In the world of open ended play, loose parts are so exciting. We love to incorporate our Grapat Mandala loose parts into so many of our activities but they have become a favorite for simple math; there are so many options for counting and creating patterns with the color variations. For those unfamiliar with the term loose parts, according to PennState,
“Loose parts is a wonderful term coined by architect Simon Nicholson, who carefully considered landscapes and environments that form connections. Nicholson believed that we are all creative and that ‘loose parts’ in an environment will empower our creativity. Many play experts and early childhood educators adapted the theory of loose parts.”PennState
Open-ended play invites opportunities for the children to decide what a toy will be instead of the toy telling the child how to play. This allows for so much versatility in play and so much more creativity. Since removing play food from and our kitchen from the playroom it has been amazing to see what the kids pretend is a cooking surface and what is the food. To be quite honest, when we had our play kitchen and play food, it was never used just often emptied all over the floor. If you are still unsure of what loose parts are, again from PennState,
“Loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. Loose parts can be used alone or combined with other materials. There is no set of specific directions for materials that are considered loose parts. The child is the direction.”PennState
For our most recent activity, I was inspired as we sat and read Tap The Magic Tree by Christie Matheson, a lovely interactive book that demonstrates the life of a tree through each season. You can find a copy here. After reading, I made an invitation to create using loose parts. The initial set up was very easy, I grabbed a few sticks from outside and a large piece of cardboard. Next I shaped the sticks into a tree and hot glued them in place. On a piece of paper I wrote out winter, summer, spring and fall underlining the first letter of each season. We are working on phonics so this helped to bring focus to the letter I was referencing.
Along with the tree I set out baskets of various Grapat loose parts and invited her to pick a season. She absolutely loved this activity and surprised me with how much she knew about trees in each season. Her favorite part was placing flowers on summer and spring, but she also really enjoyed decorating winter.
For the winter tree she instantly knew that the trees are bare where we live. She decided she wanted to add a Christmas tree and a frozen pond; on the base of her tree she added roots and to the top she made a star. After she finished each decoration we counted pieces together. This was a great hands on activity with minimal prep! Little brother woke up half way through so I put him in the highchair and let him have a few rings and a bowl to place them in for a little fine motor work.