Loose Parts: Packing Peanuts

If you are an Early Childhood Educator, you probably know that all packing peanuts are not created equal.  There are the styrofoam ones that disintegrate into tiny chips of white that stick to everything and really are more likely to just be destroyed than used for something productive.  And then there are the real gems, the ones that when moistened with water, will stick together allowing for the most amazing and imaginative three dimensional creations.  When it comes to loose parts, these are just awesome.  I highly recommend trying this activity.

You can actually buy these amazing packing peanuts in rainbow colours though I wouldn’t recommend it as they are super expensive and the white and/or pink ones are available for free when used as packing material.  Children can always paint them afterwards to add some colour. So when your latest online shopping order comes in, save the packing peanuts if they are the good ones!!

You can test them out by moistening them to see if they stick together.

It just so happened that there was a small box of rainbow coloured packing peanuts at the preschool left over from the previous teacher. Here’s what I presented to the children:

-packing peanuts

-moist sponge

-small piece of heavy cardboard or mat board

Here are a few examples of what the children did with them.


Here is a little of the conversation:

J  “Look, G, you are making a roller coaster.”

G “Mine is going to be really tall and its going to go up, up, up and down, down, down.”

There was a lot more excited conversation about what they were creating.  They loved working with the packing peanuts!

This is a great example of how giving children the opportunity to freely explore materials can allow for a variety of ability levels.  There is no expectation placed upon the children to create something that looks a certain way or meets a particular standard and so as a result children from 2 and a half up to five years of age can all explore and create according to their own level of ability and attention span.  Children can spend two minutes exploring or a full hour and it all congruent with their own interest, motivation and ability level.

Creativity is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.” -Ken Robinson

I just love how the loose parts allow for the development of creativity.  Nourishing creativity and watching it grow is an absolute pleasure.  Give it a try.  Enjoy the process.