After reading our new favorite Diggersaurs book by Michael Whaite, we added dinosaurs to our outdoor dig pit to make the story come to life. In the rhyming story there is a mash-up of dinosaurs and trucks who crunch, scrape, chomp, and rumble through as they work on roads and construction sites.
In our outdoor dig pit we typically always have gravel, construction toys, way to play roads, and large loose parts (cones, ramps, pvc pipes, crates, gutters, wheels). And to make it similar to the book we added some dinosaur figurines.
An area that is often overlooked within outdoor play is integrating loose parts. If you think about it, loose parts play essentially has always been an integral part of outdoor play since nature (rocks, pine cones, sticks, flowers, logs, etc.) provides so many open ended materials.
Open-ended materials on the playground such as gutters, pool noodles, cans, bottles, tires, crates, boxes, buckets, cones, pipes, and more provide children with never ending ways to transform things into whatever they can imagine. They allow the freedom to be messy, make noise, move, tote and construct. When loose parts are added, children can create or change a structure to manipulate it in order to meet their play needs. Complexity holds children’s interest and adds to their development as well as their enjoyment. Therefore outdoor loose parts serve as springboards for play and provide essential elements for intense, child-centered play.
There is endless imaginative play that occurs with outdoor loose parts. When children are role playing by creating a car to drive, building skyscraper cities, construction sites, they are acting out various experiences they may have had or something that is of some interest to them. They are experimenting with decision making on how to behave and are also practicing their social skills. Children learn from experience: from what happens around them, from what they see, hear, smell, taste and touch. To absorb those experiences and make sense of the world, they need to be engaged in play. The small worlds, cars, robots, ramps, spaceships created with loose parts provide limitless imaginative play while building their brains.
Here is the previous post about the importance of outdoor loose parts play that was inspired by a workshop I attended at a past CAEYC conference called Playing It Up: With Loose Parts, Playpods, and Adventure Playgrounds by Joan Almon was the inspiration behind all of this.