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Muddy Faces

Theory of loose parts

The theory of loose parts is the theory that free play using ad hoc daily materials can be beneficial to a child’s mental and physical health.

The concept of the theory of loose parts has been attributed to architect Simon Nicholson in the 1970s. It has been used in playgrounds in the United Kingdom and other areas in Europe as far back as the post-war era.

(with thanks for this definition to An Everyday Story)

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Theory of loose parts

The original paper by Simon Nicholson, written in the 1970s, for the Open University.

Theory of loose parts

pdf, 1.43 MB

See also

Loose parts guides

Toolkits, guides & manuals for working with loose parts and stimulating loose parts play.

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Loose parts reports & research

Evidence for and reports on the benefits to children of loose parts play.

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Loose parts articles

Articles, blog posts & news items, from the UK & internationally, featuring loose parts and offering tips and suggestions for incorporating them in your setting.

Arranged, as much as possible, in chronological order, most recent at the top

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Child led play

At Muddy Faces we feel it is vitally important to consider a child-led approach when making activities available to your groups.

We asked Jan White, internationally-recognised consultant and speaker for outdoor provision in the early years, to explain.

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Natural Play Principles

The Natural Play Principles* are designed to articulate a child-centred and nature-focused approach called Natural Play. Natural Play enables children’s natural ways of growing, learning and thriving with the help of the natural world.

* developed in collaboration between Jan White (Early Childhood Natural Play), Suzanne Scott (Sandfield Natural Play Centre), Ann Thompson (Naturally Creative and Sandfield Natural Play Centre) and Menna Godfrey (Quackers Playgroup & Natural Play Centre).

Read More about Natural Play Principles

Benefits of den building

Den building supports the development of a number of key skills, as well as being a lot of fun!

Read More about Benefits of den building

In the shop

Classroom-sized bundles of items chosen for their rich play and learning opportunities.

MFK5011 Loose Parts Kit600

Loose Parts Kits

These loose parts kits are an open ended resource, allowing early years and primary school children's creativity to blossom. Loose parts sets offer a wide range of resources to help get your loose parts provision going.

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