I love watching children play. Last weekend I had a field day when my nieces were staying over and the three girls set about creating a loose parts small world with any toy that caught their eye. It was gorgeous to watch and a whole lot of fun to join in.
Keep scrolling to see what they made of it and get some great tips on how to encourage imaginative play in children.
Top Tip for Enabling Loose Parts Small World Play
As the girls (age 6, 6 and 8) set to work creating their small world with loose parts sourced from toy (and craft!) baskets all over the house, it made me realize what an amazing gift it is to be able to jump into your own fantasy world just like that. Not everyone can do that. Most adults struggle but there are also a number of kids who find imaginative play quite challenging.
I figured out that there are probably a number of things you can do to set the scene just so, making small world play (or imaginative play in general) a lot easier.
1. Have open ended toys. We often opt for the basics: blocks, figurines, animals, vehicles, …
2. Have them available. We have our toys in baskets, ready to play and easy to tidy up.
3. Have a limited amount. We rotate what is in the baskets, too many toys overwhelm. See point 1: stick to the basics.
5. Have a couple of gems or handmade toys. With gems I mean treasures you might have picked up from a garage sale or literally crystals or mini treasure chests. Handmade toys are very special to children as they were often a meaningful gift or an activity they did with you and helped made themselves. (For example these little felt purses or mini sleeping bags.)
6. Have an inviting place to play.
And for the little ones who need an extra bit of encouragement: set up an invitation to play, invite a friend over to play or join in yourself to get them started.
Introducing the Girls’ Loose Parts Small World
Let me quickly talk you through this amazing small world the girls created.
They started out building with Magna Tiles (which, by the way, if you’ve never heard of you should really google!) and once their house was built, they added Playmobil. There was a scramble to get the most Magna Tiles and the favourite Playmobil parts but as loving cousins, they figured it out. Then they added loose parts and added and added. They found Safari Mini Lucky Charms, fabric scraps, blocks, buttons, rocks, seashells, glass gems, craft supplies, … The more the merrier. And this is I think the funnest part: listening in and watching them create. As they discuss ways to ever expand their homes they get more creative: “I need this. What could I use?” and they start going through kitchen drawers and anything else within reach. It’s absolutely fabulous!
This kind of out of the box thinking and problem solving is really setting them up for life. It comes so naturally to most kids, all we need to do is help them hold on to it!
The Magic of Loose Parts Small Worlds
These simple guidelines above might just be the thing to get your children into a loose parts small world state of mind this winter. As the days are getting shorter and colder, nothing beats a cosy afternoon of play time in your jammies in front of the fire. I have such warm memories of those moments myself that I would love to pass on to my children.
And as I discussed a few of my favourite topics today being small world play and loose parts, you might want to know I’ve written a whole bunch of articles about them and shared some great easy play ideas. You can find everything about small world play here and everything about loose parts play here.
Thanks for your time and enjoy!
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