Loose Parts Play in the Backyard

Over the past week, I have posted a number of photos of Alex and Frankie playing with loose parts on our social media pages.   The weather is starting to warm up, so I wanted to have a few new items in the back yard that the kids could play with.   I always find that if our backyard has places to explore, things to jump on and climb over, items that are movable then both our kids are really happy to be out there playing, some days they just spend all day outside in their imagination.

I love loose parts, probably as much or even more than the kids and over the past year, our small collection has grown in size.   It’s exciting to stand back and see how they interact with them and what they create.  I love seeing how determined they can be to learn how to physically do something such as balancing and climbing.

Alex spent a good length of time working out how to balance the wheel.


Once you start your loose part collection it can get quite addictive, everywhere you go you will be on the lookout for open-ended items that your children can create with.   If you are an actively creative person, it’s a little bit like collecting supplies for your creative kit.   You can never have enough pretty papers, stamps, art pens, pencils, fabric etc.   Most artists and creative people have cupboards and drawers and even rooms dedicated to their supplies.

What is a Loose Part?

Loose Parts are everyday objects that can be found at home, the end product of something such as a wooden cord reel, natural items, boxes and containers that something was packed in.  It’s really just using your imagination and seeing beyond what the item is.   Sometimes just giving your children something that you are about to throw away or recycle can be a good way to see what works and what doesn’t.

Our small backyard collection


Why have loose parts?

Loose parts don’t have a set of instructions, loose parts don’t just do one thing, they can be connected or combined with something else to create something new.  For example a toy Paw Patrol vehicle is always just that I toy Paw Patrol vehicle, however a block or a stick can be a Paw Patrol vehicle or it can be a Car or a Boat, it then can be connected to another stick to make a fishing rod or a sword, or could be connected to a dozen sticks to make a fort or a hut.

In this post, I will list a few items that we use at home in our own backyard.  The bonus of these is items is they don’t cost anything and most can be recycled or reused.

Wooden Cord Reel: Last week we were given a large wooden reel.  If you can get your hands on one of these I personally think they are a must have for any outside loose part collection. I am sure everyone has memories of using these when they were a kid.   Alex was super excited when he saw it.  I could see his brain ticking over with all the ideas that this cord reel was going to be used for.  Since these reels are made from untreated wood they do need to be painted or stained so they don’t rot.

These loose parts were made into a pirate ship.

Cardboard Tubes and Plastic Pipes:    We have had a number of cardboard tubes over the past year, we collected ours from a Curtain shop, but anywhere that uses and sells fabric will have these and most places are happy to give them away.   The great thing with cardboard is that once they are past their use by date you can pop them out to be recycled.   I would love to get ahold of some old plastic tubes or down pipes, I think these would be great to create water runs in the summer, to float home made boats or plastic balls.

The reel and tube were made into a tank.

Wood Rounds and Stumps:  Alex loves wooden stumps at the moment, we have ones that he can easily move around.   Alex loves to jump from one to another and we have played games where there is hot lava and we can’t fall off otherwise we will be burnt to a crisp.  We move the distance between the stumps to make it a bit more challenging each time we go around the circuit.

Frankie gaining confidence  walking across the platform

Wooden Off Cuts and Planks:  We seem to always have odd pieces of wood in the garage from my husband building something, we pulled them out, check for nails and then the kids would use them for ramps and building.

Other items you could add to your collection:

  • Old tyres
  • Kindling sticks
  • Driftwood in different sizes from large pieces to sticks
  • Large rocks and stones
  • Fabric (for making huts and secret hideouts)
  • Containers
  • Natural items, leaves, and flowers,
  • Wooden saw horses
  • Crates

These are just some ideas that you can use at home, you are only limited by your imagination.

Do you have loose parts at home or at your Kindergarten or Daycare?  I would love to know what items you use.

Becks 😀


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