Thursday, 20 August 2015

Shopping for Loose Parts.

Our staff team went shopping together after work yesterday.  It was a team building event with a purpose!  We were on a mission to find more "loose part" materials for our infant and toddler rooms.  We all did a bit of research and thinking before we went.  What a hoot we had going around Value Village looking at things and making choices of how to spend our $10.00.  Ten dollars each that is.

Here is the cast of characters.

We met at one end of the store to make our final decisions and count up the cost.

Here is all of our loot.  Kind of looks like a pile of junk in this pic, but we are hoping it is going to provide lots of interesting play and learning to our little ones.

Two brass cups that could be cups, or musical instruments as they produce a lovely chiming sound when tapped together, or maybe they could be used to put things into....

A lovely spider webby (is that a word?) place mat that I think will look nice on the light table or hung in the window or......

A bag full of curtain rod rings for use as a teething ring, for threading, for hanging as there are little hooks, for stacking on a wooden post or.....

An assortment of small bowls and spoons

A wine rack and a piece of ducting.  My co-worker in 3-5's has a wine rack and is going to insert cups into the holes and fill the cups with pencil crayons or markers.  This could also go into the water table to hold pvc pipe or.....

You could thread scarves through the holes

Cardboard containers in different shapes for taking lids off and on and for hiding treasures inside...and what else?

A lovely wooden bowl with an assortment of wooden napkin rings 

A wooden leaf plate

These next items would be considered as open-ended toys which are awesome too!  Still so much room for imaginative play.  I thought these were little crochet chicks but they sort of have turkey tails so whatever they are they could be a fun addition to our story corner or could live on a play mat or....

We never have enough vehicles

Some fun dress-ups to add to our collection

Two small dolls for the infants who are really into putting babies to bed right now.  Going to sleep at daycare is a big part of infants curriculum and that is their play right now.  

Two new books.  One for toddlers and one for the infants.  The infant one is all about baby animals going to bed.  Perfect.

So there you have it.  If you scroll down and read the previous blog post you will understand how this shopping trip came to be.  

We bought a lot of items for our $60 dollars and enjoyed the shared experience.

It is really nice to have a manager that supports the philosophy and value of play materials that we want to provide for the children.  As we move away from more conventional toys it takes time and thought to replace them with unconventional loose part and open-ended materials.  

Stay tuned for another blog post that will document how the children choose to use!  

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Loose Parts - What?

Albert Einstein

Our daycare is located on a University campus.  We have a lot of children of students and/or faculty attending.  Consequently in the summer months the enrolment usually goes down a bit, enabling staff to take much needed vacation breaks.  It also enables staff to get some much needed off the floor tasks done.  Organizing, cleaning and sorting that is much more difficult to do when we are at maximum capacity.  

My co-worker had the idea that we needed to infuse some new "loose parts" into our infant/ toddler rooms and so we were granted $60.00.  She then thought that is might be fun to give each staff member $10 so we could go to the thrift store together and shop for "loose parts" making this a staff building event but also allowing everyone to gain more awareness about what we put out for the children to play with.

It is possible to buy a lot of loose parts for $60.

I already do this regularly and love it!  It's one of my favorite  things to do in fact.  So I agreed with her, of course, and hope that all who participate have as much fun.

What are "loose parts" anyway and what "loose parts" would you buy if given the opportunity? 

Loose parts are by definition materials that have no defined use, that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, taken apart and put back together in multiple ways.  They are materials with no specific set of directions that can be used alone or in combination with other materials.

I believe that children exercise their imaginations the best when given these sorts of materials.  I have also come to realize that although there can be a lot of items on the floor, clean-up time is easier.  It's easier because you can just put the items back on the shelf or table closest to where they land.  You can display them again, intentionally, in different combinations making the toys/materials new and interesting again.  Remember there is no defined use and they can be used in various combinations.

As we will be shopping for items for infants and toddlers thinking about safety issues is important.  Remembering that infants and some toddlers mouth almost everything they play with, we will keep in mind choking hazards, sharp edges, breakable bits, lead paint etc. 

What are some examples of loose parts?

fabric - large as sheets, or small squares of all textures, scarves, doilies, containers with lids, buckets, baskets, crates, boxes, wooden blocks large and small, planks long and short, tree cookies large and small, wooden rings, napkin ring holders, mug trees, kitchen items such as bowls, colanders, measuring cups and spoons, tin cans of all sizes, tiles, cardboard tubes, corks, wooden pegs, lids of all shapes and sizes, shoe laces or lengths of yarn or string,  large gems, old Cd's, keys on a ring, seashells, pine cones, artificial flowers.

The list can go on and on.  It takes an open mind to start thinking about stocking your room with loose parts.  Most of us are used to having bright colored plastic items that have a singular or defined purpose.   It can also take some trial and error as we figure out what works safely in the room.  

 I would like to challenge you to try this out, even if it is only in one corner. 

I will leave you with a few photos of loose parts that my grand-daughter has played with extensively.  These items are not necessarily suited for infants and toddlers although she was able to use small parts at a very young age safely.

Mardi gras necklaces and a muffin tin

A milkshake for me....mardi gras necklaces, large gems on a ping pong paddle

Working with necklaces

Necklaces and wooden coasters

Wooden coasters and gems

Wooden coasters and felted cookies

Playing with fabric

More fabric and a doilie

Felt shapes

Large and small gems

A giraffe - small tiles

Tree blocks

A picnic for the fairies

Classic loose parts - sticks and stones

A combination of open-ended toys and loose parts

An invitation to play - wooden napkin rings, wooden coasters, wooden cups, and necklaces

Another invitation - container with a mirror and drawers, necklaces, paper flowers, and a doilie.

I hope you will accept this invitation to welcome loose parts play into your home or classroom.  

It will definitely revolutionize your child's play experience.