The Importance of Loose Parts Play

Childminding UK
3rd August 2023

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Our children are our future and in order for our children to grow up to be the next people with the ability to change our world we MUST give them opportunities during childhood to be curious, creative, imaginative and inventive? A great way to do this is through loose parts play.

An Introduction to Loose Parts
It was Simon Nicholson, a Landscape Gardener, who came up with the theory of Loose Parts in 1971. He was redesigning a children’s playground area and noticed that traditionally, children’s play areas were all static and they contained no elements that are liable to vary or change, i.e. variables. He stated that ‘in any environment both the key of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it.’ This means that if a child can see possibilities within their environment, the amount of creativity and discovery increases massively, and loose parts hold infinite play possibilities.

How loose parts can lead to accelerated brain development
Loose Parts encourages children to be curious, creative and imaginative and it is during these times that a hormone called BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) is released. BDNF acts like a fertiliser to the brain and increases the speed of brain growth. It not only increases the growth of neurons in the brain but grows new ones. The more BDNF that is produced, the healthier the brain neurons are. If you think of the brain like branches of a tree, if the tree does not get water, sunshine or carbon dioxide from the air, the branches will not grow and will eventually die off. It is the same with children’s brains – if they are not given the opportunities to be curious, creative and imaginative then new neurons in the brain will not grow and develop. Once the brain is fully developed there is no turning back which is why good quality early years education is crucial.

So what are loose parts?
They offer multiple rather than single outcomes and have no specific set of directions. No single result is inevitable unlike a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces are meant to be fitted together in a specific way to make a single picture. Loose parts are wonderful but if we add some additional resources, the opportunities open up even more. To enable children to be creative, imaginative and inventive, try adding resources that will enable them to join things together, move them around, stick them into things, and just generally experiment with them such as:

• Cellotape
• String
• Ropes
• Elastic bands
• Boxes
• Children’s shopping trolley
• Children’s shopping basket
• Toy buggy
• Toy pram
• Paper bags

Multi-sensory experiences help to engage our 5 senses and new connections develop in the brain. The more sensory experiences we have, the greater our ability to create pathways in the brain for thought, learning and creativity. New experiences are also engaging for children.

If you are interested in reading more, click here.

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