The benefits of using loose parts
Creating a love for learning
We live in a society where the landscape of the job market is forever changing, particularly with continual advances in technology. This means that it is more important than ever that we foster a love for learning from the earliest stages and that we continue to foster this love throughout childhood and beyond. When we talk about a love for learning we are talking about the child’s ability to problem solve, explore, think critically and to try again; this will build resilient learners; learners that are not afraid of failure and learners that want to continue to learn throughout their lives.
Loose parts foster this love for learning because they allow children to follow their own learning journey, they have no predetermined outcome and therefore young children can follow their own interests and try out different things without the need for a right and wrong way to use resources.
Again, when we look at the changing landscape of the job market, lots of manual jobs can be completed by robots. This means that the ability to be creative is an extremely important skill for future job prospects. Loose parts naturally allow for creativity because there is no objective or outcome; children are free to follow any direction they want and to understand that there are endless possibilities.
Impacting on positive wellbeing
Furthermore, this is extremely important for wellbeing, we are currently facing a rise in mental health issues especially in children and teenagers which is down to, in part, a fear of failure and an inability to deal with problems in an effective way. Loose parts, with their endless possibilities and solutions remove this fear and instead promote problem solving and critical thinking.
‘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’ play.’ Daly and Beloglovsky (2014)
Establishing high levels of engagement
When children lead their own learning and can follow their own lines of enquiry they will have high levels of engagement. This is because what they are doing interests them and is relevant to their thoughts and ideas. As adults we know that we are less interested in something we are doing because we have been asked to do it, than something we have freely chosen to do ourselves. Take continued professional development as an example, if you are reading this book because your manager or head teacher has told you to read it then you won’t be as enthusiastic about it as someone who has picked up this book because of the pure enjoyment of learning more about loose parts.
The reason high levels of engagement are so important is because high levels of engagement go hand in hand with high levels of learning. For the same reasons as above, because the learning is relevant to the child and their enquiries.
Leads to lower levels of negative behaviour
The combination of all of the above; that love for learning, the impact on wellbeing and the higher levels of engagement; all lead to lower levels of negative behaviour. This is because there are less constraints on children’s play.
Take story time for example, when we make children sit at the carpet to read a story that has most probably been chosen by one out of the 30 children, half of the children are already disinterested. Then take into account the 10-15 children that struggle to sit still because they aren’t physically ready. Now think about how much time you spend reading the story to the remaining children who are engaged versus the time you spend telling the other children to sit still, to be quiet, to stop licking their hand and so on. In comparison what you could do is spend 15 minutes enjoying the story with the handful of children that are engaged whilst the other children engage in something that interests them, therefore, all children are learning and engaging at the same time.