Creating a loose parts space in your backyard can be an exciting and rewarding experience that encourages children to explore, discover, and use their imagination. Loose parts, such as natural or recycled items, provide children with a wide range of opportunities to learn, create, and engage with their environment. In this blog post, we will explore how to create a loose parts space in your backyard, the benefits it can provide, and how to maintain it. This is an excellent way to encourage outdoor play and foster a child's curiosity and creativity. So, let’s get started!
What is a Loose Part?
Loose parts are open-ended objects children can use to build, create and play. They are often recycled natural or found materials. They don't have a fixed purpose and can be used in a multitude of ways. We often can see the value of loose parts when we laugh about how children prefer the box the toy came in over the actual toy. This is because the box is open-ended and can change to be whatever the child's imagination desires it to be while the toy might have a fixed purpose and lose its entertainment value once its purpose has been explored or discovered
Collect the Materials
Start by building a collection of loose parts. Take a look at this Ultimate List of Loose Parts for ideas on what to include. The best ways to acquire loose parts are by asking friends and neighbours, looking on local buy-nothing groups, or saving recycled materials.
Find the Best Storage
Decide where you are going to store materials in your yard. A specific corner? alongside a fence or beside your house. Then you can source storage solutions, we love duel-purpose materials such as milk crates that can be used for storage and play! Bins, 5-gallon buckets or a small storage shed also can provide great ways to store your materials. Consider the elements when designing your storage solutions as well, how can you protect certain loose parts from cold/ snow, and what might get damaged if it's left out to get wet? This will be dependant on your climate and what materials you have in your loose parts set up.
Using the Space
Using loose parts often comes naturally to children. Allowing open-ended exploration of loose-part materials supports children's curiosity and creativity. Give children time and space to use the materials without interruption and the influence of adults. Try your best to not guide/ or instruct play surrounding loose parts, this can be especially true when it comes to solving problems or coming up with ideas for the children as they play. Step back, observe, and enjoy watching your children's imaginations come alive!
Clean-Up and Management
As with playrooms, mud kitchens, or any other space where children play, a loose parts play space will need to be maintained. Rotate out items seasonally, monthly take inventory of any damaged items and remove them, and ensure your storage is set up to support children in putting the materials away when they are done playing with them.
Bonus points for your loose part setup if you are able to place it in a space where children can leave their creations set up for periods of time, without having to clean it up. This isn't viable for everyone but provides an amazing extension of learning! It also allows children to build on and return to ideas that had previously been exploring.
Share this article with friends, or co-workers to bring your outdoor play to the next level this winter. We love seeing others get inspired, tag us in all your awesome outdoor play on social media @playcreativeseeds or join one of our outdoor play programs for more inspiration and ideas. We hope this helps with new outdoor play ideas all winter long.