Loose Parts for Little Ones

reggio montessori treasure sensory basket for babies using natural materials {An Everyday Story} Reggio Emilia: Using Natural Spices in Sensory Treasure BasketsThroughout 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.

Sensory Treasure Basket for Babies: Montessori and Reggio Inspired Using Spices - ScentedLoose Parts for Little Ones


  • Interestingly textured fabrics
    • silk
    • tulle
    • knits
    • hessian
    • different types of ribbon
    • scarves

On the Playroom Shelf - Nature {An Everyday Story}.jpg Nature discovery tray - reggio activities for toddlers - An Everyday Story Montessori Nature Discovery Bakset: Sensory Exploration for Babies

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.

~Nature Toys for Babies

  • Natural materials
    • large pinecones
    • large shells
    • sticks
    • large pieces of pumicestone
    • large seed pods
    • tree blocks
    • large wooden cookies
    • sea sponges
    • driftwood
  • Wood
    • wooden spoons
    • massage tools
    • nail brushes
    • pastry brushes
    • loofar brushes
    • hair brushes
    • dolly pegs
    • curtain rings
    • clothes pegs
  • Metal
    • spoons
    • interestingly textured utensils like whisks, tongs and brushes
    • small sieves
    • potato mashes
    • empty tins
    • muffin tins

#7 Montessori practical life peg practice activity {An Everyday Story}Smell

montessori sensory activities for toddlers dried beans scooping and ladellingSound

Natural Toys for Babies - Discovering Pinecones: Reggio Emilia Natural Toys for Babies - Discovering Driftwood and Shells: Reggio Emilia

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.Β 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.

So what are (or were) your little ones favourite loose parts?

10 Replies to “Loose Parts for Little Ones”

  1. Francesca schroer says:

    This is such a good post, reminding us that our lives can be so simple and so fun. Thanks!

    1. Yes things definitely don’t have to be complicated and in fact, are so much nicer and more authentic when they are simple πŸ™‚

    2. Stephanie Curry says:

      Great ideas. Items so easily accessible…much thanks

  2. Another lovely post, you always bring things I know/should know back to the front of my thought process! I have just started giving my 8 month old treasure baskets which she adores and much prefers these to any other toy. I wondered how you used to go about presenting your materials to your two? Would you always gather similar items together? Any ideas/suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thank you πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Laura. Both my two loved treasure baskets over any other toy too. I think this might have been a real turning point for me when Jack was just a baby; watching him so engaged in a pinecone or a pile of ribbons over some expensive plastic musical toy (which we had been given plenty of).

      I used to make a lot of treasure baskets and I think I probably still do – just a changed a little for their age. I always put them in a lovely inviting basket. Mostly I would choose things that are interesting and will either appeal to their senses or their curiosity in some way; it could be some interesting looking natural material or some interestingly textured materials. And then I would just put the basket on the table or the floor for them to explore.

      At the moment we have a basket full of different electonic parts which Jack loves exploring. He just sits there and pulls out different pieces and examines it over and over. This kind of exploration is definitely our favourite πŸ™‚

  3. Just wanted to say thank you for writing a post dedicate to this – some interesting ideas to try!

  4. Lovely! My daughter is 9 months and my son is 21 months..perfectly timed. πŸ™‚

  5. These are some of our favourite activities too! Pinned and shared!!

  6. Do you have a source to share wher I could get the large pegs? Thanks for the great post!

  7. Hi Kate,
    I have a 4.5 years old who is fascinated by electronic parts, wires, screw drivers etc. I would be very interested to see what’s in Jack’s basket. It would be very helpful inspiration for me.

    Also, how do you deal with the “mess” of cardboard box projects ? My son had been working on building a plane out of cardboard boxes for the past two weeks. He has flattened them, linked them with wires , fitted them with plastic bags filled with water for oxygen masks ! Every afternoon he works on his project. He has two younger brothers, and we all get into space issues and meltdowns. Any suggestions?

Comments are closed.