Creating a loose parts play library can be simple and fun with a few hints and tips. Loose parts for play are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, constructed and deconstructed in multiple ways. They are materials with no specific direction. Big or small, natural or man made.

The recognition of the power loose parts hold in Early Years and beyond is empowering educators to build their bank of resources.  However, budget constraints can often inhibit our provision, as cost implications put a cap on the resources we can purchase.  There are simple, cost effective ways to enhance your loose parts provision and provide a wealth of play and learning opportunities.

Families from our settings could hold the key to helping us develop our provision.  Consider reaching out through your newsletters, social media pages, online learning journeys or an outdoor display.  It’s important to communicate why you are looking to build a collection of loose parts as well as how they can help.  Offer a list of resources you are particularly keen to acquire.  Even if parents are unable to help themselves, they could know someone who can.  Some popular loose parts include:

Popular small loose parts:

Small Loose Parts

Popular large loose parts:

By communicating our wish list with families, we are involving them in the development of our loose parts provision.  It’s important to share our vision on what we want from loose parts, conveying the message that these resources have an impact on learning and development. Perhaps share images of loose parts areas so families can build a picture of your ideas and encourage involvement. Additionally, provide your families with information on the benefits of loose parts play. 

The benefits of loose parts play

Consider fine and gross motor development, communication and language, social skills, creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, dexterity, mathematical development and spatial awareness. 

It’s not just families who can help us develop a loose parts library.  Think about approaching local businesses about discounts and donations.  Make friends with your local charity shop, perhaps giving them an idea of your wish list so they can save things for you.  Contact your local tree surgeon for offcuts of logs or wood slices, speak to your garage to see if they can provide tyres and approach a carpet fitter about saving the cardboard roll inserts for you.  There are many ways to acquire loose parts, we sometimes just need to think a bit creatively.

As we’re in the middle of a pandemic, you need to consider how you can ensure the resources are safe for use.  Firstly, think about an area where you can quarantine all of your donations. Once the resources have been quarantined, they will need to be risk assessed prior to use.  Examine them carefully, looking for broken parts, sharp edges and staples that could all pose a hazard. Finally, think about how and where you are going to store your new bank of resources.  It’s great for children to be able to access them independently so perhaps open shelving, baskets and display areas could work for you.

Once your loose parts library is up and running, it’s important to reflect on how it’s being used, resources which are particularly popular, ways you can enhance the area and how staff are supporting play.  Consider documenting your loose parts journey by taking lots of photos, capture children playing through videos and make observations as a staff team.  You could share this with parents through online learning journeys, displays or by creating a floor book. 

Loose Parts Play activity Ideas:

  1. Mandalas
  2. Small World set ups
  3. Portraits using loose parts
  4. Construction
  5. Tinker Trays
  6. Array Trays
  7. Number Frame and counting activities
  8. Vehicle construction or a den
loose parts vehicle construction

More Ideas and Inspiration for loose parts play:

However you decide to create and manage your loose parts library, the most important thing is to keep it fun.  Regularly audit your resources to keep things fresh. 

Don’t forget to share your loose parts images with us on social media! @cosydirect #cosydirect #cosyclubideas

With thanks to The Cosy Creatives for this blog post and our Cosy Club Members for their input.