Loose Parts

What is loose parts theory?

The theory of "loose parts" was first proposed by architect Simon Nicholson in the 1970's and is influencing child-play experts and people who design playspcaces for children in a big way. It is the idea that materials can be moved, carried, combined, designed/redesigned, lined up and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways.  These are materials with no specific set of directions that can be used alone or combined with other materials.    Environments that have loose parts are tend to be more stimulating and engaging than traditional static environments.


Why provide loose parts play opportunities?

  • Promotes creative thinking and information gathering
  • Increases brain development
  • Promotes experimenting, trial and error, and scientific concepts
  • Allows for the discovery and understanding of connections
  • Enables risk taking
  • Encourages competence
  • Increases physical activity (structured and unstructured)
  • Supports exploration and independent idea development


What are key characteristics of loose parts play?

  • No defined use
  • Easily accessible
  • Regularly replenished
  • Age appropriate
  • Open-ended
  • An extension of the classroom to foster learning
  • Located in a designated and welcoming area
  • Ample amount of loose parts
  • Variety


Where do loose parts come from?

  • Family and friends
  • Nature
  • Craft stores
  • Hardware stores
  • Local craftsmen (carpenters, plumbers, handymen, construction works)
  • Thrift stores/Yard sales


Loose Part Resources


  • Preservice Teachers Learn to Use Be Active Kids in Limited Spaces

    I really enjoyed our class meeting. It was interesting to discover that you can do just about anything with children in the classroom where there may not be much space to encourage them to be active.  A change that I will make in my own life is to be more active, as well as my daughter. I will share this information with my friends that have children such as yoga animals, or Simon Says.

    Cathy Sesta, Parent & Child Care Provider
  • Early Childhood Physical Activity Institute

    Thank you for inviting me to be part of this year’s Institute. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the experience. You’re doing amazing work and I hope I’ll be able to continue contributing to it a bunch in the future.

    Rae Pica, www.movingandlearning.com
  • Plenty of Resources That I Can Use and Share

    This class was informative, and I look forward to being physically active with young children. On Friday, I volunteered at a Parents Night Out through my daughter's school. When I got there the kids were watching a movie. I got them up to play Simon Says and Red Light Green Light, however, after that I was stuck on what to do. I wish I had the knowledge I gained from this class, to have made it more exciting.

    I enjoyed your Land and Lake Activity.

    Venessa Wright, Parent & Child Care Provider
  • Be Active Kids Trainers Rock!

    I loved the training.  I would have loved it more if I had the other teachers from my center there also.  I am really looking forward to taking my kit to work and sharing it with my staff.  I liked Brittney, she reminded me of myself as far as being very active and motivated.  When I am at work with my little ones we stay busy all day.  I feel like singing my instructions and dancing my actions helps them to focus better on what I need for them to do.  Britney was great and I learned a lot from her. I am always trying to find new little ways to get the kids moving.

    Tiffany Daniel, Sandhill Community College

    The Early Childhood Physical Activity Institute was just wonderful!  Thank you again for including me in such an important effort to create and sustain leaders in EC physical activity. I would love to return to NC anytime that you think I can help. I enjoyed meeting the folks who work with you and hearing about all of the great things that are planned. 

    Linda Carson, Choosy Kids
  • Be Active Kids has Much to Offer

    Congratulations to you and everyone who has been promoting PA for young
    children in NC. You have much to be proud of here. Be Active Kids is an excellent source of ideas for promoting active play in unstructured settings. The Be Active Kids website also has resources on promoting unstructured active play. I encourage folks to review these resources. 

    Diane Craft, SUNY Cortland & Active Play Books