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Possibly one of the oldest kinds of play in the history of mankind, loose parts play is a spontaneous and creative way in which children engage with their environment. The term “loose parts” was coined by a British architect, Simon Nicholson, to describe materials which are used in an open-ended way. Creativity and discovery, according to Nicholson, depend on the presence of the variables available in the environment.

In loose parts play children interact with, and manipulate, a unique collection of items or “parts”. These parts can be completely unrelated and their size and nature can vary depending on the users and setting. They can be offered by a teacher or spontaneously collected by children.

Playing and experimenting with open-ended materials encourages creativity and imagination. New skills in planning, communication and problem solving are developed - and because there is no prescribed way to use the parts, children make the decisions. They learn, through play, at the level that they are ready for - and naturally stretch themselves by setting their own goals and challenges.

Loose parts play can be solitary or happen in a group of any size. It can start small, with a box or basket of odd items, but be prepared for your collection to take on a life of its own, run over into new sets, and become a firm favourite towards a goal.​

Loose parts play is a wonderful way for young explorers to plan, create, solve problems, and to challenge themselves to learn new skills. A good collection of odd parts can be the start of many imaginative adventures and projects.

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