The more flexible and varied a child’s environment is, the more opportunities they have for creating, inventing and pursuing their own curiosity and interests through play. The benefits of movable loose parts were highlighted by landscape architect Simon Nicholson (1971): “In any environment, the degree of creativity and inventiveness is directly proportional to the number of variables in it”.

Professor Fraser Brown explores this notion further in his theory of Compound Flexibility (2003). The more flexible and varied play environments are the more flexibility this encourages in children, which creates a positive cycle of innovation and creativity. To be able to use varied resources in new ways, children need to be able to feel in control of their play.

Varied play resources

Our play leaders have a range of play approaches to support understanding of play and to develop play resources. We work with communities to identify overlooked or underused places, spaces and even people in order to develop play. Simple everyday materials are key to our approach. We might explore sensory or messy play with water, bubbles, paint, clay or playdough. We also use treasure baskets, bags and boxes (loose parts play) for babies and young children, and can support families and practitioners to play with songs, stories and rhymes, rhythm and music, making use of recycled materials and everyday objects. We use larger loose parts material such as tyres, crates, planks, guttering and rope to support outdoor play and to respond to the elements (wind, rain snow and ice).