I’ve mentioned before how much I love bulk trash pick-up in our neighborhood — it’s a time when people pile up large items they no longer want in their front yards near the street and people drive around and load them up before the city trucks come to take them away for good. We have people driving up and down our street all day long sifting through the junk. We also do the same. One year I found a kid’s water table, several chairs, and a big storage basket. This year, I found a kid’s tool bench and a wooden crate I thought would be perfect for some outdoor shelving along our back fence (which we need to replace soon anyway).
I worked to clear and weed the area while the boys were at school and nailed the crate to the fence, then I picked up some extra sand for the sandbox and a big bag of smooth stones of varying sizes, remembering the “loose parts” play I’ve been reading about.
“Loose parts” play refers to an idea by architect Simon Nicholson, who believed that the loose parts in our environment empower creativity. Loose parts are those things that can be moved, carried, transported, combined, redesigned, lined up, taken apart, and put together in various ways. For example, loose parts can be sticks, logs, stones, log “slices,” sand, mud, or dirt if you are sticking with natural materials, but people have also used recyclables such as old tires, boards, ropes, and other items children can do any number of things with. If you’re curious, just use google images to search “loose parts play” and you’ll be fascinated by the wide range of materials that fit this description.
Sand feels good underfoot. Socks not needed!
I was excited to see what Emil would do when he saw the set-up. I had a feeling he would go straight for the stones, and he did! The first thing he did was count off 20 as he tossed them into the sandbox (he is very number-minded right now). He then picked them all out and recounted, just to be sure.
He buried some, then dug them up, then transferred them from container to container, then loaded up the wheelbarrow with them. He played for an hour while I made dinner inside and his brothers jumped on the trampoline. I think he was very pleased to have his own space!
When he called me outside, I found that he had set the table. He said he had been working hard making pizzas and hot chocolate with marshmallows and would I like to join him for dinner? Of course, I said yes.
It was such a good reminder that all the toys and crap we think our kids need to play nicely on their own is baloney. He wanted to play pizza-maker, so he found a way to use the loose parts to play the game. Imagination is a beautiful thing.
I can’t wait to add more to this area — I’m thinking of a pile of various-sized sticks and some two-by-four boards. Oh, if you decide to do this, expect a mess. I fully embrace that there will be sand, white stones, and whatever else all over our yard. It’s only a few years that they get to play this way. We have the rest of our lives to make beautiful grown-up spaces! For now, I’ll embrace what makes my kids happy and healthy.