Loose Parts Play

Loose Parts Play

Play to help your kids become strong, smart and happy

Do you remember as a kid getting your hands on a cardboard box! Would it become anything, a space ship, school bus, or a rocket ship? The imagination of a child knows know end. Loose parts play is unstructured and open-ended giving children time and space to use their imaginations!


What are loose parts?

" Loose parts" is a term for any materials that can be moved, carried, stacked, altered and don't have a set purpose. These can be natural objects - think stones, sticks, sand, leaves, pine cones, seeds. Loose parts can be recycled objects too like nails, screws and bolt, boxes, fabric, ropes, and milk crates!

Loose Parts Play

Loose Parts Play structure
Loose Parts Play girl

Why loose part play?

Loose parts let kids make their own path and fiugre out how they want to play. It's open ended so there is no right way to play and no mistakes (just FUN!). This is really important because the more time that children spend in less-structured activities like loose parts play, the better their self-directed executive functioning skills become. Playing in this open ended structure helps kids develop their brains to think, remember, problem solve, and try new things!

Loose Parts Play & Kid's Brain Development:

Creativity and Imagination

Loose parts play is child led! They use their imagination to use the same materials in new ways. This lets kids share their ideas, thoughts and feelings.

Loose play mimics nature.  Do you have childhood memories of endless summer days collecting and patterning rocks, sea shells, sticks etc.

This creativity helps kids think outside the box,  brainstorm and try new things and ideas!

Thinking, Feeling and Regulating Emotions

Loose parts play helps kids learn how to keep their cool, work through ideas, and play with others to create things together.

Loose parts play is an opporuntity for children to practice regulation and build resiliency. They learn how to get back up and try something different when their first idea doesn't work.

Studies show that playing in less structured activites like loose parts play helps kids build executive functioning skills! (click here for a video series on executive functioning)


Math and Language Buildling Blocks

Kids playing with loose parts naturally explore patterns and sequences. Patterns and sequencing are the buildling blocks of language, math and coding!

Play is how kids brains develop! It also reduces stress which makes learning hard!

Loose parts play is a great way for kids to act out lessons they are learning and connect to different stories and ideas!

Build Your Own Loose Parts Play Kits

Before you add anything to your Loose Parts Kit ask yourself:

  • Does it have a set way to play or need insturctions? If yes, it might be a cool toy but it doesn't belong in the Loose Parts Kit.
  • Can it break and become hazardous? Make sure everything in the kit can be played with many times in lots of ways and not become dangerous. I add items that are non-toxic and are not a choking hazard for any littles that might put items in their mouths!
  • Is it okay if this item never returns from the loose parts kit? If you don't want it to get dirty, or hesitant to get it painted on or dented it is not meant for the loose parts play kit.
  • Can it be put away quickly or left out?  I like storing everything in a box or bin. At clean up it all just gets put in the box. If using loose play parts outside (which is an awesome idea!) can the parts handle sun, rain, snow?
Loose Parts Play sensory


Kits become exciting when they are made of parts that have different sensations!


Think about using different textures: soft, fluffy, hard, sticky, rough, smooth.

What about different smells or  tastes? (make sure everything is non toxic)

Can you add in cool and warm parts? Think about how  metal  feels compared to a soft fabric.

Try to gather a variety of colours, patterns, designs.

loose parts play

Shapes & Sizes

We build patterns by putting things together items that are the same size, colour or shape. Have a variety of round parts, straight parts, circular parts etc. Make sure parts are large enough to not be a choking hazard for little ones!

Look to nature for inspiration- sand, dirt, rocks, leaves, flowers, seeds. Check out your recycle bin- boxes, cardboard, egg cartons

Explore your junk drawer- rubber bands, key chains, shoe laces, popsicle sticks, an old blanket whatever!

patterns and sequences in loose parts play. Buildling blocks for math science and language.

Space to Play

Loose parts play works best in a calm space where kids can explore and play with few distractions. Bring out some comfy pillows or chairs,  and a table or diffferent platforms to build creations on!


Self directed play has no set instructions.  This mean rules and boundaries are needed before starting to help keep everyone safe!


Remember that unstructured does NOT mean unsupervised. Small loose parts are a choking hazard so make sure you are providing pieces that are safe for your child!   Start with large items that are okay to explore with little toddler mouths and move to nuts and bolts when your school aged kid is ready!

For More on Loose Parts

Check out Loose Parts Manual by Playground Ideas or Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children by Lisa Daly and Miriam Beloglovsky

Try out our loose play kit at AltaVie November 2019

About Jen Taubensee

Jen Taubensee is an Occupational Therapist focus on family wellness. Her coaching helps kids and parents develop the skills to thrive in their everyday lives and have more fun doing the things that matter to them! She has had the opportunity to walk alongside families and children who expereince brain injury, concussion, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, mental health challenges (anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma, schizophrenia), social struggles, behavioural issues, developmental delays, learning delays and those who are looking to have more fun everyday! Jen loves supporting families with strategies to support emotional regulation, behaviour management, connection, executive functioning, positive parenting, toileting, (not so picky) eating, sleep, healthy and happy routines, fine and gross motor development and PLAY! Reach your goals with OT Jen's creative, fun and meaningful strategies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *