and building self-confidence.  The ways you include a child with physical differences or impairments will benefit all the children in your care.  Here are some strategies for inclusion.

  • Modify the environment
  • Modify the task for the individual
  • Use safe, soft objects
  • Simplify instructions
  • Give visual, oral, and kinesthetic cues
  • Provide plenty of repetition
  • Have role models
  • Use communication systems
  • Eliminate elimination games
  • Minimize waiting time

The primary reason that children participate in active play is to have fun, and the key reason they quit is a lack of fun.  With that being said, here is an activity that everyone can get in on the fun!

 Constructors & Destroyers

What:

20-30 Colored Cones
Portable iPod/CD Player
Music Suggestions: Taking Care of Business by Randy Bachman, Barefootin’ by Jimmy Buffett, Footloose by Kenny Loggins

Where:

Outdoor space (grass area or playground, etc.) or large indoor space (gym, multi-purpose room, etc.)

Who:

Children who want to move and play!

How:

  1. Set up the cones randomly spaced about 4-6 feet from each other.
  2. Knock over about one-third of those cones.  Space out those that are upright and those that are on their side.
  3. Organize the children into two groups.  One group is designated as the Constructors and the other group is designated as the Destroyers.  It is better to have a few more Constructors than Destroyers!
  4. The Constructors “job” is to stand up all the cones that were knocked over.
  5. The Destroyers “job” is to GENTLY tip over the cones that are standing up.  Make sure to remind the children to be gentle and only use the palms of their hands to touch the cones.  No kicking or throwing of the cones is allowed.
  6. The game begins (players move through the space doing their job) when the music starts and ends when the music stops.
  7. When the music stops, begin the game again but this time let the Constructors be Destroyers and Destroyers become the Constructors.

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Colored Cones – set of 10 (SETC – $16.99)
Hamilton® AM/FM, CD and MP3 Player (BEATBOX – $158.99)

Winter and Holiday Active Play Ideas

‘Tis the season for holiday celebrations and parties–whether they are in the classroom or with the family. What to do that is age appropriate for children and doesn’t involve sweet treats or a screen? The following active play ideas can be done indoors or outdoors depending on the space available and the weather. It’s time to begin the festivities and liven up the party!

Wrapping Paper Breakthrough. Set up boundaries using Cones or Hop Around Steps 15 to 24 feet apart. Two adults at the “finish line” hold a sheet of wrapping paper (~ 22” x 24”) with each hand on a corner. When you say, “Get ready, get set, run,” the child at the “start line” (with the palms of his hands touching and pointing forward) runs and breaks through the wrapping paper! 

Reindeer Pull. Distribute a Jump Rope to a pair of children. The two children are hitched together by one child placing the rope around the waist of his partner who is a Reindeer (i.e., “Rudolph”) and the other child is “Santa” holding onto the rope ends or handles. When “Santa” gives the signal “Giddy up” the Reindeer, “Rudolph” is to gallop, moving forward. Add some fun holiday music, such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” When the music stops, have the children switch places, taking turns being “Rudolph” and “Santa.” This is a favorite activity as children go prancing around!

Snowball Throw. Give each child two pieces of white 8 1/2-by-11 inch scrap paper or 9-by-12 inch inexpensive easel paper. Have them wad each piece of paper up and make two “snowballs.” Divide the game playing area in half by placing a jump rope or clothesline on the ground. Divide the children into equal numbers and place them facing each other on opposite sides of the rope. Have the guests drop their snowballs onto the ground. Tell them to pick up their snowballs (one at a time) and throw them across the rope to the opposite side when the music starts. (I like to play the song “The Heat Is On”). Now we have a good old-fashioned Snowball Throw going on! The Snowball Throw is over when the music ends. For instant cleanup, have the children try to make a basket as they toss their snowball into a waste basket or brown paper grocer bag.

Holiday Musical Balloons. Give each child an inflated balloon. Christmas Colors: Red and Green. Hanukkah colors: Blue and White. Kwanzaa Colors: Black, Red and Green. I like to use 9” or 11” balloons that are of helium quality, as they are “thicker skinned” and do not pop as easily. Let each child write (help if needed) their name on the balloon with a permanent marker. Have children sit down in the open space. Instruct them to stand up and keep the balloon in the air using their hands when they hear music (play rockin’ holiday tunes). When the music stops they are to grab their balloon and sit down immediately. The game continues with the children “keeping” their balloons in the air when the music is playing and holding their balloon and sitting down when the music stops. Provide further physical challenges by asking the children to keep the balloons in the air with different body parts: one finger, an elbow, a knee, a foot, their head. Be creative!

Hang the Stockings. Christmas is coming and its time to hang the stockings on the fireplace. How fast can you do it? String a clothesline between two chairs or two trees. Provide baskets of assorted Christmas stockings (regular socks will work just as well) and spring-type Wooden Clothespins. Young children find enjoyment just in hanging them up. Its a fine motor skill, challenging children to use the small muscles in their fingers. Divide older children into teams and have them “beat the clock.”

Indoor Ice Skating. Attach paper plates to the bottom of children’s shoes with big rubber bands or by wrapping masking tape around the shoe and plate. The children are now ready to skate away. This technique works great on carpet. For hardwood or tile floors, simply wear a thick pair of wool socks. Add some music (i.e., “The Skater’s Waltz”) and play freeze skating. When the music is playing, “All Skate.” When the music stops, children freeze in place.

Ring the Bell. Hang a bell or Jingle Wrap from the ceiling or beam. Have children stand inside a Hoop and throw a Beanbag or Foam Ball and try to “Ring the Bell.”

Very Merry Christmas Wish. This game is based on the old Duck Duck Goose/Tisket a Tasket song activity. Have all the children sit down in a circle and choose one child to be “It.” “It” walks around the outside of the circle, holding the jingle bell or Jingle Wrap, while the group sings (to the tune: “A Tisket a Tasket”)

It’s Christmas, It’s Christmas,
And all our friends are with us.
I’ll choose the one to give my wish
a Very Merry Christmas!

The child walking around with the jingle bell rings it and then drops it behind one of the children sitting there. That player picks up the bell and runs after “It,” who is running around the circle back to his place in the circle. The player holding the jingle bell is now “It” and walks around the outside of the circle, dropping the jingle bell behind someone who has not yet had a turn. The game ends when every player has had a chance to ring and drop the bell.

Scrambled Eggs and Icebergs. Tell the kids that when they hear the words “scrambled eggs,” they are to jog around in the open space without bumping into each other. When they hear the word, “icebergs,” they are to freeze in place without falling down. Tell them you’ll also give them other movement commands, such as “jump,” “march,” “tiptoe,” etc. When they hear the new command, they must switch to the new movement. Try to trick them by repeating a command twice in a row!

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)

This Rope’s Not Just for Jumping!

The jump rope is one of the most inexpensive and versatile pieces of equipment your child or school can own. The jump rope has been neglected, made available primarily for girls, and has been used for a single purpose: jumping. The rope should be 7-8 feet in length and be flexible and pliable. With a little imagination and creativity, look at the rope and think of all the things you can do with it besides jumping.

Snakes: Two people hold each end of the rope and wiggle it by the feet of the children like it’s a snake. The object is that the kids have to jump over the “snake.”

Walking the Snake: Place a 16’ jump rope on the ground in a zigzag pattern. Invite the children to walk on the rope as if it were a tightrope. This simple activity builds a surprising number of skills! Eye-foot coordination…balance…taking turns…and more.

High Water – Low Water: Two people hold each end of the rope. Children take turns leaping over the rope. Increase the height after everyone has had a turn. Provide a mat for safe landings.

Wind the Clock: One person spins around while holding one end of the rope. The rope is swung around in a circle along the ground. Children jump over the rope as it nears their feet. The children usually chant a nursery rhyme like “Hickory Dickory Dock” or some other rhyme to make it more fun.

Jump the Brook: Two ropes placed on the ground in the shape of a “V” become the “brook.” The ropes touch at one end and are angled so that each jump across the brook is longer and becomes a bigger jump.

Rope Obstacle Course: Thread a rope between the slots or notches in the top of two cones for jumping over or crawling under. Make three circles with three ropes. Jump from one circle to the next. Lay a rope in a straight line that is to be followed or straddled. Place two ropes parallel to each other and one foot apart. This can be a path for walking, jogging, jumping or hopping.

All Aboard: Young children don’t really have the coordination to jump rope, but they can hang onto the rope with a bunch of their friends and pretend to be a train. Make your very own Wooden Train Whistle and with a “Choo! Choo!” children can move from place to place while having fun!

Make A Shape: Ask children to place their rope on the ground and make a circle. Call out directions for children to, “Jump into the circle. Turn around inside the circle. Jump out of the circle. Walk around the circle. Put your foot in the circle. Put your whole body over the circle.” After children know the game, move on to other shapes such as a triangle or square.

Remember, most of these activities can be accomplished using your homemade Bread Bag Jump Rope or even a thick piece of yarn.

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Nylon Jump Ropes (RPST or JMPRP16)
Angeles® Tumbling Mat (TMAT)
Obstacle Course Activity Set (OCSET)
Wooden Train Whistles (CHOO)
Jumbo Roving Yarn (ROVING)

An Egg-cellent Game!

I must share with you a new “find” that I just LOVE! It encourages movement and provides a multitude of other benefits too — balance, coordination, cooperation, and fine motor skills. The item, Egg and Spoon Race (AP25028J) gives a new twist to the old classic Egg and Spoon Pass. This new version is definitely appropriate for the toddler and preschoolers but school-agers love it too. Parents and teachers will also “crack-up” when they see what happens when the egg drops from the spoon. Instead of chocolate bunnies and Easter candy, I’m planning on adding Egg and Spoon Race to all five of my grandchildren’s baskets! What fun we’ll have as we play the following game.

Egg and Spoon Race
Materials:
Egg and Spoon Race (4 plastic spoons, 4 egg bean bags, 4 re-breakable eggshells) – AP25028J
Colored Cones – SETC
Hop Around StepsHOPPA
Available indoor or outdoor space

Set Up:
1. Place cones 10-20 feet across from each other to designate “start” and “finish” lines.

2. Place Hop Around Steps two feet apart from each other between the start and finish lines.

Let’s Get Started:1. Divide the children into four groups (teams or squads) of equal numbers. Children in each team stand in a straight line or row, one person behind the other.

2. Provide the first child on each team with a spoon and egg.

3. The first child places the egg in the bowl of the spoon.

4. On the command, “Ready, Set, GO!” the race begins as the child walks in and around the Hop Around Steps to the “finish” cone on the opposite side, circles around it, and walks back to his team.

5. He gives the egg and spoon to the second member of his team who then walks holding the egg and spoon and weaving in and out of the Hop Around Steps and back to the start where he passes the egg to next member on his team.

6. The game is over when every child has had a turn carrying the egg in the spoon and the child who started the relay returns to the head of the line.

7. If the egg drops out of the spoon, the child must stop, pick up the egg bean bag and eggshell, put it back together, place it on his spoon and then continue.

Furthermore: 
 • With younger children have them just walk from the start to the finish and drop the egg into a bucket.

• With older children challenge them to travel in a different way, i.e., run, jump, walk backwards, skip.

• Toddlers can toss the egg and watch them break. The eggs actually sound like real eggs breaking when they hit the floor.

• Set out a Balance Beam (248) and have the children hold the egg and spoon as they walk across the beam.

Round, Round, Round, Round…I Run Around

A ball is round and invites play with a partner or a group of friends. Let’s go outside, and play an active game that combines kicking a ball, as in soccer, and running around bases, as in baseball. No wonder kickball is sometimes called soccer-baseball.

Kickball for Little Kids

There are no outs or fouls in this preschool friendly game, just a lot of kicking and running.

Materials Needed:
Rubber playground ball
3 Bases and 1 Home Plate
10 Colored Cones

Set Up:
• Playing field – grass, dirt, asphalt or cement
• Place bases and home plate in the same general arrangement as you would a baseball diamond but make the base paths much closer to each other (i.e., 20 feet apart)
• 2 or more adults/play leaders
Let’s Get Started:
1. Gather children and have them watch and listen as directions of how to play are demonstrated.
2. An adult/play leader places the ball on home plate.
3. One child stands or approaches and kicks the ball as hard as he/she can.
4. Children who are not “kickers” can position themselves near the basesto catch the ball that is kicked into the playing field,
5. The “kicker” runs around the bases and returns to home plate.
6. The game continues until every child has had a turn or “runs out of breath.”
7. Every child is a winner when they cross home plate! Be assured that they will want to kick the ball and run the bases again and again. This is play with a purpose and promotes coordination and lots of vigorous physical activity!

Furthermore:
• As children become more skillful, the adult/play leader can roll the ball to the child at home plate and the child stands and kicks the ball that is rolled at them.

Recommended Products:
SETC – Colored Cones
BASES – Indoor/Outdoor Bases
PGSET – Playground Balls
KICKBALL – Kickball for all Ages
BALLKIT – Ultimate Ball Kit