Some years ago a theory popped up – the theory of loose parts.
Although this concept has been around and used a lot longer than its name, it’s now a mainstream idea. The practice of providing children with movable materials that have no specific purpose; that can be taken from area to area and put together in a myriad of ways. It is a perfect way to let the child direct the play. Loose parts. Pretty cool.
But this is more than just a fun thing for children to do. Loose parts allow children to engage the brain in divergent thinking. Divergent means, “moving or extending in different directions from a common point” (Merriam-Webster). When children are allowed the freedom to explore objects in a variety of ways, the brain develops connections across all three regions of the brain. When these connections are developed, the brain as a whole functions better. The person is able to view more possibilities and be more creative in problem resolution.
OK – now you know the academics of loose parts, so how can you incorporate the idea in your classroom? It’s easy –
Allow the children to move blocks from one area to another. A small square block can be the foundation for a building or it can be a piece of steak on the table in housekeeping. Move it over to the book center and it could be a listener while the child “reads” a book. Allow the child to decide what that block is for.
Provide a variety of materials inside and out that can be “developed” by a child’s imagination. Sticks and stones outside. Items from nature, like pinecones and leaves. Just remember to be age appropriate. A small or prickly pinecone would not be appropriate for toddlers.
Small pieces in the manipulative center can be loose parts. Nuts and bolts to assemble, stack and make lines. Old jewelry or buttons with a mat can be used to make faces or letters. The idea is to allow the children to take these items and use them in a way that makes sense to them.
So get yourself over to that scrap store, or take a hike along the river bed, and start gathering those loose parts for your children to develop their brains with!
© Copyright 2018 Helen Fern