What is Loose Parts Play?

The theory of loose parts was introduced by architect Simon Nicolson in the 1970s.1 He believed that loose parts in our environment empower creativity - “playing around with the components and variables of the world in order to make experiments and discover new things and form new concepts.”

What are Loose Parts?

  • Loose parts are materials that, when given to our children, can become anything they wish from creating and making a robot to constructing their own den.
  • Loose parts can be used freely to create, explore textures and develop curiosity and imagination.
  • These materials suggested have no directions and no instructions. Children can make their own decision about how to use the loose parts.
  • Loose parts can provide great sensory play experiences.

Everyday items that make great Loose Parts

  • empty plastic containers
  • cardboard boxes (delivery boxes, shoe boxes, food packaging, etc.)
  • cardboard tubes (paper towel rolls)
  • fabric (sheets, pillow cases, blankets, towels, etc.)
  • tarps
  • ropes / ties
  • pots / pans / lids
  • kitchenware (tongs, spatulas, ladles, measuring cups, etc.)
  • baskets
  • bins / buckets
  • crafting supplies (beads, buttons, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, feathers, pebbles, etc.)


What are the benefits of Loose Parts Play?

Loose Parts play (LPP) supports cognitive development. Loose parts materials can be a catalyst that facilitates curiosity, imagination and creativity. LPP can contribute to the development of children’s creativity, exploration, imagination, learning and most importantly fun. Studies have shown that loose parts create richer environments for children’s play. This is why having access to loose parts play is vital for family play in the home, in play settings and school. Studies have also shown that children and young people prefer to play with loose parts because it gives them more control over their own self-directed play in any setting and provides endless opportunities to use their own imaginations.

Creativity and problem solving are among the basic skills that everyone needs; at school, in the home and in later life at work. To be able to ‘think outside the box’ and come up with innovative ways, we need to be able to use our imagination and see things in a different way. Providing opportunities to develop children’s imaginations is essential for their continued learning and development. Reading a story for example, can also stimulate playful imaginations as children will develop their own ideas of what a character may look and sound like. These creations can then be extended into their play time as they might recreate their own ideas using loose parts to further expand on the story and maybe even perform like the characters they have heard about and imagined. Loose parts play can also help with concentration as children focus on creating and making.

There are many different ways in which loose parts in play can be used by children:

  • making
  • building
  • touching and feeling
  • adapting and changing use

Adapted from:
Loose Parts Play - Play Scotland
1 The Theory of Loose Parts - Simon Nicolson