Introducing loose parts in early years
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Introducing loose parts in early years

13 February 2020 By Nicola Cowell - Nursery Manager at Bright Sparks

you boy playing with loose part materials

We invited Bright Sparks nursery manager, Nicola Cowell, to share her thoughts on how she has introduced loose parts into every day children’s play at her nursery

Architect Simon Nicholson originally introduced loose parts as a concept in the early 1970s. Through the use of open-ended materials in early childhood education, you’re developing critical skills in problem-solving, imaginations and creativity in young children.

Here at Bright Sparks, loose parts play is now fully embedded within our daily practice, although it has been a long road for us. Getting all our early years practitioners on board with the idea of loose parts play, teaching the children how to engage with open-ended resources and trialling a wide range of loose parts for children of different ages has been challenging.

Reclaiming engagement and quality of play


Since the introduction of loose parts play at Bright Sparks, we have seen the quality of play and engagement of our children increase. The resources we provide the children with are mostly reclaimed, recycled and donated to us or sourced by our team. This means that the rotation of resources is constant, and it provides children with new learning opportunities and the chance to combine loose parts frequently.

The range of resources helps create more inspiring play improving the creativity and focus of our children. The team are now observing and joining in with good quality play and capturing these moments and reflecting them in the child’s learning and development evaluations.

Expand your search for loose parts


The loose parts we use in our nursery can often vary. Rather than have a specific set of loose parts, we find and acquire from charity shops, local scrap centres, donations from parents in trade companies, or sourced from nature, such as seasonal items. We make sure to evaluate the play potential of these resources before they are offered to the children to ensure age suitability.

We tend to opt for large open-ended materials and things that are easily transportable for our younger children such as cardboard boxes, foam blocks, tubes and containers. We model lay with the loose parts and engage in play with the children when we introduce a new resource to the children. 

This allows us to see how the children use the resource and if we can provide any extra resources to extend the play of the children.

Loose parts can be fun for everyone, any age


As a setting, the introduction of loose parts for us has taken our practise to another level. The training we have given our team has allowed them to see the potential of loose parts play, although at times this has also been one of our main challenges. 

If we are expecting children to be creative with the loose parts resources they are given, our team also needs to learn how to be creative with loose parts to allow them to extend the learning of the children here at Bright Sparks. This is something we are continually developing in our team to ensure outstanding practice with the use of loose parts.  

We are now at a point in our practice where the children and team can now confidently use loose parts in everyday play, and the benefits for us as a setting have been tremendous.

Here's an idea of how to get started:


1.      Make a record of what you already have on hand.

2.      Create a list of more loose parts you would like to add to your collection. Anything goes, nature, reclaimed, recycled or donated.

3.      Dedicate an area in which you’d like to introduce loose parts play into your setting.

4.      Train your team to see the potential of loose parts play in your early years setting.



This blog will feature in the February edition of our Little Learners magazine, which focuses on loose parts and what natural and open-ended loose parts you will already have available at your fingertips! 

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