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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET McLeod 2012). This may be difficult for any of us to grasp, but think of the cur- rent technologies that didn’t exist fifteen years ago: iPods, smartphones, tablet computers, MP3s, nanotechnology. To meet the challenges and opportunities of the future, today’s children must become critical and cre- ative thinkers, intelligent problem solvers, and good com- municators. These skills develop when they tinker with loose parts. Consider children’s play as they engage with commercially made materials found in a child development center such as a vehicle in a block area or plastic food in a dramatic play area. An ambulance or plastic peas remain the same items as intended by the toy manufacturer; no imagination is required. If, however, a child is given drift- wood, he can transform the wood into any vehicle or food he desires: a race car or an airplane, a fire or garbage truck, sushi or spaghetti. In fact, he can use his imagination and critical thinking to have the wood represent anything he wishes. Children’s creativity and problem solving lead to the deeper critical thinking skills they’ll need to succeed as adults (Asbury and Rich 2008). “The divergent thinking of creative children is fluent, flexible, original, and elaborate” (Fox and Schirrmacher 2012, 23). Loose parts encourage diverse thinking, thanks to their open-endedness. (For a wonderful example of childlike creativity, read Antoinette Portis’s Not a Box, whose rabbit hero discovers that a cardboard box can become a rocket ship, a race car, a boat, a robot, and a hot air balloon, among other things.) Loose Parts Support Developmental Domains Developmental literature on the role of play is explicit: play stimulates physical, social-emotional, and cognitive development in children’s early years (Brown 2009; Johnson, Christie, and Wardle 2005; Shonkoff and Phillips 2000; Sluss 2005). Developmental theory emphasizes the need for children to manipulate their environments in order to learn (Piaget 1952; Vygotsky 1967; Dewey 1990). Children build on their existing knowledge, and to do so, they must interact with their environments. Loose parts provide them with many opportunities to handle, build, rebuild, and re-create their ideas and experiences and to grow across all of the developmental domains. 8  chapter 1 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL