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For anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE all loose parts! Do I have a favourite? I really don’t want to pick just one… I have so many!

Let’s start at defining what loose parts are?

For those who may not know what loose parts are let’s start there.

Simon Nicholson, the founder of the idea of Loose Parts in 1971 says:

“As long as materials can be moved, redesigned, put together, and taken apart in a variety of ways, they are classified as loose parts.”

A very basic explanation is loose parts are anything that can be used alone or with something else in a multitude of ways. Our imagination is the only limitation! Think of the toy you give a child as gift… how often are the kids more interested in the box than the expensive gift inside? The box is a LOOSE PART!

I could make a very long list of loose parts I love; PVC pipes, tape, sand, water, logs, tree cookies, thread spools, beads, buttons, makeup sponges, pinecones, sticks, leaves, stones, curlers, string, ribbon, …I could go on and on… (and usually do, just ask my family!)

I Love PVC Pipes!

Is it weird that I proclaim my love of PVC pipes?  I just love this stuff. It comes in black, white, and the best is CLEAR!! What is more fascinating than watching seeds, sand, or water (maybe even coloured water) flowing through the tubes. It can be used inside our outside. It is durable, can be cut into various lengths, and can be found in a variety of diameters as well as lengths.

I first discovered the magical world of PVC pipes when I attended a child care conference in North Dakota in 2018 and had the privilege of attending and meeting Tom Bedard. His observations and reflections of children’s play are inspiring.  Sand and Water Table 

Tom creates some absolutely amazing constructions using many materials but often uses PVC pipes. I have told him that when I smell duct tape I think fondly of him.

My first attempt at using PVC was pretty basic. A couple pieces, some duct tape and golf balls in the water table.

After that I got a little more adventurous. I used smaller PVC with holes drilled in and all duct taped together. I loved listening to the children get so excited about exploring it and all the different ways to move water through it.

Then there is outside! The creativity and imagination along with PVC and a bit of duct tape can move water along in so many ways).

This is more than just what you see… it goes back to the adult/ECE slowing down and just observing. Watch what is happening, what is being said.

How PVC Pipes promote all aspects of children’s learning.

Behind the scenes and before this picture was snapped, there was so many discussions and expressions of thoughts and ideas.  Then there were the negotiations of these ideas and how they would be constructed; who would do what. Then there was problem solving… “Oh no, we have a leak!” “Let’s get the duct tape!” “We need more, it’s still leaking!”

Through just this one scenario children have engaged in practicing social skills, problem solving, and emotional self regulation. They have been using language, effective communication and thinking skills. The building and taping is helping them strengthen their physical skills and strength and coordination.

The importance of Play 

This particular child-initiated experience lasted almost an hour; from the beginning negotiations and going until when they kids started to head home. Several of them actually picked it back up when they arrived the next day. This is just one of the many examples of all the learning that happens when children are involved in play that is chosen by them and directed by them! As the adult I was there to observe and support their needs; they needed more water in the tub so I turned on the water, they needed another person to pump so I stepped in a took a turn. I didn’t offer advice or suggestions, I didn’t tell them what they should do. I supported their ideas by giving them the time and space to do what they needed to do and figure it out for themselves!

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