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Why Loose Parts Play is Important for Children's Development

Photo of loose parts for loose parts play in nurseries

Play is an essential part of childhood, and its importance cannot be overstated. It is through play that children learn about the world around them, develop social skills, and acquire new knowledge. One type of play that is gaining attention for its benefits is loose parts play. Loose play refers to unstructured, open-ended play that allows children to explore and create in their own way. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of loose play and offer examples of activities that nurseries can incorporate into their programs.


The benefits of loose parts play

Child using play rocks and loose play to create different shapes during a loose play art activity.

Loose play offers a multitude of benefits for children's development. For example, it promotes creativity and problem-solving skills. When children engage in loose parts play, they are free to use their imaginations and come up with new ideas. This type of play encourages them to think outside the box and find new ways of doing things. Research has shown that play-based learning promotes higher-order thinking skills, such as problem-solving and critical thinking (Pellegrini & Bohn, 2005).

Another benefit of loose play is its ability to support physical activity. Unlike structured play, loose play allows children to move their bodies in a variety of ways. This can help them develop gross motor skills and improve their overall physical health. Studies have shown that play environments that encourage physical activity are associated with higher levels of fitness and lower levels of obesity in children (Ishikawa et al., 2015).

Additionally, loose play can support children's socialization and language skills. When children engage in unstructured play, they are free to interact with their peers in a natural way. This type of play allows them to develop social skills, such as taking turns and sharing. It also offers opportunities for children to practice their language skills and engage in conversation with others (Ginsburg, 2007).


Loose parts play activities for nurseries

Sensory bin filled with coloured pine cones, shells and toys for a loose play activity.

There are many different activities that nurseries can incorporate into their programs to encourage loose play. One example is a sensory bin. A sensory bin is a container filled with a material, such as sand or rice, that children can explore with their senses. This type of play allows children to explore different textures and develop their fine motor skills. Sensory play has been found to have positive effects on cognitive, social, and emotional development (Little & Wyver, 2008).

Nursery children using wooden blocks to build a tall tower during loose play activity.

Another loose parts play activity that nurseries can incorporate is building with blocks. Building with blocks allows children to use their imaginations and creativity to create structures. This type of play promotes spatial reasoning skills and supports the development of fine motor skills. It also encourages children to work collaboratively and problem-solve together.


Promoting loose play at home

Encouraging loose play at home is just as important as incorporating it into nursery programs. Parents can create a loose play environment at home by providing open-ended materials, such as play dough or art supplies. They can also set up a play area that encourages movement and exploration, such as a space for climbing or jumping.

Parents can also engage in loose play activities with their children. For example, they can build a fort together or play a game of make-believe. This type of play allows children to interact with their parents in a positive way and encourages them to use their imaginations.

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