The Theory Of Loose Parts

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The Theory Of Loose Parts

The Theory Of Loose Parts refers to a theory, outlined by Simon Nicholson, that first appeared in the October 1971 issue of Architecture Quarterly and was later published by Open University. (See both below).

According to Nicholson

“The theory of loose parts says, quite, simply, the following: ‘In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kinds of variables in it.'”

Simon Nicholson

According to Svane Frode, “Children playing with loose parts are using more creativity and imagination and developing more skill and competence than they would playing with most modern plastic toys. It may take a very open mind on our part (there is often a lot of cleaning up involved as materials end up in places you would never expect them to be) but when children cross play materials and areas in creative ways, it is our responsibility to support and encourage their work and ideas.  “1

Since it’s publication, according to, “Nicholson’s paper has had a profound impact on many childcare professionals, particularly playworkers, early years practitioners and outdoor and environmental educators.”2

Here’s the original article:


And here’s a slightly different version published at a later date:


Finally, here is a free PDF we put together highlighting some key quotes from Nicolson’s article:


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