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Friday, November 1, 2013

Loose parts magic

I've been looking for ways to enhance my students creativity and problem-solving skills in my outdoor-based preschool and kindergarden.  In my research amongst other blogs and educators, the hot way to do just that is through loose parts play.  Having collections of random objects, such as buckets, sticks, kitchen utensils, bowls, balls of different sizes, and planks and rounds of wood can be engineered and imagined into so many different things! 

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.   
 Just a few moments later, they shift their attention to building a tower. 
 They keep adding to it, and it's almost double the height of this child!
The preschoolers decided to use some planks and the picnic table as a makeshift slide. 
 With a little redirection, the used the plank of wood as a ramp for other objects, like this wooden round:
 a ping-pong ball,
 wooden block shapes
and round silver balls.  So much ingenuity!  And focus, too - look at the girl in the racoon mask, raptly watching the whole time.

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