In researching theories that aligned with the practical suggestions on this blog, I rediscovered Simon Nicholson’s theory of “loose parts.” “In any environment, the degree of creativity and inventiveness is directly proportional to the number of variables in it." - Simon Nicholson
The theory of “loose parts” first proposed by architect Simon Nicholson in the 1970s has begun to influence child-play experts. Nicholson believed that it is the loose parts in our environment that empower our creativity.
Loose parts are materials with no definite direction; they can be used alone or combined with other materials, natural or synthetic. Loose parts inspire children to use materials as they choose, encouraging imagination and originality, which provides a wide range of opportunity, one that is not purely adult led. Children playing with loose parts are developing more skill and competence than they would by playing with most man-made toys.
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Looking around my Expressive Arts room with drawers of open-ended materials, I am reminded of the unlimited nature of children’s art-making. All they need is to combine their chosen materials, or “loose parts,” with their imagination, skills, creativity and ideas.
Inside one bin, the plastic numbers and letters fascinated a 3-year-old. He was able to pick out and order numerically with ease. When his search for a “2’ was unsuccessful, he made his own out of colored tape.
Another 3-year-old, was using the rainbow crayons to draw on one of the large boxes recently brought in by a parent.
“They don’t work,” she told me, holding up the crayon. Upon looking, I noticed that the colors were not as vivid as she wanted on the brown cardboard.
“You could try these bright colors,” I offered, presenting theColorations® Outstanding Oil Pastels Classpack. She took them and began to draw inside the box. I watched her place the colors next to each other and realized she was creating her own rainbow.
As she happily sat inside the box she began expanding her rainbow into a very sophisticated and beautiful expression. For the next 45 minutes she sat quietly creating her own rainbow.
At the end of our time together, I found her curled up inside the box taking a well-deserved rest.
Concentration and focus are greatly enhanced when children are self-motivated to create from what’s available.
Product Recommendations from Discount School Supply®:
Colorations® Outstanding Oil Pastels Classpack (Item # COPACK)
Colorations® Extra Large Crayons - Set of 200 (Item # CRXLG)
Colored Masking Tape - 1 Roll (Item # 34CMT)
Uppercase and Lowercase Magnetic Letters (Item # LETSET)
Magnetic Numbers - 162 Pieces (Item # MAGNUMB)
Please share your favorite "loose parts" around the classroom.