Loose Parts, Free Spirits

March 23, 2018

Loose Parts, Free Spirits

“In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it.” 
– Simon Nicholson, Architect

In our classrooms the materials we offer are the variables, and the children are the creators, the inventors, the constructionists and innovators. Their imagination is limited only by the objects within their grasp. To that end we endeavour to provide an environment that is rich in possibilities, and that includes providing open-ended materials for them to engage with. Being a new program, for many of the children this is their first exposure to the notion of loose parts.

What are loose parts? Simply put they are any materials – natural or synthetic, that can be moved, repurposed, and manipulated during play. There is no set directive for how they are to be used. The child is free to explore and use their interpretations in order to create the direction. A stick can be a wand, a cane, a telescope or an extension of a child’s body. These same principles can apply to countless everyday objects that we would often cast aside in our limited thinking. But in our environment these are objects waiting to be discovered and given new life.

A grandfather in one of our programs was kind enough to donate his remaining tiles upon his retirement from his home renovations business. These new pieces were quickly embraced by the children for small world play and incorporated into their building. The different sizes, textures and colours quickly added a new dimension to their structures.


Brody inquired what the tiles were for. I explained to him that they were going to end up in the garbage, but that I knew with their creativity that they could be so much more. He assured me it was a good decision to rescue these materials from ending up as junk.
“You were definitely right, we make all kinds of cool things here. Come see our village, we each have our own area.”

Soon enough the children were becoming experts and advocates for loose parts. I overhear the parents inquiring about the  new, less traditional materials and the children are eager to share the theory of loose parts with them.

“What do we call them again, spare parts, I think. They can be anything we want them to be. It doesn’t come with instructions, but you can turn them into whatever you want” – Grady explained.

There is a simple joy in observing children at play with these newfound materials, and seeing their creativity flourish. Loose parts extend play beyond the ordinary and give life to the old adage that one’s trash is simply another’s treasure.

Kirsty Mason RECE – Monsignor Leo Cleary Program