Throughout our 30 Days to Transform Your Play series I got so many wonderful emails sharing different stories and asking questions. One question which popped up a lot was how to create opportunities for babies and toddlers to explore loose parts.
Babies and young toddlers (those still at the mouthing stage) can absolutely play with loose parts; they will play with them differently to preschoolers but will still enjoy them none the less.
I think the most important thing to remember is that babies and toddlers explore with their senses; they taste things and manipulate things with their hands. When you are thinking about what kinds of loose parts to offer your little ones, think about things which will appeal to their senses and can be mouthed safely.
I remember when I co-ordinated a Reggio-inspired playgroup for a short while, I created a large basket for the children to explore. Each material in the basket was carefully chosen for its potential to stimulate the senses. The little ones all gathered round; deeply engaged, as they tasted, mouthed, squeezed, smelled and touched. Little ones love loose parts.
Loose Parts for Little Ones
- Interestingly textured fabrics
- different types of ribbon
Nature truly does give children the most wonderful toys. Each one is unique. Each one smells differently, feels differently; has a different texture, temperature and weight. Each one is a different colour and a myriad of colours within each piece. They move differently when you roll them or throw them and make different sounds when you hold them tightly in your hand, or no sound at all.
- Natural materials
- large pinecones
- large shells
- large pieces of pumicestone
- large seed pods
- tree blocks
- large wooden cookies
- sea sponges
- wooden spoons
- massage tools
- nail brushes
- pastry brushes
- loofar brushes
- hair brushes
- dolly pegs
- curtain rings
- clothes pegs
- interestingly textured utensils like whisks, tongs and brushes
- small sieves
- potato mashes
- empty tins
- muffin tins
- small draw string bags filled with different beautifully smelling spices
- plastic herb containers filled with spices
- dried flower buds
- fresh flowers
- baby food jars filled with coloured rice
- bells tied to ribbon
- seed pods
- small cymbals
- dried beans dropped into metal or glass jars
These were some of Sarah’s favourite loose parts. She didn’t actually have too many toys when was a baby; preferring instead to play with all manner of wonderful loose materials.
I used to have them on the shelves in the playroom for her to explore in her own time. Since she was so little, Sarah was always within arms reach and so I wasn’t too worried that she would choke on something.
Loose parts are so much more appealing to little people than typical plastic toys (including those ghastly music do-all plastic toys). Each material has its own unique texture, smell, colour and taste. Plus they are often either free (natural materials) or easily gathered together from around the home.