8 June 2020

A blog post exploring the magic of loose parts and the learning opportunities they provide, written by one of our passionate teachers/kaiako at Creators Forest Lake.

"Open-ended resources...encourage children to learn through using their hands, through exploring their senses [and] their imagination"

 When you visit any of our classrooms at Creators you will see baskets of pinecones, collections of shells, baskets of fabric, pumice, blocks or stones. Why are we so passionate about loose parts?

When I think back to the most memorable moments of my childhood, I remember long hot sunny days playing in the back garden and the gully our house backed on to. I remember picking grapefruit from our tree, squeezing the juice and mixing it with leaves and seeds in an old pot. I remember building forts with branches and leaves, climbing trees and making treehouses. I remember collecting eggs from our chooks and the excitement of finding a new nest of theirs hidden in the huge rhododendron tree. I remember the lip puckering sourness of eating unripe grapes straight off the vines. I remember the feeling of mud squeezing between my toes, picking petals off the daisies growing in our lawn. I remember playing hide and seek with my brother and sister, and many, many water fights with our next-door neighbours.  I remember when it rained, we put on our gumboots and jackets and carried on with our play. When it hailed or snowed (which would happen every few years and generally mostly in the hills of Wellington) we would use rubbish bags as makeshift sleds and zoom down the hills. I remember drawing patterns in the frost with my fingers until they turned numb and blue, and then running them under the warm tap to warm me back up.  I remember we played a lot!

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I could go on and on regaling these memories. I also remember we had toys, I had a kitchen set with plastic toys- a range of fruit and vegies. I had a tomato that you could cut in half with a knife and then Velcro back together, but the thing is, that’s all I could really do with it. I could have it whole in my shopping basket and then cut it in half and pretend to eat it. But a toy tomato is just a tomato. A wooden round can be a tomato too. However, a wooden round can also be a cookie, or pancakes, can be stacked to form a tower, or placed side by side to become a road to drive a little car along. The only limit is your imagination.

 Loose parts are any kind of open-ended resource, meaning they can be anything we imagine them to be and can lead to the most wonderful play. Inside our classrooms at Creators we have collections of small items – shells, pinecones, baskets of loose fabric and wooden rings. We also have large loose parts outside, large tubes and piping, rubber car tires and planks of wood, hessian coffee sacks and ropes.

Open-ended resources encourage children’s imagination and creativity, giving children the chance to make whatever sparks their imagination. They encourage children to learn through using their hands, through exploring their senses, through exploring their imagination to make whatever they can dream up. Or sometimes, not make anything but more to explore a resource like clay, to learn how it can be manipulated, pinched or rolled. You can add water to it to change its consistency, making it slimier and smoother or allow it to dry out slightly in the sun to become crumblier and chalkier.

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Sometimes play for the sake of play without having a result or goal in mind can create the best learning environments and the most memorable for children. To have resources to explore that become whatever we can think or dream of is freeing and empowering – one of the many reasons our tamariki are so happy exploring their learning environments here at Creators.


We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything than when we are playing” – Charles E. Schaefer


Written by Ms. Bex,

Creators Forest Lake