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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Loose Parts Are Developmentally Inclusive Children of all ages, abilities, skill levels, and genders can use loose parts suc- cessfully. Because there’s no right or wrong way to work with them, all children can achieve competence, build on existing strengths, and feel successful and independent. Because loose parts are so open-ended, they can support play for children of every cultural background, class, ability, and gender—but only if you choose them wisely. As a teacher, you’re responsible for selecting materials that do not promote stereotypes. Here’s an example: when we were writing this book, we carefully considered every loose part we hoped to include in it. We did not include boxes with commercial advertising on them because introducing a Cheerios box to the dramatic play area might be hard on a child whose family could not afford to buy brand-name cereal. We also wanted to be thoughtful about not using items in possibly disrespectful ways with symbolic meaning in specific cultures. For example, we discussed using chopsticks as building materials but decided not to because we wanted to respect chopsticks’ role as valued eating tools in some Asian cultures. As an ECE teacher, you want to celebrate diversity and promote equality in your classroom. One way to do that is to choose loose parts that reflect and honor diversity and that don’t stereotype. Loose Parts Promote a Wide Range of Play Early childhood education teachers know that children learn through self- directed play. This kind of play is complex, pleasurable, self-motivated, imagi- native, spontaneous, creative, and happily free of adult-imposed goals and out- comes. Children determine and control the content of this play, following their own instincts, ideas, and interests (Playwork Principles Scrutiny Group 2005). Loose parts engage children in play involving their entire selves. Sara Smilansky proposed that functional, constructive, and dramatic play categories represent a continuum of children’s increasing cognitive abilities; how children use play materials can be used to assess their development (1968). loose parts 13 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL