This year we decided to increase our time outside on the playground. With this change we decided to enhance our outdoor learning center to allow for similar learning opportunities outside as we had inside. One new addition to our playground, that we are very excited about, is the “Loose Parts Station.”
The Loose Parts Station is a center that sparks imagination, innovation and creativity as the children play. The goal is to offer a variety of diverse natural and synthetic materials for children to create with. The play should be open ended so children can use their own ideas as they explore a rotating series of materials. They can combine, line up, take apart, build and rebuild in countless ways.
This station touches on all areas of development. As children move, experiment with, and manipulate the materials they are developing their fine motor and critical thinking skills. They are practicing social and language skills as they share ideas with each other and work cooperatively to create their projects.
In the short time we have been in school children have used the loose parts station in a variety of ways. Children have made a variety of structures and buildings. One child made a tunnel filled with lava and created an incredible story around what he created. Another child made a series of islands with many small details. Our teachers have also done some building challenges at the station, such as making rocket ships or vehicles from the wooden spools, colored stones, wooden figures and corks.
The area is not only for building. One child decided to sort the rainbow stones by color. Other children noticed what he was doing and joined in. Next the children decided to sort some of the other items in the area. First, they sorted the other colorful items. Then they noticed the wooden people were different sizes and sorted those as well. Originally, they were sorted by small, medium and big. When they realized there were more than three sizes they had to come up with a new category of very small. Working together in this manner not only developed their math skills but once again drew on their language and cooperation skills. Children have revisited this activity multiple times over the past few months, adapting and changing it as their skills grow and ideas expand.
We are excited to see what the loose parts station has in store for us through the winter and spring!