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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Origin of Loose Parts For generations, children have used found materials in their play, from rocks and sticks to tin cans and wire. In his article “How NOT to Cheat Children: The Theory of Loose Parts,” the British architect Simon Nicholson coined the term loose parts to describe open-ended materials that can be used and manipulated in many ways (1971). Nicholson saw people of every age as potentially creative. Environments, he believed, offer many ways for children to interact with vari- ables such as gravity, sounds, chemical reactions, concepts, words, and people. For Nicholson, the richness of an environment depended on the opportunities it provided for making connections: “In any environment,” he wrote, “both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it” (30). Take, for example, a beach: it is filled with loose parts—rocks, shells, beach glass, plants, feathers. When children play in such a setting, they can move around, making use of any or all of the found objects, devising spaces and struc- tures that can entertain them for hours. This is not only fun but also instrumental in helping them develop higher levels of critical thinking and creativity. When an environment is rich in loose parts, children are likely to discover multiple ways to manipulate them and new ways of thinking or processing the knowledge learned by playing with the materials. Children can use flat tree cookies to serve as a sturdy base for a tall tower, stepping stones to lead them safely across an imaginary river filled with hungry alligators, a steering wheel for their race car, or a lily pad to shelter frogs. They become more creative and flexible in their thinking while satisfying their ever- growing curiosity and love for learning. loose parts  5 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL