Loose Parts Theory Defined

Loose Parts Theory Defined: An Elixir for the Development of Creativity

What is Loose Parts Theory? It was first proposed back in the 1970’s by architect Simon Nicholson, who believed that the loose parts in our environment empower our creativity. And now, early learning experts have adapted the theory as it relates to children’s play.

How does this theory work?  We provide items that can be moved, manipulated, combined  and put together in many different ways.  There are no specific directions on how this is to be done.  Children can explore the items in whatever way they choose.  The materials can be natural or synthetic and are stored in a way that is accessible to children without them having to ask an adult.

What are some examples of Loose Parts?

Why does Loose Parts Theory have value? I think as an early childhood educator, one of the reasons I value Loose Parts Theory is because I see firsthand how it supports creative play.  And I value creativity because it promotes self-confidence and self-reliance, it helps with divergent thinking and problem-solving skills, and it supports scientific exploration and discovery.  I am constantly surprised by the ways in which children use the items when they are free to come up with ideas.  Quite often, children will do something I would not have thought about myself. Add to that, the fact that very little money is needed to get these items, we encourage children by example to reuse items for many purposes and we spend less money on commercial toys that don’t leave much to the imagination.  I also believe that loose parts give the opportunity for children to become more engaged in play and as a result spend a longer time working/playing resulting in increased attention spans.

Are you interested in picture books that promote Loose Parts Theory?  I am working on a book list for you that will be coming up in the days ahead!

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