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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Forever Young at Heart! Playful Adults

One of my favorite ways to get some exercise is to get outdoors and take a walk. And living near the ocean always invites a beach walk. California has finally gotten some much needed rain, bringing with it strong winds and big waves. Driftwood washed up onto the shore and beach literally becomes nature’s playground. Look what my friend and I happened upon on a recent beach walk. Not sure if the driftwood teeter-totter landed that way naturally on the beach or was created by some playful individuals, but we didn’t lose any time taking advantage of climbing on and reliving our childhood memories.

Sharon

I think George Bernard Shaw was right when he said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

Just because you’re an adult, don’t let play get left behind and constantly replaced with deadlines, responsibilities, and the everyday demands of a career and family. Research has found that taking a break and having a little fun improves our problem-solving abilities, engages our imagination, and can increase our creativity.

7 Ways to Become More Playful:

Go Outside. Breathe some fresh air; get oxygen into your lungs and brain. Exposure to sunlight produces the Vitamin D your body needs. Stop and smell the roses literally and figuratively—discover nature’s many wonders.

Be Present and Live in the Moment. Capitalize on opportunities as they appear and appreciate fun when it occurs. Put down the smartphone! Do something spontaneous, preferably every day.

Become More Childlike. And I don’t mean childish. They are different. Childlikeness is play-oriented and generous whereas childishness is defined by an inability to take responsibility and to see beyond our needs alone.

Laugh More. Play and laughter go hand-in-hand. It stimulates the thymus gland, which helps to regulate the body’s immune system, encourages the release of “feel good” endorphins while reducing the production of the stress hormones (cortisol and adrenalin), lowers blood pressure, improves circulation and respiratory function while decreasing inflammation and infection.

Spend Time With Children. Observe and learn from them the ingredients to become more playful—spontaneity, curiosity, and joy. Be a co-player and facilitator of play with children, not only of constructive, exploratory and dramatic play, but also of physical play.

Don’t Worry About Appearances. If you stop worrying about what other people think, you can feel more unrestrained and experience the joy that it sometimes seems only children feel. And the other people observing are probably thinking, “That looks like fun! Why didn’t I think of that?”

Connect With Playful People. Intentionally and frequently spend time with playful friends. Being with others will open your mind to new perspectives, ideas, and new ways of thinking, feeling. Being around people and being friendly and comfortable with them will increase the overall playfulness quotient.

~ Remember to balance work and play ~

Rediscover the child within you and let him or her out to play!

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Recycle & Play! Six-Pack Net & Bread Bag Jump Rope

Celebrate Earth Day not only on April 22nd but every day! Make homemade toys and play props by recycling bread bags and plastic six-pack rings. Here’s how…

Six-Pack Ring Net

Materials Needed:
  • Six to eight plastic six-pack rings (a set of connected plastic rings that are used to carry six-packs of beverage cans or plastic bottles of soft drinks–”carrier rings”).
  • Colored masking tape (NMASK)
Let’s Get Started:
  1. Place six-pack rings end-to-end.
  2. Cut small pieces of masking tape (1”-2” long) and use to connect one set of six-pack plastic rings to another set of six-pack plastic rings.
  3. To make the net wider, connect another row of six-pack rings with masking tape above or below the first net. Most nets are two “carrier rings” wide.
  4. Tie pieces of cord to the top and bottom of the last hole on both ends.
  5. Attach the net to chairs, walls, coat racks, or trees.
Play:
Use your Floppy Flipper to hit balloons, beach balls or foam balls over the net.
~~~~~~~~~~~
Bread Bag Jump Rope
Materials Needed:
  • 27 empty, flat plastic bread bags

Let’s Get Started:

  1. Place nine bread bags in a row, alternating the top of one bread bag next to the bottom of the next bag.
  2. Cut small pieces of transparent tape and connect one bread bag to the next bread bag by taping the top of one bread bag into the fold of the bottom of the next bread bag in the row.
  3. When one side is taped, turn the row over and tape the bags together on that side.
  4. Continue to make 2 more rows of 9 connected bread bags. You will have a total of 3 long rows of bread bags.
  5. Trifold (fold into thirds) each row of 9 bread bags. Secure with tape.
  6. Lay the rows side by side and knot together at one end.
  7. Braid the three rows of bread bags together into a long jump rope and knot that end.
Play: 
Preschool children do not jump rope with individual ropes; however ropes can be used for several other activities. Balance ropes on body parts, or walk on top of ropes as a pretend balance beam. Put the ropes on the floor to represent different pathways, or to jump over.
 In my next post, I will share some favorite activities to do with your new homemade Bread Bag Jump Rope or any jump rope!

For now, get started by encouraging your children/students to start recycling by saving lots of bread bags and six-pack carrier rings.

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:

Beat the HEAT with COOL Games

It’s summer time and in many places it’s hot, hot, hot! Don’t let the heat keep young children inside all day. A fun way to cool off is with some wet and wild water play—whether you’re 3 or 63 years old! Kids of all ages will enjoy these splashy summer games and activities that encourage movement, physical activity and cooperative play.

Drip, Drip… Drop!
Where:
Outdoors
Who:
Every participant in a swimsuit
What You Need:
Water source and a small plastic bucket or cup

How to Play:
1. The teacher, parent or caregiver has all the children sit in a circle
2. One child is chosen to be “IT” and leaves the circle
3. IT holds a bucket of water and stands outside of the circle
4. S(he) walks around the circle saying “drip, drip, drip…” as s(he) drips water
from hands and fingers onto the heads of the children sitting in the circle
5. When IT says “drop,” the entire bucket of remaining water is poured out onto one child
6. IT runs back to their place in the circle with the wet child running behind them.
7. The wet child is now IT and fills up the bucket to resume the game of
“drip, drip…drip…DROP!”

What if …
Children don’t want water on their heads? Designate another body part that IT can only drip or drop the water on (i.e., hands, shoulders, knees, etc.)

The game ends when everyone in the circle is wet.

It’s a cool way to end a hot day through fun and play!

Jump the Stream!
Where:
Outdoors
Who:
Children dressed to get wet, barefoot (or in shoes that can get wet) and a teacher/parent to hold the water hose
What You Need:
Water hose
How to Play:
1. The teacher, parent or caregiver has all the children stand in a circle
2. The adult squats down in the center of the circle holding the water hose
3. When the water is turned on the adult turns around slowly, keeping the steam of water from the hose close to the ground
4. When the stream of water gets close to the kids they are to jump over it to avoid getting wet
5. Each time the adult completes a full revolution, s(he) begins to turn a little bit faster and raises the stream slightly higher off the ground

While the object of the game appears to stay dry, young children often have the most fun getting squirted by the hose and, of course, getting very wet!

Waterlogged!
Where:
Outdoor playing area with designated boundaries
Who:
Children dressed to get wet
What You Need:
Foam ball, Plastic bucket of water, Cones to mark off boundaries
How to Play:
1. The children should be scattered around the playing area
2. One child is selected to be “IT”
3. IT is given a foam ball and soaks the foam ball in water.
4. The game begins with IT chasing the other children, trying to tag/touch them with the wet ball
5. When IT tags someone with the wet ball, that child becomes the new IT and the game starts again

Touched players are “waterlogged” and can be spotted very easily by the water dripping off the spot where they were touched.

Water Brigade!
Where:
Outdoors
Who:
Children dressed to get wet
What You Need:
Foam balls for each player, A water table or tubs filled with water, Buckets (one for each player)
How to Play:
1. Fill water table and/or one or more tubs with water
2. Set up empty buckets 10 (or more) feet from tubs/table
3. Give each child a foam ball
4. Children stand at water table/tubs with their foam ball
5. The game begins with each child thoroughly soaking the foam ball with water
6. Instruct the children to run to the buckets at the other end and squeeze the water out of their balls into the buckets
7. The game continues with the children running back to the water tubs, resoaking their foam balls and running to their bucket to wring it out and fill their bucket entirely.

This can easily turn into a fun summer team sport with partners at either end tossing the balls to each other for soaking and wringing. Being physically active with a purpose makes this game a real winner!