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At a recent conference, I was challenged to reflect more deeply about the kinds of materials we provide for children to learn and play with in the ELC. We have always welcomed boxes and other recyclable materials to use for learning and making, in addition to those purchased from catalogues and education and art suppliers. As we continue to embed and explore sustainable practices, we wondered about the short life of a cereal box, that with the help of masking or sticky tape, becomes a car, rocket, house or another imagined object but still makes its way to the bin a few days later. Could there be another way?

Loose parts is a term used to describe objects and materials that can be used in open-ended ways. They can be arranged, grouped, joined, moved, ordered, patterned, placed, put together, pulled apart or stacked. They provide opportunities for curiosity, creativity and innovation, problem solving, representing knowledge and understanding, collaboration and conversation, all of which are important life skills. They are often free, no longer required materials, perhaps even offcuts that can become our treasure. Children imagine possibilities and see the potential in materials in ways that we as adults don’t.

The ELC Team have considered how and where we source materials from and explored ways in which they can be used more sustainably, fostering a deeper understanding about the possibilities for materials. The creation of a loose parts space for collecting and displaying has been established and quickly becomes a place of exploration and wondering.

We invite you to visit the emerging work with both natural and manufactured loose parts and if possible, share any clean, interesting loose parts that you might have in your home or work space.

Sheryle Yorston
Head of Early Years