Tabletop Loose Parts – Creative Activity For Kids

loose parts no time for flash cards

If you aren’t familiar with the idea of loose parts it’s the idea that giving kids groups of loose parts ( branches, logs, rocks etc..) they can create their outdoor play space instead of being limited by the playground designer’s imagination . I absolutely adore this and at our church playground that doubles as a Waldorf school playground they have been engaging in this for years.  Just as I was reading more about this the very same day I came into my son’s preschool class and they’d done a huge class project with loose parts as well. Seeing how much my son adored it I knew we have to get some for the playroom. This is a fun variation for those of you with no yard, lots of rainy days and small spaces. For a  more colorful take with different materials check out this post by The Imagination Tree .

  1. Gather your materials. We got these bins at the dollar store and gathered the materials over a few weeks. We have some cardboard, empty ribbon spools, corks, glass beads, card board tubes, rocks, cupcake liners, popscicle sticks and shells.Loose Parts
  2. I present the parts and that’s it. This is in NO way adult directed. It’s completely open .
  3. My son started with corks earth friendly play for kids who he told me were guards for a secret temple.
  4. We’ve done this a handful of times and he always seems to have a lot of symmetry in his creations. I find it fascinating because I have a deep desire to make everything symmetrical.
  5. We usually leave the creation up for a few days and he adds to it , changes things around and generally it’s rather dynamic. This one we did in the playroom for the photos ( way better light) but we usually do it in the dining room with a taller table so my daughter can’t get at it and it’s small parts. What’s nice though is you can use whatever loose bits you have so if you want to do this with a younger child just use whatever is safe for them. I will often just grab the toilet rolls while i am cooking at sit my daughter on the floor and she builds with them.

There is so much learning going on in this activity I seriously get giddy watching my son think. Creativity, balance, fine motor, imaginative thinking…  all with things we had around the house and a few dollar store bins . Not bad. When it’s not being played with I stack the bins and pop them under the bathroom sink.



  1. says

    My boys love this type of play. I haven’t thought of the idea to have them build with TP rolls, great idea. I totally hear you when you say “you get giddy watching your son think”, so do I! It is the best.
    Thank you for this post. It just reminds me to gather what we already have and enjoy!

  2. says

    This is a great post and it reminds me to gather what we already have and enjoy!
    We love to play this way, I just haven’t set things out like this in a while and I love your idea of building with TP rolls. Brilliant.
    I totally hear you when you say, “you get giddy watching your son think”, so do I! This activity absolutely makes me as happy as my boys :)

  3. Wendy says

    We are not allowed to use toilet paper rolls but I use paper towel rolls. We also go or a walk and collect leaves, gumnuts, pine cones and we also use recycled corks in our crafts. Much more educational in my mind than circle times with flash cards etc.

  4. says

    Hello – This is my first visit to your site and I really enjoyed reading about your exploration into tabletop loose parts. I love the idea of children using the materials in this dynamic way. We have a similar child-collected table of “beautiful stuff” and the children mainly use them to make sculptures using our low temp glue guns. We have 3 years old who are able to create assemblages that they are able to instantly glue together using the guns.

    • admin says

      I need to get a low temp glue gun, that sounds like such a wonderful exercise in creativity and the novelty of a glue gun would be huge.


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