Loose parts play

3 May

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how rubbish toys are. I have a particular dislike of plastic toys that require batteries. We have a toy keyboard and a couple of other music / game toys that are ok but every toy these days seems to light up or play an ear-piercing tune. From observing my own children I’ve found that initially these toys attract their attention but after a very short time they are put to one side and rarely used.

I have read about the benefits of using loose parts in outdoor play but it can also be used on all aspects of play as I discovered when we were using playdough.

So one day after the monsters woke from their naps, this is what they discovered.


I think most things look nicer displayed in little baskets and bowls but on closer inspection this is what they found:

A wooden bowl of twigs, pine cones and conkers. A basket of silk scarves. A basket of shiny pebbles. A basket of fabric scraps and ribbons.


A basket full of bead necklaces.


And my favourite – a tin of buttons. This is something I always loved playing with as a child.

I had intended to take the smaller items away as soon as The Gannet woke up as I knew they would go straight in his mouth but they both sat playing so nicely with everything that I left it all out and just supervised him very closely.



At the moment he loves to take things out and put them back in again, so he sat doing this with the scarves for ages.

They both played in a variety of ways and without any intervention from myself. The Limpet particularly liked the pebbles and was initially wrapping them all up in material as birthday presents. Then she decided to line them up (she seems to do this with everything) and see if she could make them balance on top of each other.


They both sat together filling and emptying a basket of all the buttons. It was lovely to see them co-operate with each other as often they struggle to play together.

We now use these baskets of “treasures” a lot and it’s great to see the different ways they can be used and how they spark imaginative play.


2 Responses to “Loose parts play”

  1. feistyredhair May 15, 2012 at 1:18 am #

    That’s a great idea. I totally agree with you that the battery-powered toys are not the greatest. It’s more of a pain than anything else to replace them and usually they’re cheap plastic that breaks anyways. I also try to find more natural options that are part of the household environment.

  2. Halina June 9, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    The baskets look lovely! My kids (2 3/4 and 1) would LOVE that too. I recently gave them a basket full of stones from the beach and they play with them every day. I will try a few new treasure baskets that you suggested. Thanks for sharing!

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