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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Nothing gives children a greater sense of power than being in control of the materials they’re using. Because loose parts are open-ended, children can make choices and decisions about how to use them—and learning to choose well is part of social-emotional development. On a chilly November morning, we watched a group of children gather around a heaped pile of dirt in the play yard left behind by contrac- tors building a new patio. Our first inclination was to remove the dirt, but as we watched the children, we realized the play potential of that mound. The dirt hill was a loose part. The children added their own materials of sticks to dig, acorns to bury, and card- board for sliding. It still beckons children today to play King of the Hill, unearth their own buried trea- sures, dig to China, and slide down the hill on their bottoms and cardboard—all play activities that bestow power. Children feel productive when they accomplish something, when their work is valued, and when they do not feel a sense of failure. When they’re engaged in a project, time doesn’t matter. Working with loose parts teaches them that their work has merit. Jasmine and Gracie stumbled across fairy dust outside the art room door one day, and that’s when their quest to build a fairy house began. Convinced that the glitter in the sand had been left by frolicking fairies, the girls decided to create a magical dwelling for them. They spent days enthusiastically discussing what fairies needed in a home. They drew up plans, collected materi- als, sawed wood, and constructed the house. They painted wallpaper with a light, lacy design, added walnut shell beds, and left ribbons so the fairies could dance. And each evening, the fairies sprinkled the house with fairy dust as proof of their pleasure in their new home. The teachers supported Jasmine and Gracie’s work by giving the girls space, time, and materials to pursue their endeavor. The teach- ers’ actions showed that they valued the girls’ work. Cognitive Development This concerns how children learn rather than what they learn. It includes critical thinking, language, concept of number, classification, spatial relationships, rep- resentations of experiences and ideas, and solving problems. According to Jean Piaget, children construct their own knowledge out of their direct experiences (Piaget 1973). loose parts  11 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL