The January edition of the CCEI newsletter focuses on ways to introduce loose parts into your learning environment. These open-ended materials provide countless developmental and learning opportunities – once the children get used to using them. Have you ever known a child who needed to have the directions to create something out of Legos? Have you ever heard a child ask you how they should draw a tree or ask you to make a person out of playdough for them? Of course, all children are different, some are more creative than others. However, in some cases, children come to us with a need to expand their creativity and build confidence in their own skills. Loose parts can help with this!
After introducing new loose parts, you may notice that children use the materials in very ordinary ways. They may line up and stack the materials or sort them into piles (very important skills, by the way). As an adult educator and conference goer, I have witnessed this first hand in sessions I have facilitated and attended as a participant with other adults. In the first few minutes with a new material, even adults revert to these simple forms of play. But given ample time, I have noticed adults testing out materials, seeing what they can do, how they can be used, how they work with other materials. I have watched the expressions on adult’s faces change from, “Is this what I am supposed to be doing?” to “I love what I just created!” In other words, the expressions changed from worry to joy and contentment.
For this reason, it is encouraged to allow children ample, uninterrupted time to explore loose parts. Observe children carefully, watching for signs that they are excited about their work. They may not be using the materials in the way that you had intended, but as long as they are being safe, let the exploration continue. Let the creativity flow. Let children know when they use materials in ways that you had not thought of. Help children build the confidence to be creative and use materials in new and exciting ways.