Playing without toys

‘In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility for discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it’ ~ Simon Nicholson, Architect

In an article I read recently they discussed the 4 things a child does not need:

  • They do not need thousands of toys that light up or make use of batteries.
  • They do not need the latest gadgets just because you know someone else that has one.
  • They do not need many pricey outfits from boutiques.
  • They do not need a different enrichment activity for every hour of the day.

They need:

  • Physical nourishment (meals and exercise).
  • Open ended toys (e.g. wooden blocks, Lego, paper, pencils, rocks, leaves, buttons).
  • Clothes that can get dirty and your old clothes to play dress up.
  • Time with parents and siblings.
  • Time to play outside, just to name a few.

The Theory of Loose parts address the question as to what children can play with. Loose parts are found in every environment. This is a concept that has been around since the beginning of time, but in 1971 an architect, Simon Nicholson, developed it into a theory and it has been exciting play experts, therapists, teachers and parents ever since.

Why play with loose parts:

  • It can be used in a way that the child choose.
  • It can be adapted and manipulated in various different ways.
  • It encourages imagination and creativity.
  • It develops more skill and competence than modern manufactured toys.
  • It can be used in different ways and different settings.
  • Can be used in combination with other materials.
  • It encourages open ended learning.
  • Children choose loose parts over fancy toys.

These loose parts can be anything. Mostly they are not even toys, but rather bits and pieces of ‘stuff’ that we find in everyday life. Loose parts don’t have a particular function or purpose but can be used in any way. They can be moved around, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, sorted, stacked and fiddled with in multiple ways, to name but a few.

Some examples of loose parts are: stones, stumps, sand, gravel, fabric, twigs, wood, pallets balls, buckets, baskets, water, crates, boxes, logs, rope, tyres, shells, seeds, wool, cotton wool reels, pieces of pipe, buttons, elastic bands etc.

My challenge to every parent this month is to allow your children to explore loose parts. Make it fun. Playing with loose parts does not have any rules. Let’s put an effort forth to develop creativity and imagination. If we develop children that can play with loose parts our children will always have something to play with, even when there are no ‘toys’ around.

You might want to read more about how you can stimulate the mind of your six year old.