Loose Parts Play


A ‘loose parts’ toy, is open-ended; children may use it in many ways and combine with other loose-parts through imagination and creativity.  

Nature, which excites all the senses, remains the richest source of loose parts.
Richard Louv, Author 

Our Loose Parts leaflet is aimed at parents, carers, big sisters, wee brothers ….  anyone with an interest in play!

Play Scotland Loose Parts Leaflet – downloadable pdf






Loose parts play poster – downloadable pdf






“Cheap items like crates and buckets encourage children to be more active and creative then expensive play equipment, researchers have found.  The findings are the result of a long-term study into the play difference of primary school children with access to different playgrounds.  Introducing simple, everyday objects can cut sedentary behaviour by half, improve creativity and boost social and problem-solving skills”
Science Daily


We have listed below some ideas for loose parts:

Nature loose parts

  • Acorns
  • Bamboo
  • Earth
  • Feathers
  • Leaves
  • Mud
  • Pinecones, pebbles
  • Sand, shell, sticks, stones
  • Tree stumps, twigs

Creative and Messy Play

  • Beads, bottle tops
  • Cardboard boxes, cotton wool, corks
  • Glass stones, glue, googly eyes, glitter, greeting cards
  • Paint and brushes, pipe cleaners, pom poms
  • Sponges
  • Wrapping paper
  • Yoghurt pots


  • Baking trays, bottle tops
  • CDs, cooking utensils
  • Muffin tins
  • Spoons

Household Items

  • Basin, basket, blankets, buckets
  • Cardboard, clothes pegs
  • Foam sponges
  • Ice cube trays
  • Lampshades, lego
  • Magnets
  • Potato masher, pillows
  • Sheets, sieve, shoe polish tin
  • Trays
  • Vinyl records
  • Washing up brush and empty bottle


  • Building blocks
  • Curtain rings, crates
  • Dolly pegs, drift wood
  • Pastry brush
  • Rolling pin
  • Spoons, sticks
  • Twigs, tree stump

Building Materials – find these in your local DIY store
Also check out the bargain bins!

  • Cable ties
  • Guttering, gravel
  • Hammer and nails, hose
  • Milk crates
  • Paint brush, planks of wood
  • Sand
  • Tarpaulin, tyres (most garages will give you tyres free of charge, ensure these are clean and all metal removed)
  • Washers

Loose parts can also be used to stimulate the senses example:

Sound – use an empty glass or plastic bottle with lid, and add in: small stones / dried pasta / rice / buttons / pulses etc.  Screw lid back on and you have your own noise maker.

You could make one for each item to see what different sound each one makes.

Touch – use a zip lock bag and add in hair gel or conditioner.  Then add in small beads / glitter.  Zip lock the bag and feel the items move around.

Smell – Get small draw string bags and add in for example: fresh lavender / fresh herbs / fresh flowers.

“When children interact with loose parts, they enter a world of “what if” that promotes the type of  thinking that leads to problem solving and theoretical reasoning.  Loose parts enhance children’s ability to think imaginatively and see solutions, and they bring a sense of adventure and excitement to children’s play”.
(Dale and Beloglovsky)

Loose Parts Play – A Toolkit

The aim of the toolkit is that more children will have access to loose parts play and that adults in the play, early years and education sectors will feel more comfortable and confident about introducing loose parts play within their settings

Loose Parts Play A Toolkit pdf