I have to admit, I've used loose parts in the past. I would meticulousely arrange them into little stations before the children arrived with my pre-determined ways that the children would use the objects. There might be a music station, with an arrangement of buckets, bowls and utensils for banging, a building station with sticks, and a rolling station with balls of various sizes and halved PVC pipes. But the children had little attention to give the parts and would wander between stations, and often resort to playing tag games.
So I decided to change my tune. I put out only one or two collections of loose parts materials, along with an art or craft project, to welcome the children as they arrived. I also made clear that any of the materials at the side of the barn were available. To my surprise, the ways that the children used the materials skyrocketed! Here, two children making a delicious concoction in the "kitchen."
Meanwhile, another two arrange wooden rounds and planks into their own obstacle course.