Exploring the Benefits of Natural Loose Parts

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of incorporating natural elements into early childhood education. These loose parts, such as sticks, stones, shells, and branches, all offer children unique opportunities for exploration; creativity; and learning.

With the change in season and the leaves changing colour to brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red, Autumn is the perfect time to collect natural materials and explore loose parts play with your little one.

Incorporating the discovery and selection of these natural materials is also a great way to extend on the experience and helps your little one better connect to nature. For example, Grow Early Education Narre Warren North run a Bush Kindy Program from Monday to Friday, which allows the children to explore and learn about nature, whilst also selecting their own natural materials to use later in the classroom.

At Grow Early Education Kelso, the children celebrated ‘Tell a Fairy Tale Day’ by exploring the fairy tale ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ and then collecting their own natural resources outside to make their very own beanstalk.



Using natural resources within play encourages children to observe more closely and use all their senses. Furthermore, natural materials are open ended materials as they can be used by themselves or with other things.

There are many creative ways in which our Grow Early Education centres incorporate natural material loose parts play into our educational programs. Let's delve into the benefits of integrating these materials into our childcare centres, including providing examples:

1. Encouraging Creativity and Imagination

Natural material loose parts are open-ended materials, meaning they can be used in countless ways according to a child's imagination. A stick, for example, can become a magic wand, a fishing rod, or a sword in the hands of a child. By providing children with these materials, childcare centres encourage them to think creatively and explore the endless possibilities of the world around them.

The Pre Kindy children at Grow Early Education Maroochydore created amazing potions out of natural materials. The children were so creative with their potions and what they were creating.  Using their imaginations, they also created stories around their potion making.


2. Fostering Sensory Development

Engaging with natural materials stimulates children's senses in ways that plastic or synthetic toys cannot. The textures, smells, and sounds of natural loose parts provide rich sensory experiences that contribute to children's overall sensory development. For instance, playing with sand, pebbles, or leaves can enhance tactile sensitivity and fine motor skills.

At Grow Early Education Bushland Beach, the Tiny Tots Classroom used rosemary sprigs from their herb and vegetable gardens instead of a paint brush as they explored their creativity and indulged their senses.



3. Promoting Environmental Awareness

By using natural materials in childcare centres, educators have the opportunity to instil in children a deep appreciation for the natural world. Through hands-on experiences with materials like wood, stones, and shells, children develop a connection to nature and learn to respect and care for the environment. This early exposure lays the foundation for future environmental stewardship.

The children in the Kindergarten Classroom at Grow Early Education Tarneit have used natural resources as a large focus in their learning this year. The children enjoyed using clay, leaves, sticks, bark pinecones and loose parts to construct a range of different sculptures.



4. Supporting Cognitive Development

Manipulating natural loose parts involves problem-solving, decision-making, and spatial reasoning skills. As children engage in activities like building structures with sticks or arranging stones in patterns, they are exercising their cognitive abilities and developing important skills for academic success.

At Grow Early Education Bridgeman Downs, the Kindergarten Classroom used stones to explore name recognition.


5. Facilitating Social Interaction

When children play with natural loose parts, they often collaborate, negotiate, and communicate with their peers. Whether they are building a fort together or sorting leaves by size and shape, these activities promote social interaction and cooperation. Through play, children learn important social skills such as sharing, taking turns, and resolving conflicts.

At Grow Early Education Gunnedah, the children from the Toddler Classroom collaborated as a group to make their own ‘Wombat Stew’.


6. Embracing Risk and Resilience

Playing with natural materials inherently involves an element of risk, as children explore uneven terrain, balance on logs, or climb trees. While ensuring safety is paramount, allowing children to engage in risky play with supervision encourages them to assess and manage their own risks, fostering resilience and self-confidence.

The Junior Kinder Classroom from Grow Early Education Narre Warren North engaged in risky play as part of their Bush Kindy program.  They challenged themselves (while supervised) as they explored their surroundings, including crossing a rope bridge.


7. Connecting with Cultural Heritage

Many natural materials have cultural significance and historical relevance. By incorporating these materials into childcare settings, educators can introduce children to different cultural traditions and practices. For example, using pinecones in art activities may lead to discussions about their use in indigenous cultures for decoration or symbolism.


In conclusion, natural material loose parts offer numerous benefits for children's development and well-being in day care settings. By providing opportunities for creativity, sensory exploration, environmental awareness, cognitive growth, social interaction, risk-taking, and cultural connection, these materials enrich the learning experiences of young children in profound ways.

We have Grow Early Education centres located across Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales and as early childhood professionals, we embrace the beauty and potential of nature to nurture the next generation of curious, compassionate, and resilient individuals.

If you are looking for quality early education and care for your little one, call 1300 934 769 or visit our website www.growearlyeducation.com.au for more information.

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