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)

Frozen! Winter Art Activities

Yes, the children will let you know that the blockbuster Disney movie, Frozen, can be an inspiration for anything and everything cold and icy. You don’t need any cryokinetic powers to produce ice and snow. Depending on where you live, just venture outside or open the freezer. Most of these activities take little or no preparation…and remember, it’s the process, not the finished product…so “Let It Go” if you think the end result is for children to make something that looks like something recognizable (i.e., providing a pattern of a snowflake or snowman to use with the art medium).  Have fun discovering the science in these activities while exploring with art!  As Olaf said, “Some people are worth melting for.”  I think the children will agree.

frozen 1 frozen 2 Rainbow Snow Painting
Fill spray bottles half full with Colorations® Liquid Watercolor™ (do not dilute the color by adding water). If you have snow, go outside and have fun spray-painting snow. If it gets too cold and fingers in mittens don’t work too well with the trigger sprayers (my favorite sprayers are the ones from Ace® Hardware), let the children scoop the snow in buckets and bring it inside to your water table. Spray away. Observe how the colors blend to make new colors. Way cool!frozen 8

Paintsicles
Squeeze Colorations® Liquid Watercolor™ or BioColor® into ice cube trays. Cover trays with aluminum foil and insert craft sticks (poke through foil) into each cube. Place trays in freezer overnight. Pop paintsicles out of the trays. Provide heavy white paper or tagboard and using the craft stick as a handle, children paint the entire paper with bright blocks of color.

frozen 3

Ice Designs
Draw designs on heavy white paper with a washable marker. Using plain ice cubes, children “paint” over the designs and watch how the colors soften and blend..frozen 4Ice Castles
Materials Needed:
Ice—cubes, blocks, etc.
Table salt
Rock salt
Kosher salt (optional)
Eye droppers
Colorations® Liquid Watercolor™
Sensory tub or water/sand table
Small containers/cups to hold the salt and Liquid Watercolor™

Procedure:

  1. Freeze water in a variety of sizes and shapes of empty containers—plastic bowls, jello molds, cardboard milk containers, ice cube trays, etc. In cold climates, children could put the containers of water outside to freeze.
  2. Empty the ice shapes and ice cubes into the sensory tub or water table.
  3. Place small cups of salt and rock salt in the tub.
  4. Place small cups of Liquid Watercolor™ in tub.  Add an eye dropper to each cup.
  5. Problem solve with the children how best to use the ice to form ice castles, deciding which blocks of ice would be best on the bottom and which would work better on the top.  Children can sprinkle the salt on top of each chunk of ice before adding another piece.  Talk with them about how the salt begins to melt the ice.  Then when another piece is added, the water refreezes and becomes part of the newly added piece of ice, helping it to stick together creating ice castles.
  6. Children then use the droppers to drop the Liquid Watercolor™ into the cracks and holes created by the rock salt and salt making a colorful kingdom.

Learning Outcomes/Desired Results:

    • Cognitive-Science – Cause and Effect: Discuss the chemical reaction that ice has when salt is sprinkled on it.  Salt lowers the freezing point of ice, causing it to melt.
    • Cognitive-Science – Cause and Effect: Solids transforming into liquids.
    • Cognitive-Science – Cause and Effect: Mixing primary colors (red, yellow and blue) you make the secondary colors (orange, green and purple).
    • Physical-Fine Motor Skills: Using small muscles (pincher grasp) in fingers to squeeze the bulb of the dropper and to pick up grains of salt and chunks of rock salt.
    • Physical-Fine Motor Skills – Eye-Hand Coordination: Hands and eyes working together to accomplish a task; using fingers to manipulate dropper with color and squirting colors into salt crevices.
    • Cognitive-Problem Solving and Critical Thinking: Some children will have difficulty in figuring out how to get the color into the dropper and then onto the ice. Handling the eye dropper will be a challenge, so they should be shown how to use it and encouraged to keep trying until they succeed.
    • Language Development: Children talk excitedly about what they see happening.
    • Encourages creativity and persistence.
    • Social/Emotional Development: Fostered as this is an open-ended activity with no right or wrong way to do this activity.  It promotes children’s self-esteem.

frozen 5 frozen 6 Nature’s Frozen Beauty
Freeze nature items (leaves, pine needles, flowers, berries, small rocks) in silicone cupcake liners or an aluminum or silicone cupcake/muffin tray. Let the children put items (flower, leaf, etc.) of their choice into each of the cupcake liners. Then fill them halfway with water. Before putting them into the freezer or outside, insert a paper clip (open half-way) into each cupcake liner that will be used to hang up the frozen decorations. Once frozen, pop them out of their mold (cupcake liner or tray) and decorate your outdoor environment by having the children hang them on tree branches, fences or whatever else will support the icy decoration. As the temperature warms up and the sun comes out, the children will observe and discover what happens to their once frozen beautiful decorations.frozen 7

Product Recommendations:
Ultimate BioColor® Creativity Kit (BCKIT3)
Colorations® Liquid Watercolor™ Classroom Favorites Pack (LWKIT4)
E-Z Pull Extra Large Clear Trigger Sprayers, 12 oz. – Set of 6 (TSBOT)
Super Safe Plastic Droppers – Set of 12 (12SSD)
6 Paint Cups in a Base (PNTCPS)
Best Value Sand & Water Activity Table – Medium (LWTAB)
Sand and Water Buckets  – Set of 6 (BUCKSET)
Indestructible Scoops – Set of 4 (SCOOP4)
Regular Craft Sticks – 100 Pieces (CRAF)
White Sulfite Paper – 500 Sheets ((A80SU)
Extra Sturdy Tagboard – 100 Sheets (9WT)
Colorations® Super Washable Chubby Markers (16CHB)

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)