We have spent a lot of the last week chatting to children and educators about loose parts play. Until recently, loose parts play and the supporting pedagogy was thought of as being something for the younger years. But, it is becoming more common to see loose parts play across all levels of the primary school.
There are real benefits to loose parts play, from developing team work to supporting social skills and more.
“When children interact with loose parts, they enter a world of “what if” that promotes the type of thinking that leads to problem solving and theoretical reasoning. Loose parts enhance children’s ability to think imaginatively and see solutions, and they bring a sense of adventure and excitement to children’s play”.
(Dale and Beloglovsky)
Sometimes though, there is a school of thinking that if children are presented with the correct materials, the magic will naturally happen. Experience has shown me that as children get older they start forgetting about that inquisitive side and can be less creative. They forgot being the child who enjoyed playing with the box more than the gift it contained.
Professor E. Paul Torrance developed a “test” to help measure a person’s creativity back in the 1950’s. This test is still used and results widely reflected upon today. What is shows is that children are becoming less creative. This is linked to a wide range of reasons, but is concerning. At 5 year old 98% of 5 year olds are classed as being genius creators, this dropping to just 30% of 10 year olds. (Ted Talk below)
This means, the primary 7 class taken outside are more likely to be inhibited and shy away from loose parts play than their younger counterparts. Yet creativity is key for problem solving, a key skill in life.
As teachers, we would not give children counters and expect them to learn to count or a microscope and expect them to find cells. But often, we give children loose parts and expect magic to happen.
So, how can we approach it?
The first quote has a key word, interaction. Teacher’s need to ensure they interact. This can happen indoors before you even get to the loose parts. Can you explore the great inventors and how they created.
Once out, reassure the children that the key thing here is play. There is no expectations (except maybe team work and communication) and children are encouraged to share parts between groups.
You might even take the younger children out to help teach the older children how to approach loose parts.
Setting challenges can help. Who can make the longest continuous marble run? Who can make the tallest structure? Through setting challenges, children can explore and in time, will start to set their own challenges and truly begin to play.
Let us know how you approach loose parts play with older children to help inspire others!