Loose Parts – The benefits of unstructured play and open-ended resources.

As a parent or educator, you have no doubt heard about the importance of ‘free play’, ‘loose parts’ and ‘open-ended resources’. But what do these terms really mean and why are they so important?

“Giving meaning to loose parts requires us to think about the possibilities of how a child learns and consider the materials and environments she uses. Loose parts create endless possibilities and invite creativity. For example, if a child picks up a rock and starts to play, most likely that rock can become anything the child wants it to be. Imagination, creativity, curiosity, desire, and need are the motivation of loose parts.

Loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. Loose parts can be used alone or combined with other materials. There is no set of specific directions for materials that are considered loose parts. The child is the direction.”

When setting up your learning environment, consider how the child will interact and engage with the materials and resources around him/her. Do the resources you have provided allow the child to freely explore their own interests, urges and curiosities, or do they limit and restrict the child’s play?

collage 1

Loose parts or open-ended resources create opportunities for learning and open up a world of discovery. The importance of these resources lies in the children’s interest and engagement. There are no rules or expectations with this form of play, and no ‘right or wrong’ way, making it free flowing, relaxed and natural. This invites more in-depth inquiry and active exploration, as children do not feel under pressure to perform or ‘get it right’.

Another fantastic thing about loose parts is that they are suitable for all ages.  “Children will manipulate and use them in different ways according to their own specific ages and stages of development – they can also use them in different ways day after day!”

Finally, these resources are cheap and easy to collect – making them perfect for setting up a quality learning environment on a budget! You can pick up little treasures from op-shops, as well as collecting natural resources, and keeping recycled materials, such as washed out yoghurt pots, empty plastic containers and cardboard tubes.

Above all else, HAVE FUN!

Written by Jess Shepard

Granny THE SUPER Nanny!

What is a Granny Nanny?
A Granny Nanny is an older nanny who is an active senior with the ‘get up and drive’ needed to support a busy family. They have usually raised their own family and could be enjoying their next generation of grandies. There are lots of benefits of being a Granny Nanny, especially for children who have grandparents who have passed on.

Grandma And Granddaughter In Kitchen

Let’s take a look…
A Granny Nanny role is the perfect role for someone who has retired from work but is still wanting to give back to their community. It means they are available at busy times when families really need the extra help, times like: weekends, after school, mornings and special occasions or even on a more regular basis.

It’s common in this busy paced society for both parents to be working, so having a ‘grandparent’ in the house can be invaluable all family members.

“These days traditional families are separated by distance, time and lack of understanding between generations, but programmes that bring children and older adults together could change the whole of society’s outlook” – Catrin Hedd Jones.
Children are the future, Granny Nannies can offer wisdom, knowledge and their experiences to pass down through stories. What child doesn’t love being propped up and listening to a “back in my day story”? If you’re interested and excited about a topic or story, children will naturally be excited with you and eager to listen to your experiences.

Grandmother with granddaughter drawing together

Interactions with youth allow older people to relate to another generation, while learning about what is on trend, new technology and current topical issues. Granny Nannies can be great role models for young children as they are able to invest undivided, quality time in them. This shows children that they are valued and that their thoughts are worthy and meaningful of someone’s time.

There are so many fun and simple learning experiences that you can do with children, while creating memories that they will treasure forever. Such as:

  • Arts & crafts (scrap booking, collage, photos)
  • Baking & cooking (traditional family secret recipes)
  • Local outings (park, library, museum etc)

Children and older mature nannies have such a beautiful natural way of interacting. You often see it at the supermarket or in local community areas like the parks. Watching children totally empowered as they show their elders how things work or how they are able to do something – it is just beautiful! The relationship between both generations is something magical. There is an unhurried and gentle pace about them together – for children we know that this is an optimal learning environment.

So what are you waiting for? Become a Rockmybaby Super Nanny today and make the difference!

Written By Kaya Brophy 

The Environment as the Third Teacher

The environment, also known as the third teacher, plays such a vital role in children’s learning and development. What and how we choose to set up the environment will set the tone, inspiration and creation for a child’s day.

When setting up the environment it’s important to think about
– what are the current interests?
– what open ended resources could I put out to foster imagination and creation? (no set purpose to the resources)
– is this an environment that I would want to play in? (I encourage you to sit on the floor, pretending to be a child’s level. What can you see? Is it inviting and beautiful?)
– are there enough resources for all children (resources don’t have to cost anything.. think natural)

“The physical environment is not a backdrop to the curriculum but rather is a part of the curriculum” – Anne Stonehouse. With this quote being said, the environment needs to be attractive to literally attract children to engage. Setting up should be a thoughtful process and one that can involve children. Ask them to help you set up for the day, or what they would like out. They will always tell you or show you.

When we set up environments that are purposely created we are telling children that we value their learning. We can do this on a more semi-permanent way by simply hanging their art work. This can be such an easy, simple task which is so empowering for children. Setting up twine and natural pegs is a really easy and inexpensive way to display art and keep pieces current.
It is also important that children are given choices in their play, including whether they want to play on their own or within a group. Space is key to children’s learning and development. They need space to explore resources and be creative – who knows where their imaginations will take them.

Keep your environment well stocked, clean and ‘fresh’. Once you begin working up a collection of resources you can create a rotating system. Rotate out a basket of resources for something stored in the cupboard. This keeps your resources ‘fresh’ and exciting, in saying this, if the interest and passion for something is still very much alive, then leave the resources for as long as possible.

Get parents and your community involved, invite their thoughts and suggestions.
Have a go at setting up something new, exciting and different, stand back and watch what learning takes place. Stand by ready to support where needed but ultimately let the children do what children do best, learn through play!

Written By Kaya BrophyRockmybaby Visiting Teacher