AN ALPHABET OF LOOSE PARTS:
"In early childhood education settings, loose parts mean alluring, beautiful, found objects & materials that children can move, manipulate, control, and change while they play." Learn more about Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children.
"Materials do have a little present inside of them! When you get used to one material a bit, BAM, you find out a little surprise. They don’t only want to make you want to make a story, they make their own story sometimes & tell you." —Amelia, Age 6
Using the alphabet as your guide, gather a collection of treasures with your child. Add your own unique finds to the starter list below. What objects can you find around the house, yard, or in the recycling bin? What odd toy pieces might you upcycle into something new?
THE ABC'S OF STORY MATERIALS:
A: Acorns, Anise Stars, Animal Figurines, Aquarium Kelp, Agate Slices
B: Beans, Bottle Caps/Tabs, Buttons, Blocks, Bowls, Bamboo, Blankets, Bark, Bubble Wrap, Burlap, Beads, Biscuit Tins
C: Cardboard, Clay, Clothespins, Corks, Coral, Curtain Rings, Cogs, Coconut Shells, Chiffon, Corn Husks, Cinnamon Sticks
D: Dirt, Driftwood, Doilies, Dough, Dress-Up Clothes, Dowels, Doorknobs, Dryer Balls, Dried Flowers, Dominos
E: Egg Cartons, Elastic, Erasers, Eye Hooks, Embroidery Thread, Empty Cassette Tapes, Envelopes
F: Feathers, Flowers, Felt, Funnels, Food Cartons, Flashlights, Fabric Strips, Film Canisters, Freezer Paper
G: Gems, Glass Jars, Gutters, Golf Tees, Granite Scraps, Gourds, Gears, Glitter, Gravel, Googly Eyes
H: Hair rollers, Herbs, Hangers, Hickory Nuts, Hay, Hole Punch, Handwhisk, Highlighters
I: Ice, India Ink, Infusers, Index Cards, Ice Cream Tub
J: Jam Jars, Jewelry Pieces, Jug, Juice Cartons
K: Keys, Kitchenware, Kinetic Sand
L: Leaves, Lumber Scraps, Light Box/Table, License Plates, Lollipop Sticks, Lace, Locks, Lipstick Containers, Labels, Lentils
M: Mud, Mirrors, Musical Instruments, Moss, Magnets, Marbles, Mortar & Pestle, Mesh, Marker Caps, Mosaic Pieces
N: Newspaper, Nylon Stockings, Nuts & Bolts, Nutmeg, Neon Flagging Tape, Noodles
O: Old Gadgets, Overhead Projector, Outlet Covers
P: Paper, Paint, PVC Pipes, Pinecones, Plastic Crates, Pebbles, Peach Pits, Prisms, Pulleys, Packing Peanuts, Petals, Pompoms, Pipe Cleaners, Puzzle Pieces, Pots & Pans, Popcorn Kernels, Packaging
Q: Q-Tips, Quilt Scraps, Quills, Queen Chess Piece, Quarter
R: Rocks, Rice, Ropes, Ribbon, Rubber Bands, Rhinestones, Raffia Strips, Rolling Pin, Rulers, Rags, Railroad Tracks
S: Sand, Soil, Shells, String, Straws, Sponges, Spray Bottles, Slate, Seedpods, Scarves, Springs, Screws, Styrofoam, Sea Glass, Sticks, Shaving Cream, Sequins
T: Tree Cookies, Tissue Paper, Twigs, Tires, Thimbles, Thread Spools, Tiles, Twine, Twist Ties, Tape, Tarp, Textiles, Tinfoil
U: Utensils, Unicorn Figurines, Urchin Shell, Upcycled Items
V: Velcro, Vent Tubing, Vegetables, Vases, Vending Cups, Vinyl Scraps
W: Wire, Water, Wood Pegs, Walnut Halves, Washers, Wheels, Wrapping Paper Tubes, Whiteboard, Wallpaper Scraps
X: X-Rays, "X Marks the Spot" on Old Maps
Y: Yarn, Yogurt Cups, Yellow Pages
Z: Zip Ties, Zippers, Zigzag Patterns, Zines
Discovering Story through Loose Parts Play: Now that you've harvested a collection of materials from A—Z, invite your child to explore, build, construct, experiment, tinker, modify, calculate, measure, invent & consider.
Organize the Materials:
• Find a pleasing, useful way to sort materials.
• Consider categorizing by color, texture, size, or type.
Define a Space for Storytelling:
• Find an open place on the floor or lawn.
• Clear a spot on the table.
• Use a piece of felt.
Invite Your Child to PLAY:
From time to time, ask about what's happening with the materials. Reference what your child constructed. Respond emotionally with surprise, laughter, joy, etc. Encourage more language through your questions:
• What are you thinking about while playing?
• What's your story?
• Tell me more! I'm so curious about this. That reminds me of...
Valentine's Day Edition!
• What does love look like, feel like, sound like?
• What "love stories" can you tell through materials?
• Which parts would you select to represent love, and why?
• What does the heart shape mean to you?
• What others shapes do you associate with love?
Capture the Moment:
• Consider writing down your child's story.
• Invite your child to write down their story.
• Repeat what you heard, or read the story back to your child.
• Take a photo, or have your child take a photo, to remember their creation.
BOOKS ABOUT STORIES:
Enjoy these Pages with ALL AGES!
We recommend the following picture books and the relationships they support between you, children, ideas, and the world. Each child will respond in different ways—and that’s the fun part!
A book you read to your three-year-old will transform when seen through the eyes of that same child at age ten. Your questions and conversations will evolve. The connections will be fresh.
Questions for Curious Bookworms:
These books both inspire storytelling and invite you to talk about the power of story with children. Explore the conversation-starting question listed under each title with your child! Ask more questions with no "right" answers. Ask questions even if you aren’t sure your child will have a response.
Be open to surprise.
Play with ideas.
Lucky Song by Vera B. Williams
The song a little girl hears describes her kite-flying adventure.
*For Curious Bookworms: What story would be your lucky song?
Bear Has A Story to Tell by Philip Christian Stead
Bear, with the help of his animal friends, remembers the story he had hoped to tell before the onset of winter.
*For Curious Bookworms: Where you do you think stories come from?
When Sophie Gets Angry--really, Really Angry by Molly Bang
A young girl is upset & doesn't know how to manage anger.
*For Curious Bookworms: Tell me about a time you felt "really, Really Angry." How does it feel to share that story?
I Am A Story by Dan Yaccarino
Discover how stories have been told through the ages in different ways.
*For Curious Bookworms: Why do people tell stories?
Planting Stories by Anika Denise
The Life of Librarian & Storyteller Pura Belpré
*For Curious Bookworms: What if we didn’t have stories? What would the world be like?
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
An immigrant from Venezuela realizes he's not the only one who feels like an outsider.
*For Curious Bookworms: What story would you tell on the first day of school?
Honey, I Love by Eloise Greenfield
A young girl expresses what she loves about life.
*For Curious Bookworms: What things do you love most? How do you feel when you tell me about them & when I listen?
The Remember Balloons by Jessie Oliveros (Picture Book)
A 2019 Schneider Family Award Honor Book that gently explains memory loss associated with aging and Alzheimer’s.
*For Curious Bookworms: How do stories help us remember?
The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds
Jerome enjoys collecting and using words he hears, reads, or sees.
*For Curious Bookworms: What is your favorite word? Why?
A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers
A boy & a girl enjoy a whimsical journey together in the imaginative world of books.
*For Curious Bookworms: How can stories take you to places you can’t go in person? How does imagination work?
Tomás & the Library Lady by Pat Mora
While helping his family in their work as migrant laborers far from their home, Tomás finds a new world to explore in books.
*For Curious Bookworms: What if we couldn't tell our stories?
CAREGIVER RESOURCES: LOOSE PARTS PLAY
BOOKS FOR ADULTS:
Beautiful Stuff! Learning with Found Materials
by Cathy Weisman Topal & Lella Gandini
Discover, collect, experiment, and think with found “stuff.”
Beautiful Stuff from Nature | More Learning with Found Materials
by Cathy Weisman Topal & Lella Gandini
Explorations of natural & found materials. Enjoy a video with the author HERE.
“The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations & the richer their experiences.” —Loris Malaguzzi
Loose Parts Play Series by Miriam Beloglovsky & Lisa Daly
1: Inspiring Play in Young Children: Play & learn with natural or synthetic, found or upcycled materials.
2: Inspiring Play With Infants & Toddlers: Support infants in recognizing the power of their bodies & actions.
3: Inspiring Culturally Sustainable Environments: Explore identity through environments.
4: Inspiring 21st Century Learning: Explore the skills needed for success in more than just education.
*Article on the Loose Parts Play Series: Inspiring Play in Young Children
Learning Through Play: Documenting Through Play (Video)
LEGO Foundation: (1 min, 45 sec)
Children in Kenya work with loose parts as teachers observe & document playful learning.