Loose Parts for Literacy

We all know the advantages of loose parts for literacy... they're pretty endless really.

Movement, transporting and placement of objects, large and small - the obvious effects on those all-important core muscles, shoulder, elbow pivot, wrist rotations down to finger and fine motor control. Perfect preparation for writing and manipulating mark-making tools.

Particularly favourite creations can have captions added - scribed by the adult or written by the child... whatever they prefer.

Often, there is an incredible amount of planning which goes into these children's creations - whether it is sticking to a clear design, or an evolving creation which builds in narrative as it takes form. Wonderful stories from the children about their intentions, what their creations 'do', how they work or what they're for... sometimes nothing, and that's just fine - the magic of being an observer or facilitator is in seeing the play and thinking processes unfold as the creations develop. More parts and elements are added and thinking is expanded.


Sometimes it's nice to see that in-betweeny bit in action. You know, the magical part where the child moves between representing by moving objects, and representing by adding their own magical marks. The interchange between design and creation.

Over the course of three weeks, we have been inviting design by placing mandala-type provocations.

First starting with our own designs and leaving lines for the children to use if they wish.

As beautiful and interesting little parts started to be left, we began to leave mark-making prompts and hand tools closer, observing the different ways in which these were being used.

“Treating objects as though they were something else is the beginning of that important ability. And being able to use objects symbolically, to stand for something other than what they really are, is related to children’s language progress” (p. 209). Researchers Talbot and Frost also suggested that “when an object or environment is open to many interpretations and uses,” children “hold the power to tell it what it is to be or do” in lieu of being given one “preconceived ‘correct’ way” to view something (cited in Hohmann & Weikart, 1995, p. 111).

We found the results quite lovely and wanted to share... hope you do too.

The more interesting the materials, the more interesting the outcome. As always, being patient and taking the child's lead produces such a wonderful evolvement of learning through play in action.

You can find a selection of interesting loose parts to add to your expanding collection in our shop.

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