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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Children use loose parts to acquire, organize, and apply learning. By physi- cally manipulating loose parts, they learn about the objects and the relationships between them while developing problem-solving skills. Beginning levels of criti- cal thinking, like remembering and understanding, are enhanced when children recall when and where they have seen sand, discover what can be done with it, and understand that dry and wet sand have different properties. When children add to their knowledge of sand by pouring water on it to make it more mold- able, they advance to a higher level of critical thinking involving abstraction. As they describe sand and their experiences with it, their language skills develop. When they can understand more and less sand and can count shells in the sand, the concept of number becomes real to them. Classification starts to become meaningful when children organize shells into like groups. Spatial relationships are supported when children sit or stand while digging in and moving around mounds of sand. Representations of ideas become embodied when they make a sand castle and surround it with a moat. Problem-solving skills come into play whenever children experiment with loose parts. Sunana, Patrick, and Maddie picked up a six-foot-long wooden plank. Sunana and Patrick lifted from one side and Maddie from the other. They shuffled along a concrete path bordered by a foot-high retaining wall until they came to a halt where the path bent to the left; they were unable to maneuver the turn with their long plank. They reversed their steps and tried again and again. Sunana suggested that they grasp the board from below and hold it up high. This strategy wasn’t successful. At last, Maddie moved to the same side of the board as the other two children. Whether her move was intended to solve the problem or not, it worked. The children could now navigate the turn. A loose part had led them to solve a complex spatial problem. 12 chapter 1 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL