Encouraging children to use their imaginations and creativity can come from a variety of resources! Many of our school agers are comic book fans. And while comics have been given a bad rap by parents for as long as they have been around, there are many Literary (with a capital L) experts who now agree that there is some literary merit to be found between their thin covers. We, at Care-a-lot, know that many of our own reluctant readers will pick up a book if it has the endorsement of a comic book character.
We also know that children will often choose simple things to play with over fancy toys. You may have experienced this when you are sure your child will be so excited about the latest gizmo and instead they want to play with the box it came in! Knowing this, we try to stock a variety of small manipulatives in the classrooms for play. There is even a philosophy among child-play experts and playscape designers called the Theory of Loose Parts, which advocates for the inclusion of these small manipulatives in children’s play and learning environments. It is believed that loose parts in children’s environments empowers creativity!
So what are loose parts? Loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. They are materials with no specific set of directions that can be used alone or in combination with other materials.
Here you can see pictures of our school-agers who have combined their imaginations and the loose parts found in the Lego basket to create DC and Marvel comic book characters. There are intricate Lego sets available that have more life-like characters. While those intricate sets could challenge the fine motor skills of many adults, they are designed in such a way that there is only one correct way to assemble them.
The loose parts and simple cubes found in traditional Lego sets not only stimulate fine motor development but also encourage creativity and imagination. They develop problem solving skills and encourage open ended learning. For example, children experiment in how to balance the female characters with their pony tails and how to depict The Dash in motion using simple cubes. When given the right tools our young friends are able to come up with some very clever solutions and a lot of pride in their own original creations!