How to Start a Loose Parts Play Area At Your School?

Do you want to bring in loose parts play to your school but are unsure about how to do it? What do you need? Where do you go to get items for children to play with? What about the mess? Do they need more supervision?

Today, we are going to break this down into a few steps you can take and ways to get everyone on board.

For loose parts play to be successful in a school, all staff need to understand what it is and how it works. Some teachers know a lot about loose parts play, others may not know so much about it. Good ways to educate on the subject is through speaking to people, workshops, and sessions that provide information about what it is and the benefits.

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What about child supervision?

Many schools are worried about the increased supervision of children and loose parts play. There is research available that shows loose parts play does not need to add to supervision levels for teachers. This is because when children are engaged in play, they are too busy playing to worry about making trouble.

How do I choose where the children will play with the loose parts?

Not all areas of your school will be suitable for loose parts play. Loose parts play is messy and it should be. This is how children get creative, through working in teams and learning while playing. However, this doesn’t mean you want items all over the school, and it doesn’t mean you have to have a “messy” school at the end of each day.  We are using the word messy very casually here as mess is relative to the person using the objects someone else finds messy.

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How do we implement loose parts play into our school?

Schools can implement loose parts play in their school differently to another school. For example, children can play with items during first and second break, but they need to be packed up at the end of second break. Or maybe the items are left out all the time. There are solutions for all schools, and you can change and adapt them as you work through what works best.  

What items can your school readily access?

Items that a school or P&C can easily access may already be on the school grounds. Leaves, rocks, sticks and seeds are all great loose play items. Has the school recently had a tree cut down, or limbs? Don’t get them mulched, ask for them to be cut up into smaller parts and stored for the children to play with. Loose parts play doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but the impact that free play has on the children is huge. Nature Play Queensland’s website has a ‘Loose Parts Wish List’ that is a great starting point.

Photo by Allan Mas from Pexels

Let the children know what is expected of them.

Children are generally very good at following instructions, so it is a good idea to clearly state the rules your school would like the children to follow. There might be areas where they don’t want them taking items, it might be around putting items back. Whatever the rules are, make sure everyone understands them.

It is important to remember the first few play sessions might not go how you thought they would. Some children will dive straight into playing, but others may be very hesitant to pick up items and play as they might not have been exposed to this type of play before. Let the children work out what they want to do and it will flow from there.

Remember Start Small

You don’t need to implement loose parts play into the whole school instantly. Start small, with the group of children who you think need it most in your school, then expand from there.

Need help?

We are here for you! We love helping schools work out the logistics of incorporating loose parts play into their school grounds and curriculum. So, if you need some help, contact us to talk about your school and the benefits loose parts play could offer. We are partnered with Nature Play Queensland and offer workshops, speaking, information, and brainstorming sessions with schools to help educate on the positive benefits, implementation and help them work through what they might like to see the kids doing and what they are comfortable with them doing.