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)

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.

 

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)

Pet Pinecones

sharron pet pinecone 4

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

sharron pet pinecone 1

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!

sharron pet pinecone 3

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!

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)

Rainy Day Active Play Ideas

No shoes, no problem! It’s summertime. It’s wet and warm outside and water play comes naturally to young children. And don’t hesitate to join in too. As long as there is no lightning or thunder, being outside is a joyful experience! “Get your feet wet” with some of these rainy day active play ideas.

1. Splash and jump in puddles. Ask the children, “How many puddles did you find to jump in?

2. Blow bubbles in the rain. Challenge the children to pop them using sand blocks or to catch them with a chopstick.

3. Run and find a rainbow. If it’s a sunny rainy day, chances are that you just might spot a rainbow or two. Encourage the children to run to it and try to find the legendary “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow. If no rainbow in sight, let children run with their own Rainbow Dancing Wrist Band in hand.

4. Colorful rain dance. Allow children to paint an arm or leg with Colorations® Simply Washable Tempera paint or even draw a silly face on their stomach. Now it’s time to get out in the rain and “dance, dance, dance” until the color washes away.

5. Nature walk and insect and crawly critter hunt. Some bugs become active when it rains. Bring along a magnifying glass to look along sidewalks, in the grasses, or under rocks and pieces of wood to find worms, beetles, slugs, snails, roly-polies, ants.

6. Wet and Wild Obstacle Course. Kick a ball around cones, walk the river logs (Step-A-Logs Balance Beam), jump the river (two jump ropes laid on the ground in a V-shape), toss soggy foam balls into a bucket, and go mountain climbing in the rain (Cones and Poles — thread a pole horizontally through medium or high level holes in two cones to make a crossbar (mountain) for climbing (stepping over).

Jump, run, walk, kick, dance, toss, throw are all active verbs that encourage active play.

Head outside and have some rainy day fun!