Tinkering With Loose Parts


” In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it”  -Simon Nochoidon, Architect

It is easy to notice the abundance of “loose parts’ in our classroom.  From plastic animals to pennies to seashells, these tiny treasures are essential to our daily learning, inquiry and investigation.  As suggested in the quote above, an environment that supports creativity must include an ever-changing array or loose parts. Here are some of the ways we use loose parts in our classroom:

The children work with loose parts in the math center, sorting, classifying, counting and graphing.


Loose parts at the light table encourage language, storytelling, conversation and design work.


The fact that loose parts can be configured in many different ways allows children to experiment with different designs and modes of expression.  The impermanence of the work lends to it’s flexibility, helping the children better understand the fluidity of their ideas.


Loose parts invite children to tinker, manipulate, play and design.

Andy Goldsworthy Investigation

Loose parts encourage children to think creatively and flexibly and provide endless opportunities for work and play in the classroom and beyond.

Wonderings about Light

Light is an element that is naturally fascinating to children. As they explore materials and experiment with placement, children are creating ever-changing murals and learning many principals in the process.


Which items are transparent and which are opaque? What can we learn about objects by examining their silhouettes?


How does projected light change the size of our designs?


What designs can we make with sand and light? How does this material change our experience with making marks?


Light is considered a guiding teaching strategy in Reggio-inspired learning environments as explained by the following quote:

“The teachers prepare the environment to allow light into the room, to flood light from underneath and through objects on the light table, to create shadows on the floor and the wall with an overhead projector. This emphasis comes from a deep understanding of how light calls our attention to changes in color, form, and motion, to personal perspective, and to a ubiquitous and integrative source that brings disparate objects into eloquent relations” (Edwards, Gandini & Forman, Hundred Languages of Children, 3rd Edition, p. 374).