Family Day is coming up and there’s no better time to get outside and play!
As part of our series of at-home WILD Family Nature Club activities, we invite you to learn more about the benefits of loose parts play and discover some easy ideas to get kids outside exploring nature in a more unstructured, open-ended way.
What is Loose Parts Play?
Loose parts play is as easy and affordable as it sounds. All you need to get started is a collection of assorted odds and ends. What kinds of items does that include? Well, that’s really up to you!
Get kids involved in collecting their own assortment of natural loose parts by involving them in an outdoor scavenger hunt around your yard or nearby greenspace. Even in winter there can be plenty to discover and collect, including:
- Rocks and pebbles
You can also supplement your collection with household items, such as boxes, baskets, bowls and spoons.
Sparking Curiosity, Creativity and Exploration
Once you and your kids have collected your unique assortment of loose parts, it’s time to play! Give them some uninterrupted time to examine their items and indulge in unstructured play – that means giving them the freedom to explore, create and discover without any expectations. Try to avoid the temptation to interrupt them with suggestions or corrections unless there is danger of them getting hurt.
To help kids get started, and to encourage conversation along the way, feel free to ask them some simple open-ended questions, such as:
• What are you making/doing?
• What do you think?
• What do you need?
• What comes next?
• How did you do that?
• How does it work?
• How do you know…?
• How are these the same/different?
• Show me how you…
• I wonder what/why…
• Tell me about…
• Is there another way to…?
Asking these types of open-ended questions (rather than closed-ended or leading questions) helps kids think about their approaches and ideas, develop their language skills, and give meaning to their actions and experiences.
A Quick Note About Safety
Loose parts come in all shapes and sizes, and that’s what makes them so great! However, it’s important to always keep your child’s safety in mind. Small objects can be a choking hazard for young children and sharp objects are better suited for older children or may require some adult supervision. If in doubt, keep it out of your child’s hands.
What Are the Benefits?
Because loose parts play is open-ended, it fosters the development of lots of different skills, including:
- Critical thinking
- Physical activity
- Emotional well-being