In early learning settings, Loose Parts are “Loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. Loose parts can be used alone or combined with other materials. There is no set of specific directions for materials that are considered loose parts. The child is the direction.” 1
The term Loose Parts comes from Simon Nicholson’s 1971 Theory Of Loose Parts.
According to Nicholson, loose parts are variables, and in his eyes, the, “definition goes beyond open-ended materials to include phenomena such as music, gravity, and playing with words, concepts and ideas and much more. This is considerably broader than natural, junk and recycled materials. We need to be mindful of the breadth of possibilities.”2
A Community Playthings article explains, “Loose parts possess infinite play possibilities. They offer multiple rather than single outcomes: no specific set of directions accompanies them; no single result is inevitable. Unlike a jigsaw puzzle, whose pieces are meant to be fitted together in a specific way to make a single picture, loose parts can be joined in many ways. A scarf, for example, can become a blanket to swaddle a baby, a platform for a picnic, a fishing pond, a cover for a fort, or a veil covering the face of a bride.”3
There’s a lot of useful information about loose parts in this document from inspiringscotland.org.uk:Loose-Parts-Play-web