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Loose Parts for babies

Loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. Loose parts can be used alone or combined with other materials.

Some examples are:

  • Cardboard, newspaper and wrapping paper

  • Pine cones, flowers, sticks, leaves and acorns

  • Straws, beads, pom poms, cotton wool

  • Sand, shells, sticks and stones

  • Wooden blocks, rolling pins, and cups

Loose parts are fundamental learning materials in early childhood classrooms.

There are years of evidence on the benefits loose parts play in the development of infants and babies.

Furthermore, given children, including infants, thrive most when their environments are consistent to the ones they spend time learning in, it’s important for parents to provide resources that compliment those found in early childhood settings.

You don’t have to spend money on loud, battery operated, active toys. Your infant will benefit far more from the passive, open ended resources or loose parts, you provide them.

A loose part resource has unlimited play possibilities rather than a single outcome, meaning there is not one specific way to use the item. Where an active toy, such as a plastic musical keyboard is a closed object that has one intent: sound is made as an infant pushes a button. This does not allow the child to explore further limiting their learning and development.

Here are some easy, affordable and really beneficial loose parts ideas suitable for babies:

1. Containers

Containers are great for posting. This means that when a child is interested in putting something into something else and wants to check if it's still in there, they are posting.

This activity helps develop fine motor skills, finger dexterity and hand and eye coordination.

Posting helps your child understand permanence and allows babies to be curious and explorative. You can support them during posting play, by narrating what they are doing such as using words like "in", "out", "open", "closed", "big", "small".

2. Cooking Utensils

These materials can be used for a number of different play learning. Cooking utensils are a great way for babies to discover sound. Hitting spoons and whisks and mallets onto tables or pots and pans, develops a number of skills and abilities such as hand and eye coordination, cognitive skill and emotional intelligence.

Playing "music" with these utensils also helps babies understand cause and effect, which builds their logic and emotional skills.

Using different materials and textured utensils is also great for sensory development. Exposing your baby to metal, wood, rubber and brushes gives them a great opportunity to understand feel and temperature.

3. Sponges

These materials are great for babies because they are light enough to be held and large enough to not cause chocking and textured enough to be interesting.

Sponges are great for many activities such as building and construction. They can be used instead of building blocks which develops coordination, logic and cognitive skills.

The endless ways to use sponges, expands creativity and helps develop a babies confidence and emotional intelligence.

4. Bangles

Enhancing fine motor and cognitive development by playing with bangles will induce curiosity and intrigue, stimulating creativity and cognitive skills in babies.

They're large enough to be safe, but light and open for little hands to manipulate around their wrists and fingers and choose to use it as they wish.

Bangles promote heuristic play, the play that simply allows children to play with real-world objects that are present in the home. The importance of this is to provide children with familiar items that they can explore in several ways without interference from an adult.

5. Wooden Rings

Similarly to the bangles, wooden rings give babies the ability to play with lots of something similar, that has no real specific use. Rings can be used as pretend food, pouring them into a bowl or pot and serving them up as food. The early use of dramatic play is essential for babies to develop their language and emotional skills and role model positive behaviour.


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