Now that our school has some amount of outdoor space, I have become obsessed with how we are going to prepare the outdoor environment.
The more I observe the children at play , the more I am convinced that a natural playscape is the way to go.
I once read about the theory of loose parts and it stuck with me – the more loose parts there are for children to manipulate and move, the more inventive and creative is their play.
Simon Nicholson first offered the theory of loose parts in children’s play when he wrote in 1971, “In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity and the possibilities of discovery are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it.”
…. and nature is the supreme mother of loose parts ….
Anyone who has accompanied a child into nature knows the endless hours they can spend with fallen twigs and leaves, small stones, big rocks, mushy soil, dry gravel, seed pods, ants, spiders, dappled sunlight through the leaves …
Infact, even a tree or two is enough.
At our school the falling leaves of the badam tree have become purses, wings, belts, collars, hairbands, homes of fairies, necklaces, plates, spoons and cups. Their veins have become brooms. The fruit of the tree has become paint. Their tiny flowers have become rain.
To quote White and Stoeklin:
“It is unfortunate that children can’t design their outdoor play environments. Research on children’s preferences shows that if children had the design skills to do so, their creations would be completely different from the areas called playgrounds that most adults design for them.
Outdoor spaces designed by children would not only be fully naturalized with plants, trees, flowers, water, dirt, sand, mud, animals and insects, but also would be rich with a wide variety of play opportunities of every imaginable type. If children could design their outdoor play spaces, they would be rich, developmentally appropriate learning environments where children would want to stay all day”.