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.

Sharron July 2

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.

Sharron July 3

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
    Sharron July 4
  • 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)

Streamer Ribbons & Scarves – A Rainbow of Fun!

rnbw

Put a scarf or ribbon in a child’s hand and movement automatically begins! Dance, leap, run, twirl, spin, gallop, jump, throw, catch – the active play it provides is never ending! I highly recommend that you have enough scarves or ribbons for each child to have one for each hand.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes:
Promotes cross-lateral movements (midline development)
Develops body and spatial awareness
Directionality
Laterality
Gross and fine motor coordination
Eye-hand coordination
Moderate to vigorous physical activity
Agility
Flexibility
Listening skills
Cooperative play
Creativity
Imagination

Movement Exploration and Creative Movement
Using one ribbon or scarf, move it…

  • Up and down
  • Side to side
  • In a circle
  • In a figure 8
  • Above your head
  • Below your knees
  • Between your legs
  • At your side
  • In front of you
  • Behind you
  • Like a broom (moving it side to side in front of body)
  • Like a fishing pole (casting or throwing it out in front of body)
  • Like a hammer (moving it up and down with quick wrist movements)
  • Like ocean waves (shaking it in front of body)
  • Like a rainbow (moving it in an arc from one side of body to the other
  • Like a river (dragging it across the floor or ground)
  • Like tree branches in a windstorm (hold it above the head and swaying from side to side)
  • Like a tornado (spinning around and raising and lowering it)

swish

Dance, Dance, Dance
Start the music and encourage the children to dance and move about freely in the open space. When the music stops, they are to freeze (stand motionless like a statue). When the music starts again, children resume dancing. Try to trick the dancers by starting and stopping the music quickly. They love the element of surprise! Music suggestions: “I Like To Move It” by Crazy Frog (fast dancing – suggest dancing using locomotor movements—jumping with two feet, hopping, jogging). “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland (slow dancing – suggest twirling, leaping, and floating to the music).

On Your Mark, Get Set, RUN!
With streamer ribbon or scarf in hand held high above head, have children run from one boundary to another. What child doesn’t like to run! They will ask to do it again and again. Music suggestion: “Colors of the Wind” from Disney’s movie, “Pocahontas.”

Follow the Leader
Have children stand in a line one person behind the other. When the music starts, the child at the head of the line does a movement with the scarf or streamer and all children behind the leader will move their scarf in the same way as the leader (i.e., waving scarf overhead, jumping with the streamer, swinging arms back and forth with scarf, etc.) When the music stops, the child that was at the front of the line goes to the back of the line and the next child in line becomes the leader. The music starts again and the game continues until everyone has had a chance to be the leader. Music suggestion: “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

 

Tails
Set up boundaries using ropes or cones in the available space. Each child tucks a streamer or scarf into their waistband behind their back. The ribbon is now their tail. The game starts when the music starts and the children run in the available space. The game is played like tag, but instead of tagging each other, children pull each others ribbon out of their waistbands and drop them to the ground. The child whose ribbon is pulled, picks up his streamer ribbon (tail), goes to “the tail repair area” (a designated spot, i.e., door, tree, etc.) to replace the tail in their waistband. Once the ribbon or scarf is secure in their waistband, the child returns to the game and resumes pulling tails (ribbons/scarves). Music suggestion: “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer.

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations

  • Rainbow Dancing Wrist Bands (RNBW)
  • Streamer Scarves (SWISH)

Rollin’ in the New Year Roller Board Style

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The roller board, aka scooter board, is a super-duper piece of equipment to acquire. Inclement weather—pouring rain, snow flurries or freezing temperatures—can keep us inside. Pull out the roller board and add it to your environment for indoor play. Here are 10 rockin’ and rollin’ ideas and activities appropriate for three to five year olds. First, though, some safety considerations and benefits:

Safety Recommendations:

  • Only sit or lay on the roller board
  • Never let a child stand on a roller board
  • Keep hands clear from the bottom of the roller board
  • Use handles to carry the roller board
  • Tie back long hair and tuck in loose clothing
  • Check wheels regularly
  • Prevent roller boards from crashing into others

Benefits:

  • Upper body strengthening (arms, legs and hands)
  • Core strengthening
  • Motor planning
  • Balance
  • Bilateral coordination
  • Physical endurance
  • Tactile stimulation
  • Kinesthetic stimulation
  • Vestibular stimulation
  • Crossing midline skills
  • Eye-hand coordination

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And now for the activities!

Movement Exploration Experiences

Have children explore different ways to move around the space using the roller board.

  • One hand on roller board
  •  Two hands on roller board
  • Two hands and one knee on roller board
  • Kneel on roller board
  • Sit on roller board, move backwards
  • Sit on roller board, move forward
  • Lie on stomach (prone position), move forward
  • Lie on stomach, move backwards

Hoop Ball Shooting

  • Place Hoop Ball Goal in open space
  • Child sits on roller board holding a ball
  • Child moves forward using feet to the Hoop Ball Goal and attempts to shoot the ball into the hoop
  • As the child becomes more proficient, challenge him/her to move farther way from the hoop (no more than six to eight feet)

Rope Pull

    • Adult holds one end of a long jump rope
    • Rope goes under roller board and between wheels
    • Child takes prone position (lying on stomach) on roller board and grips rope at opposite end from the adult
    • Child pulls self toward adult using a hand-over-hand grip on the rope. Feet do not touch the floor

Puzzle Piece Play

  • Scatter puzzle pieces at one end of the room or space
  • Place the corresponding puzzle boards at the other end
  •  Child sits on roller board
  • child moves around space using feet, finds and grasps a puzzle piece
  • Child travels with puzzle piece to find the matching puzzle board and puts the piece into its place
  • Game continues until all the puzzles have their matching pieces

Roller Board & Cone Obstacle

  • Set up three cones in a line about 3-4 feet from each other
  • Child takes prone position on roller board and uses hands and arms to propel roller board around cones and back to starting position. Body is balanced on roller board, feet do not touch floor, and hands and arms work in rhythmic coordination.
  • Child can try the same challenge sitting on knees on the roller board.

Free Ride

  • Child sits cross-legged on roller board
  • Child holds a hoop and adult pulls the child around
  • Speed of travel depends on the child’s stability on the roller board and his or her enjoyment of speed

Fly Like an Eagle

  • Need large, clear space to play
  • Child takes prone position on roller board
  • Tell child he/she is going to “fly like an eagle” across the room or down a long hallway
  • Adult holds on to child’s feet and gives child a big push
  • Child will have to work hard to keep head, arms (held out like wings), and legs lifted while moving forward

Body Bowling

  • Set up bowling pins at one end of the room
  • Just like in the “Fly Like and Eagle” activity above, child takes prone position on the roller board
  • Child keeps arms out in front (i.e. a superman “flying” position)
  • Adult holds onto child’s feet and gives child a big push forward
  • Child attempts to knock down the bowling pins

Grocery Shopping

  • Scatter plastic fruits and vegetables around the room
  • On the opposite end of the room, place rainbow colored baskets
  • Child sits on roller board
  • Child moves around space using feet and picks up a fruit or vegetable
  • Child travels with the piece of play food and puts it into the matching colored basket
  • Game continues until all of the fruits and vegetables have been “bought.”

Crazy Driver

  • Mark of a path or road using Mavalus Removable Poster Tape. Create a single line of tape or two lines to form a “lane” for the child to stay in. Make curves, zigzags, twists or turns.
  • Challenge child to “drive” along the road either in prone position, sitting on knees, or sitting on bottom

Product Recommendations

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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Bean Bag Bonanza! 6 Games for Young Children

The bean bag is a “handy” loose material and you can never have too many! Make sure you have enough so that each child has one if not four at their disposal. There are an endless number of games that you can play. Let the children make up their own games too. Here are six super games that can be played indoors or outside.

Bean Bag Bonanza

Eeeny Meeny Miny Mo Name Game

A great get-to-know-you name game to play at circle time. With one child holding a bean bag, the entire group of children at circle time begin chanting…

Eeeny Meeny Miny Mo,

(child holding bean bag tosses it back and forth from one hand to the other)

Throw a beanbag, toss it low,

(child throws bean bag underhand to another child in the circle)

Say your name,

(child who catches bean bag says her name)

Way to go!

The game continues until each child in the group has a turn tossing and catching the bean bag.

CBB

Bubble Gum Rhyme

Another fun game to play a circle time. With children sitting in a circle, have them pass the bean bag from one person to the other next to them, chanting this rhyme…

Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish,

How many pieces do you wish?

Whoever is holding the bean bag at the end of the rhyme, gets to say how many pieces (i.e., from one to twenty). The bean bag is then passed again from person to person while counting that many times. When the number is reached, the game begins again while chanting the rhyme and passing the bean bag.

COOLBEAN 2

Lost Gold

With children sitting cross legged in a circle, show them the precious gold—a yellow bean bag. Tell them that the precious gold will be lost. Have one child leave the room while you give the gold (bean bag) to another child sitting in the circle. That child hides the gold under their legs. The child who left the room is instructed to return to circle and find the missing gold. The child who is seeking the gold walks around the inside of the circle. Everyone sitting in the circle begins clapping. They clap slower or more softly if the child seeking the gold moves away from the gold and louder and faster when the seeker gets closer to the gold. Children clap their loudest and fastest when the seeker is directly in front of the child who is hiding the gold. The seeker points to the child who he thinks is hiding the gold. If his guess is incorrect, the seeker continues walking and listening to the clapping until he guesses correctly. When the seeker guesses who has the gold, that child gives him the gold. The seeker joins the circle and sits on the floor. Another child is asked to leave the room and the gold is given to another child sitting in the circle who hides it under their legs. The game continues until everyone has had a turn finding the gold.

Bean Bag Shuttle

Make two boundaries with jump ropes or tape about 12-15 feet apart. Have children stand behind one of the boundaries with several bean bags at their feet. At the opposite boundary place a bucket or basket for each child. When you say a locomotor movement (walk, run, gallop, skip, creep on hands and knees, frog jump, etc.) children will pick up a bean bag and travel that way (i.e., gallop) to the opposite side and put the bean bag in the container (bucket or basket) and run back to the starting boundary. The game continues with different locomotor commands.

ABCTOSS

Over and Under

Have children form a straight line one person behind the other. If you have a large group of children, divide them into 2 or 3 lines parallel to each other. Give the first person in each line a bean bag. When you say, “go” the first person in each line passes the bean bag overhead to the person behind him. The bean bag continues to be passed overhead from player to player. The last person receiving the bean bag quickly moves to the front of the line. The game continues until the original leader once again stands at the start of the line. The activity is repeated, but this time the bean bag is passed between the legs of the players. The third time the game is played, the bean bag is passed overhead to the person behind them. The second person in line must pass the bean bag between their legs to the third person behind them. The third person passes the bean bag over their head to the next person and so forth in the same “over-under” pattern.

COOLBEAN 1

Co-operative Bean Bags

Each child places a bean bag on their head and then walks around the designated play space keeping the bean bag balanced. If the bag falls off a child’s head, that child must let it drop to the ground and freeze (turn into ice). To become unfrozen another player must come to help. The helping player can hold onto his own bean bag (placing one hand on top of the bean bag on his head) and pick up the fallen bean bag with the other hand and give it to the frozen player. The player is now unfrozen and puts the bean bag on his head and is free to move again.

Product Recommendations:
Colored Beanbags – set of 12 (CBB)
Excellerations® Super Sensory Beanbags – set of 12 (COOLBEAN)
Excellerations® Alphabet Beanbags – set of 26 (ABCTOSS)
16′ Nylon Jump Ropes – set of 3 (JMPRP16)
Mavalus Removable Poster Tape – set of 3 (MAVALUS)
Classroom Activity Baskets – set of 6 (CATCHY)
Large Red Bucket (LBUCKRED)

Cool Bean Bags!

Once you put one of these super sensory bean bags in your hands, you’ll quickly discover why they are nicknamed COOLBEAN. Each bean bag is covered with soft chenille fabric nubs, making them irresistible to the touch. Grasp them, squeeze them, and listen to the crinkling sound they make. They come in 4 bright colors and are the perfect size and weight for tossing and catching. COOLBEAN definitely engages the senses—vision, hearing, touch and kinesthesia (sense of body’s movements). What also makes Excellerations® Super Sensory Beanbags “really cool” is that they are for children ages 18 months and up and are even washable!

Benefits of Using Bean Bags:

  • Younger children may find bean bags easier to handle than a ball. A bean bag is usually smaller and softer than a ball; consequently a child has less fear of being hit or hurt.
  • Because bean bags can’t roll away, they may be less frustrating for the child with poor coordination skills.
  • Catching and throwing a bean bag helps a child develop the skill of grasp and release.
  • A bean bag will help a child develop the hand strength required for handling a ball.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes:

  1. Gross motor skills: using the large muscles of the arms, legs and trunk
  2. Fine motor skills: using the small muscles of the of the body (eyes, hands, fingers) to perform specific movements such as throwing and catching
  3. Hand-eye coordination: hands and eyes working together smoothly to meet a challenge
  4. Balance: being able to hold the position of the body through the interaction of muscles working together
  5. Laterality: understanding of the differences between right and left and being able to control the two sides of the body independently and together
  6. Kinesthetic awareness: inner messages from the muscles, tendons, and joints received by the body in order to move
  7. Listening skills: ability to follow verbal directions

Here are some fun and challenging bean bag activities for young children. In next month’s post, I’ll share several games that you can play using bean bags.

Bean Bag Toss

Child tosses bean bag upward into the air and catches it before it hits the floor. Child first catches it with two hands. Child then attempts to catch the bean bag with one hand and then the other hand. The height of the toss should increase as the child’s skill improves.

Child tosses the bean bag back and forth across the body from one hand to the other. The height of the toss and the distance between hands should increase as the child’s skill improves.

Child tosses the bean bag into the air, turns around and then catches it. Challenge child to clap hands once, and catch it. Ask child to clap hands twice, then catch it.

Bean Bag Throw

Place a hoop on the floor, lean it against a wall or hang it up. Have child step back and throw a bean bag into the hoop. With each successful throw encourage the child to take another step back to make it more challenging.

Attach a target to a wall. I like to use one of the Excellerations® Pair-a-Chute. Keeping his “eye on the target,” the child throws bean bags at the different colors on the parachute.

Bean Bag Catch

Find a partner and play catch with the bean bag. Remind the child to use only his hands to catch and to keep his eyes on the bean bag. Play catch with your partner throwing underhand. Play catch with your partner throwing overhand. This time, stand close to your partner and play catch. If you catch the bean bag without dropping it, take a step back. If you drop it, take a step up. See how far apart you can get playing catch with your partner.

Using both hands, one child holds a bucket or basket. Let the other child toss bean bags to the child holding the bucket, who attempts to catch each one in the bucket.

Bean Bag Balance

Have child place bean bag on a body part—head, arm, shoulder, elbow and walk in the open space or on a designated line marked out on the floor.

Try a crab walk with the bean bag on the tummy or a creep like a cat with a bean bag on the back.

Bean Bag Jump

Have child place bean bag on the floor. Ask the child to jump forward over the bean bag. Ask them to jump backward, then sideways. You can repeat this series several times.

Have child place bean bag between their knees and jump forward like a kangaroo.

Product Recommendations:

Excellerations® Super Sensory Beanbags (COOLBEAN)

Brawny Tough Activity Hoops (HOOPSET)

Excellerations® Pair-a-Chute (PAIRUP)

Classroom Activity Baskets (CATCHY)

Sand and Water Buckets (LBUCKRED)