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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Cooking Up Fun in the Mud Kitchen

by Sharron Krull


Sharron July 1

International Mud Day was June 29. Did you miss it? Children from all over the world celebrated by experiencing the natural joys of playing in the mud! My 9-year-old grandson, Tate, didn’t hesitate to join in the fun!

A wonderful and inviting addition to your outdoor classroom is the mud kitchen. A mud kitchen encourages dramatic play and allows for the messy, creative, and sensory experiences that all children need.

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This Mud Kitchen is made from eucalyptus wood and has a working pump that you can fill with water. Children will love using the real faucet to make muddy concoctions and pretend food. Kids can even wash up in the sink when they are done playing. There is a shelf and hooks for storing kitchenware.

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Add the Stainless Steel Utensil Set—which includes a colander, three pans, lid, whisk, ladle, slotted spoon, spaghetti server, wooden spoons, forks, large spoons, small spoons, and knives—to give your mud kitchen an authentic feel.

Time to get started! No mud, no problem! You can buy topsoil from a nursery or a building supplier. By mixing soil, water, sand and other natural materials like leaves, pebbles, or grass any chef can mix up a culinary treat. Bon appétit!

  • Birthday Flower Cake—dirt + sand + water + flowers + small sticks as candles
  • Mud Pie—soil + rocks + water + sprinkle of sand
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  • Dirt Cupcake—dirt + water + muffin tins/cupcake liners + small rocks + shells
  • Petal Soup—flower petals + blades of grass + water
  • Stick Stew—dirt + grass + leaves + sticks + acorns + water
  • Hot Chocolate—dirt + water + sun
  • Dirt Dough—3 cups dirt + 3 cups flour + 1 cup oil
  • Leaf Bread—dirt + flour + water + leaves on top

    Product Recommendations
    :
    Mud Kitchen
    (MUDKIT)
    Prep & Serve Stainless-Steel Utensil Set (PREPTIME)

OUTDOOR CLASSROOM LEARNING CENTERS—THE SKY’S THE LIMIT!

Open the door and turn your learning environment inside out.  Maximize outdoor play by moving learning centers outdoors, opening up new possibilities for stimulating children’s creativity, self-discovery, and imagination.  Children can do virtually anything outside that they can do inside—the sky’s the limit!  By providing outdoor learning centers, teachers can change materials and props depending on the interests and ideas that emerge from the children. Whether you have green space or not, here are some ideas of what centers you might include in your outdoor learning environment.

Science & Nature Center

Science comes alive as children explore nature and make first-hand observations.  Provide containers which children can use to collect their findings (i.e., leaves, sticks, rocks, mud) and a table where they can explore the items with all their senses.  (Provide tools for investigations: magnifying glasses, binoculars, bug jars, tweezers, rulers).

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Sand & Water Center

Not every outdoor environment can have a sandbox but they can easily accommodate a sand and water table. This learning center is the best place for messy play as it is suitable for many sensory experiences.  Sand and water equal math and science learning! They alone or together provide opportunities for endless experimenting.

Dramatic Play Center

Set the stage to inspire children’s imagination through dramatic play outside.  Dramatic play allows children to make sense of the adult world in a child-friendly setting.  It also develops necessary skills in cooperation, language, role-plays, and leadership. Put an outdoor kitchen near the sand area and discover “what’s cooking.”  All that “good food” needs to be eaten. An outdoor picnic table just their size makes for family-style dining.

Art Center

Children who may not participate in art experiences indoors may join in willingly when art is presented in the familiar and comfortable territory of the outdoors. An easel (free standing or hanging easel) is a must to include.  If no easel, a wall, chain-link or wood fence and butcher paper provides many opportunities for children to work on vertical surfaces.

Block/Construction Center

Take block play to new heights by moving them outside.  Many engineering feats are possible with block play. The block construction area encourages language, social engagement, cooperation, problem-solving, creativity, imagination, and self-esteem. It can be taxing transporting those wooden indoor blocks outdoors. Foam blocks designed to look just like real cinder blocks, bricks, planks, and concrete pavers are lightweight.  Plan for them to have their own “home” outside, thus being available and accessible to the children. Children enjoy having accessories to use with block play.  Small cars, trucks, animals, people extend children’s ideas.

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I’m not finished yet! Having been an Outdoor Teacher for 12 years, I’m looking forward to sharing a few more learning centers and many activities that you can include in your outdoor classroom. The sky’s the limit!

Recommended Products:

  • OUTSCI (Outdoor Learning Kit Science)
  • SENMIX (Outdoor Sensory Mixing Table)
  • OBSERVE (Nature Observation Set – 24 Pieces)
  • TOOLCHST (Science Exploration Kit – 72 Pieces)
  • XCSG60120 (Sandbox with Cover—5’ x 10’ x 10”)
  • SCLEAR (Sand and Water Activity Table)
  • MPC3006 (MyPerfectClassroom Double Sand and Water Table)
  • PLAYSAND (Sandtastik White Play Sand 25 lbs.)
  • OUTKIT (Outdoor Kitchen Set)
  • PICTAB (Outdoor Picnic Table)
  • MOBEASEL (Colorations Premium Mobile Storage Easel)
  • HDE (Hanging Easel)
  • 4018 (Butcher Roll—White, 18” Wide, 40 LB.)
  • ALLBUILD (Excellerations Jumbo Foam Construction Set)
  • OUTBLOCK (Outdoor Learning Kit Blocks)
  • PEEPSET (Excellerations Photo Block Play People)

 

To order any of the products listed above or to view our wide array of products, please visit our website at discountschoolsupply.com or contact our customer service department at 800-627-2829.

 

Parachute Play the Nursery Rhyme Way

Nursery rhymes have been around for centuries and are a wonderful way to promote a variety of literacy skills—oral language development, phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension and vocabulary. Parachute play provides children with important physical activity and exercise while building gross motor skills, coordination, perceptual motor skills and muscle development. And let’s not forget the social interaction that occurs when using the parachute. It creates an instant circle, allowing everyone to feel a part of the group and encouraging eye contact and interaction between all participants. So let’s combine nursery rhymes with body movements using the parachute. Everybody hold on to the edge of the parachute and start singing and moving.


Parachute Play

 

The Wheels on the Bus
The wheels on the bus go round and round (hold parachute with one hand and walk around in a circle)
The door on the bus goes open and shut (pull chute forward and backward)
The horn on the bus goes beep, beep, beep (two feet together jump/bounce in place)
The windows on the bus go open and shut (raise parachute above head and lower parachute by touching toes)
The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish (hold parachute with 2 hands in front of body and move arms from side to side)
The babies on the bus go waa, waa, waa (pretend to wipe eyes with parachute—like a handkerchief)

 

The Grand Old Duke of York (Tune: “A-Hunting We Will Go)
Oh, the grand old Duke of York, (all hold parachute and march in place)
He had ten thousand men,
He marched them up to the top of (raise parachute above head)
The hill and he marched
Them down again. (pull parachute down and touch toes)
And when they were up they were up. (raise parachute above head)
And when they were down they were down. (pull parachute down and touch toes)
And when they were only half way up,
They were neither up nor down.  (everyone half-way up)

 

Sally Go Round the Sun
(everyone holding parachute with one hand walking around in a circle, singing)
Sally go round the sun.
Sally go round the moon.
Sally go round the chimney tops
Every afternoon.
BOOM!  (all fall down)

 

London Bridge
(children go underneath the parachute while adults lift and lower it above their heads)
London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.

(adults move parachute back and forth above the heads of the children underneath)
Take a key and lock her up,
Lock her up, lock her up.
Take a key and lock her up,
My fair lady.

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The Itsy-Bitsy Spider
The itsy-bitsy spider
Climbed up the water spout. (raise parachute above head)
Down came the rain (lower parachute below waist)
And washed the spider out. (with parachute at waist move arms from side to side)
Out came the sun (raise parachute above head)
And dried up all the rain. (with parachute at waist shake it up and down)
And the itsy-bitsy spider
Climbed up the spout again. (raise parachute above head)

 

Ring Around the Rosy
(everyone holding parachute with one hand walking around in a circle, singing)
Ring around the rosy,
A pocket full of posies.
Ashes, ashes!
We all fall down! (all fall down)

(while sitting on ground, holding parachute, singing)
Cows are in the meadow,
Eating buttercups.
Thunder, lightning!
We all jump up! (jump up while sliding voice from low to high and lifting parachute).

 

Pop Goes The Weasel
(everyone holding parachute with one hand walking around in a circle, singing)
All around the cobbler’s bench,
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey thought it all in fun,
Pop! goes the weasel. (stop walking, stand in place and pop parachute in the air) 

(everyone holding parachute with one hand walking around in a circle, singing)
A penny for a spool of thread,
A penny for a needle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel. (stop walking, stand in place and pop parachute in the air)

 

Product Recommendations:
Excellerations® Brawny Tough Rainbow Parachutes – 6’Dia.
Excellerations® Brawny Tough Rainbow Parachutes – 12’Dia.
Excellerations® Brawny Tough Rainbow Parachutes – 20’Dia.
Parachute Play Pack
Nursery Rhyme Wooden Characters – Set of 26
Wheels on the Bus Book & CD Set
The Itsy, Bitsy Spider Book & CD Set

Stick Yarn Bombing

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It all started with the children’s picture book, “Extra Yarn” by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen.  It’s a story about a young girl named Annabelle who happens to find a box filled with multicolored yarn.  She does what you might expect–knits a sweater for herself.  But there is extra yarn, so she knits one for her dog, only to discover that there is still more yarn.  She then knits sweaters for others–her classmates and teacher and even animals.  Still–more yarn.  She begins to cover her entire cold, drab town in rainbow knitwear–including buildings and trees and even a pickup truck.  Before long, an archduke, who has heard about the magic box of never-ending yarn, arrives and offers Annabelle riches in exchange for the box.  When she refuses, the archduke has it stolen.  But it is for naught–he finds the box empty and angrily tosses it in the sea, where it eventually returns to Annabelle.  This warm tale teaches a lesson and everyone can interpret it differently…but the moral is that good things happen to those who do good things.

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As my good friend, Isabel Baker of The Book Vine for Children  says, “This book begs to be extended!”  She asked me to collaborate with her on ways that we could integrate this wonderful story into the classroom. Of course, there is knitting and crocheting and the sharing of things that are made of yarn (hats, sweaters, scarfs, blankets, etc.).  Many art activities come to mind – gluing yarn on paper, painting with yarn and Colorations® Liquid Watercolor, cutting yarn and sticking pieces on clear contact paper.  And then I remembered one winter day at my house with some of the grandchildren and providing them with skeins of bright colorful yarn.  And from the pictures below, you can obviously see the active, fun-filled, and collaborative “art” that they created on the stair railings.

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I have come to learn that yarn bombing is a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fibre rather than paint or chalk.  Often undercover and often at night, yarn bombing involves crafters and artists knitting works of art made of yarn onto civic structures and into the fabric of public spaces.  Signs of the yarn bombing movement have shown up in cities across the world.  Bombers have knit turtleneck sweaters for trees in Seattle and covered subway seats in Philadelphia.  The third International Yarn Bombing Day was celebrated on June 8, 2013.  On this day, yarn enthusiasts from around the globe shared their passion with the world by “tagging” their neighborhood–covering bike racks, trees, park benches to even just wrapping a pole or lamp post with yarn–creating a happy spring experience for the members of the community.

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Isabel was presenting her very popular workshop, “The Best New Books For Preschoolers”  at the recent NAEYC Professional Development Institute and wanted to extend this story.  I thought, why not yarn bomb a stick–the oldest and possibly the best toy in the world–natural and free.  So I collected 150 sticks from my neighborhood and brought them with me to the Institute taking place at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square.  I asked the attendees to pick a stick that “speaks to you,” (thank you Karen Lombard from Dayton Public Schools).  After I read the story, “Extra Yarn,” I passed around little black boxes of yarn and, of course, the yarn bombing began and no one wanted to stop!  Then I did this with my grandchildren at our family gathering in Lake Tahoe, reading the story, collecting sticks on our nature walks, and providing the magical box of yarn and the “yarn bombing” began and they didn’t want to stop!  Look at what they did with their wrapped sticks: they made geometric shapes, “writing” the initials of their first and last name, to even making hearts.  We love STICK YARN BOMBING!

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Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Jumbo Roving Yarn (ROVING)

Colorations® Acrylic Yarn – set of 12 (YARN)
Yarn Dispensing Box – 16 colors (YARNBOX)
White Sulfite Paper – 500 sheets (P9SU)
Colorations® Crystal Clear Cover (SSAP)
Colorations® Washable School Glue – 4 oz (PMCWG)
Colorations® 5” Blunt Tip Craft Scissors (CBS)
Colorations® Liquid Watercolor Paint – set of 18 (LW18)

Pet Pinecones

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Yes, there are such things and the grandchildren loved making and playing with them.  Making them is easy…just find a favorite pinecone, a stick, and some string or twine and, last but not least, an able and willing Daddy to make them.  I had never heard of such make-believe pets, until Daddy Dave shared a favorite activity invented by his dad…

When I was 10 we were on a family backpacking trip with a group that included two other boys around my age.  During the hike out we were constantly throwing pinecones at each other and generally being destructive as boys of that age are wont to do.  My Dad talked us into tying pinecones to a piece of string and seeing how long a string we could keep them on while still controlling them.  He kept score of who was able to keep their pinecones from hitting the most large rocks in the trail and it kept us under control. All in all it was just a good way to channel our 10 year old boy energy into something other than hurting each other.

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This is how traditions start and this is our second year of making Pet Pinecones…and it won’t be our last! Perhaps, you might want to try this with your children or the children in your care.  Get outside, explore, create, and let your imaginations run wild!

Materials:

Stick

Pinecone

Twine or string

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Directions:

  1. Find a favorite stick
  2. Find a large pinecone
  3. Tie the pinecone to the stick with twine or string
  4. Name your pet pinecone– “Piney,” “Brownie,” “Mr Cone”
  5. Go for a walk or a run with your pet pinecone
  6. Have fun!

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Did you know that the stick was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2008?

Stay tuned…the BEST is yet to come…sharing more stick fun in my next post!

Nature Bracelets

I just returned from a fantastic family reunion in South Lake Tahoe.  Three of the five grandchildren were present and activities for the week included a hike at beautiful Fallen Leaf Lake.  We got close and personal with chipmunks, a snake, and a Steller’s Jay which was quite bold in stealing cherries from our picnic lunch!  The kids found sticks, went swimming in the lake, and enjoyed skipping rocks.  I happened to bring a roll of wide masking tape with me so the children could make Nature Bracelets of the items they collected on their hike.

Materials:

2 inch wide masking tape or Duck Tape®

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Directions:

    1. Cut or tear a strip of the masking tape about an inch longer than the circumference of each child’s wrist.
    2. Wrap the masking tape, sticky-side out, around each child’s wrist.
    3. Go on a hike or nature walk.
    4. Encourage children to pick up anything they like (except live insects!) and stick it to their bracelet.  They discovered that flowers, petals, leaves, dandelions, pine needles, pine cone scales, grass, and even small rocks stuck to their bracelet.

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Suggestions & Variations:

  • When you take a hike again, have the children collect only one type of nature item–leaves, flowers–or collect only items that are one color–green, brown, etc.
  • As the children find items, have them arrange their found items in a pattern, i.e., one leaf, one rock, one flower, one leaf, one rock, one flower, etc.
  • Have the children compare their bracelets with a friend.  How are they the same?  How are they different?

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You know those sticks the children and I found.  We kept them.  My next two posts will showcase what we did with them.  You’ll be surprised!

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Duck Tape® Solid Colors (DTAPE)
Regular Masking Tape (34MT)