Tag Archives: Loose parts


Lacing is an activity that the children enjoy and it is great for hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills. I’ve never purchased commercial lacing cards but over the years I’ve made a variety of different ones.  Most cardboard or paper ones don’t last long but they’re cheap and easy to make.

I have some plastic ones that I made from old lids that have lasted for many years and the children don’t seem to mind that they are all yellow circles.  There are some that I made from foam stars and cardboard tubes too.  During my recent sunroom reorganization I found some saved items that I had forgotten about and I decided they might be good for lacing.Intricate detail demonstrates exceptional dexterity even from the youngest child.

But it is more than just developing motor skills – as always there is also some drama

Dancing with the stars
An Electrician doing wiring

Even when they are not particularly interested in lacing they are still engaged – sorting and counting laces and shapes.  Stacking and balancing

an experiment that led to the creation of a wind mill when they discovered that they could blow on the stack and the top piece would spin.

Math and science!

Wonderful initiative that couldn’t have occurred if I had insisted that lacing toys be used ‘correctly’.  So much learning packed into one simple activity.


Twisty Things

A few weeks ago I was browsing at one of my favourite stores – Princess Auto – which carries a unique selection of surplus items.  I don’t go there with anything particular in mind but rather I go to explore – to find interesting items that I can add as loose parts in the play room.

Certainly ‘surplus’ items could be construed as unpopular or ostracized but really it depends on how you look at them.  I tend to peruse the aisles and examine the items that look interesting, unusual, or distinctive.  I try to imagine what the children would do if they found this particular item.  I don’t read the packages until after I have played with the item that way my investigation isn’t influenced by someone else’s interpretation of what the item is intended to be.

On my latest trip to explore I found these ‘twisty things’ – honestly I don’t remember what they were actually called but they were essentially foam wrapped wire meant to be use to gather cords and other loose items on a worksite.  They came in various colors and sizes but I chose the smallest ones because there were four in the package and brown because it’s an earth tone and that’s always my preference.

So, what have the children been doing with these new items?  Well, they’ve been used as drum sticks, magic wands, batons, and of course various weapons which are acceptable as long as they are not used to hurt others.  They’ve been used as leashes, headbands, jewellery and other accessories during dramatic play activities.

I most enjoyed the creativity displayed when the twisty things were used as tools; extended drill bits in both the power and the hand drill, clamps, and interestingly, handles to gather together other loose parts (the manufacturers intended use).

The children have tried to build with them, weaving several of them together to make furniture such as a table, chair or bed – we would need many more twisty things for this to be a successful activity.  Likewise, forming letters has also been popular but there are not enough to complete many words.

As with any loose parts in the hands of children these items are as limitless as their imaginations.


I have far more toys than our play space could contain so I rotate the toys in and out of the room regularly.  I generally don’t tell the children about the changes because the ‘Hey, look what I found’ reactions are one of the highlights of my day.

Certainly it is noticeable when I put away the blocks and put the train set in the basket instead or replace the farm animals with some from the jungle.  However, some of the changes are more subtle – the square I found at the hardware store and placed in the tool belt or the empty container from yesterday’s snack that is now on the shelf in the housekeeping area.

More interesting than the children’s initial reaction is the way the new discovery can change an old game.  Such was the case this week when the children found the new book.  Actually, it is not that new – the weekly planner book was donated by one of the parents and has been sitting on the shelf with the cookbooks and photo album for a couple weeks already but no one had noticed it.

When they did, everything changed.  It is amazing how one small item can have such a major impact on the group.  Cooking and serving food is a popular dramatic play activity here and often involves packing lunches and heading off to school/work – an activity they are all familiar with.

With the addition of the new book there was no “I want it first” or “when is it my turn” like there sometimes is when a new ‘one-of-a-kind’ item is added.  Instead, it was as if the entire group of eight children suddenly had the same idea.  With a ten year difference between the oldest and the youngest this is an amazing occurrence.

The book was the resource that connected all the intricate details of their new restaurant.  Some children quickly donned dress-up clothes and phoned to make dining reservations.  Others began planning the menu and cooking meals.

Along the way there were several imaginary incidents – a broken pipe, a kitchen fire.  A quick change restaurant patron was suddenly a plumber or a firefighter.  They even had an organized escape plan to get everyone out of the restaurant safely!

All I did was add a book and sit back to wait and watch.  The best days are the ones when they don’t really need me at all.