In our Mini Makers class, children enjoy story time and participate in invitations to play. At Thinkering Lab, children are engaged in “loose parts” play, an approach to learning that stimulates curiosity and creativity. Loose parts are the “alluring, beautiful found objects and materials that children can move, manipulate, control and change while they play” (Oxford Play Association). They are given free reign to use their imagination as they manipulate objects in ways that demonstrate and develop their creative thinking skills. Loose parts play stimulates three creative interests of children: collecting, arranging, and constructing.


Children love to collect things. A long walk with children becomes even longer as they stop along the way to pick up sticks, rocks, bugs, and anything and everything else that interests them. It’s their natural way of learning about the world. As they collect, children use such skills as creative thinking, observation, awareness, and risk taking. And along the way they find beauty and wonder in the world.


Have you ever noticed that children often arrange their collectibles in both standard and unique ways? This sorting and classifying exercise helps children think flexibly and is a foundation in mathematics. Children are natural organizers, and often surprise adults with the variety of ways in which objects “fit” together to make something interesting.


Constructing is all about putting things together.  The act of attaching often leads to knocking over, squishing, crumbling, and ripping.  Building something and taking it apart is joyful child’s play. The wonderous part of a child’s construction is that they are not limited to objects made for building. No, they’ll construct with any object in their environment.  

Loose parts play is an opportunity for children to collect, arrange, and construct. Parents can set up invitations to play in the home with a few items found around the house. The first step is start collecting items for your children’s play space. Some ideas to get your started:

Collect it!

  • Buttons
  • Rocks
  • Sticks
  • Plastic caps and lids
  • Fabric pieces
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Pinecones
  • Socks

For more information on loose parts play, click here.

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