"Look at what I made....can't I play a little longer?" Those who value the concept of play-based learning joined us to learn about "loose parts". Loose parts are objects or materials that children can move, combine, take apart, control or change in multiple ways while they play. Loose parts are natural or synthetic items that provide endless possibilities with no set of directions. Here are some ideas of loose parts: stones, seashells, boxes, buttons, stumps, rocks, buckets, fabric, sand, seed pods, plastic containers, thread spools, twigs, pine cones, paper towel tubes, yarn, wood, acorns, trays, string, tree cookies, bark, cartons, ribbon, logs, flowers, crates, beads.
In play environments that offer simply fixed play equipment, children have a tendency to take risks (jumping from high places, sliding down the slide backwards) while playing due to the limited choices. When children manipulate their own environment and takes risks, they are less likely to have accidents and get in trouble. Marc Armitage reported a reduction in minor accidents and a general decline in unwanted behavior with the introduction of loose parts in the play area (2009).
Armitage, Mar. 2009. Play Pods in Schools: An Independent Evaluation (2006-2009). United Kingdom: Playpeople.