Using Creativity and Self-Direction to Play and Learn
This is one of the easiest learning strategies to pull together with the most to offer your child. "Loose-parts-play" or "open-ended play materials" are all about gathering materials that have no real set purpose, no instructions, and no predetermined or desired outcome, and letting your child explore, create, and inspire themselves.
Placing random materials and tools together allows your child to utilize parts of his/her brain that rote and/or passive activities do not; bridging creativity with planning and function. Kids also practice fine motor skills and build resiliency through low stakes trial-and-error. While it is our household's preference to use mostly natural elements, both natural and synthetic materials can be used in loose-parts-play.
If you check out Etsy for loose play materials, you will see a glorious page of inspiring options, which are great buys for birthdays and holidays. However, you don't have to break the bank to obtain a solid stash of lose parts. All you have to do is clean out your junk drawer and grab some things from the yard! Here's a list of some free or inexpensive items to start collecting:
Loose-parts-play can also be extended to outdoor play. In fact, the term "loose-parts-play" originated in Australia in the 1970s by architect Simon Nicholson and primarily addressed outdoor play material. Building outdoor forts, bridges, ramps, and mandalas with larger loose parts allows kids to practice large motor skills and has the added bonus of being outside! To read more information about outdoor loose play ideas, check out, Let The Children Play.
Inside or out, it's time to loosen up and play.