Old milk crates, used tires, metal coils, kitchen utensils (that have seen better days), cable drums, thingymabobbers, thingymajiggs, and odds and ends, are just a few of the many peculiar items, or “loose parts,” you’ll find in the Loose Parts Play Space used by the Junior Kindergarten students.
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This open-ended, outdoor play space was brought to life by JK teachers, Ms. Louise Kozol, Ms. Shawn Dyer, and Ms. Michelle Ludwig, who saw a need for a more engaging play space that ignited curiosity, communication, risk-taking, and collaboration among JK students.
The Loose Parts Play Space is located behind the Early Learning Centre. It is made up of a mix of dozens of various donated and found items. The items are cleaned and assessed for safety before it enters the play space. As Ms. Kozol explains, when they introduced the new play space over a year ago, they saw an immediate change in behaviour from the students during play.
“They are curious about the items, they work together as a team to flip big items over, they challenge themselves and support each other when they’re climbing the bigger loose part structures, they make potions with leaves, and have tea parties with woodchips, and every single trip to the play space is an adventure,” said Ms. Kozol.
The possibilities of play in this space are open and endless.
“A slide is just a slide, but a wooden stick can be a fishing pole, a wizard’s staff, a snake on the ground, or a bridge for bugs – it’s always exciting to see what the children come up with each day,”
“There is no set way or rules to play with the loose parts. For the children, the items become what they imagine them to be, empowering their natural curiosity and giving way to exploration which is an essential component of their growth and confidence.”
“With conventional metal playgrounds, we saw more children run into the structures, saw more injuries, and they didn’t pay attention to the risks, they just assumed it was safe. With the loose parts, the children know they must be careful with each of the items and they teach themselves and each other about the risks involved.”
‘New’ items are brought in regularly and swapped for other loose parts. Most items are generously donated by family members, teachers, and staff who had items laying around their homes they no longer use. Some items were found in storage spaces around the School or contributed by local construction companies from their worksites. What was once forgotten has become a sea of treasure for the JK students at Meadowridge, fueling their development as inquirers, thinkers, communicators, and risk-takers.
Based on English architect and artist, Simon Nicholson’s Theory of Loose Parts, his teachings assert that loose parts create infinitely more opportunities for creative engagement than static materials and environment.
“A slide is just a slide, but a wooden stick can be a fishing pole, a wizard’s staff, a snake on the ground, or a bridge for bugs – it’s always exciting to see what the children come up with each day,” added Ms. Kozol.
Play is critical to a child’s physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development – and they get to have fun! Here, at Meadowridge, the play spaces are designed with a child-centred approach. Countless hours of research, planning, and design are put into each area of play, ensuring different ages, stages of development, and interests are supported.