Loose parts are the opposite of toys. Toys are designed with specific purposes; loose parts are not. The concept of “loose parts” is understood by children worldwide; any child noticing odds and ends lying about will instinctively pick them up and put them to use. This is because children have active hands and active minds with a gift for seeing possibilities that adults miss.
In open-ended play children themselves decide what to do, how to do it, and what to use. For children who immerse in it, open-ended play evolves in amazing ways. Initially it consists of fluid experimentation. Over time it becomes increasingly purposeful as children start to plan what to act out or invent.
Loose parts can be small as corks or large as drain pipes – healthy imagination finds uses for them all!
P.S. For a fuller discussion of children’s open-ended play, download our free training resource I made a Unicorn.