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Updated: Jul 9

Loose parts (or tinker trays) are ideal for developing children's creativity. Essentially, they are just that - 'loose parts' - a collection with varied properties that can be used in many different ways. They allow children's imaginations to run wild, with endless opportunities for open-ended play! Ideally, the child will lead the activity whilst you are on hand to help them to develop their problem solving, counting, fine motor skills and more. When children are left to explore, a collection of loose parts might become a face, a dinosaur or a tractor!

To begin with, look around your home/setting, outdoors, in charity shops and at scrap centres for items which you think might be useful for your collection. Anything from buttons to pine cones, corks to twigs, or wooden dolly pegs to feathers are perfect. Alternatively, large items such as plastic guttering, tyres, pallets, planks and poles are ideal for large scale tinkering!

When you have gathered together your collection you'll need something to store it in - a box or a lidded tray with compartments is ideal. This will help to keep the items at their best and protect them from the elements if outside. Now everything is ready for your little explorer!

Over time, you should try to add to your loose parts set. You will start to notice treasures everywhere! Adding to your collection will help to stimulate and engage children in their play and hold their interest.

Remember to take care when introducing loose parts to little ones. Some smaller items may not be suitable for children under 36 months (or older children who put things in their mouths). Adult supervision is always recommended.

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