I see lots of posts on education discussion groups asking “Where do you keep your loose parts?” Or “What does your loose parts area look like?” In my classroom, I don’t have any specific area designated for “loose parts.” Loose parts are just another type of classroom material, which children are free to use where and how they want. However, I do put some on shelves in intentional ways, with the purpose of sparking the child to think “What can I do with this?”
I set up a small table near the door to have some interesting materials, not necessarily as a provocation to play, but an invitation to come in the door. Entering the classroom in the morning and separating from parents and caregivers can be the most stressful part of a child’s day. Having material to explore as soon as you walk in the door can ease the transition.
I also have a shelf close to the door, but not too far away from tables, with loose parts, containers, and other materials, ready for children who want to explore but might not want to be right in the midst of the play area with other children.
Sometimes the children choose to play with the materials right where they are.
Sometimes they take them to tables or other areas of the room.
The magic of this space isn’t about what the children will do in this area, or even with particular objects, but what ideas will be sparked, and where they will lead.