Inexpensive & Beautiful Materials for Loose Parts Play
Updated: Aug 15
Are you looking for ideas for loose parts play items that don't cost a lot? Here are some of our favourites ...
There are so many options when it comes to loose parts play for children and most don't cost lots. Read on to find out about some less expensive materials that are perfect for loose parts play and invitations.
*Important for Safety: Many of the loose parts listed here are small parts. They should only be used with adult supervision with children aged 3+ as they can be a choking hazard. Please always supervise the use of small parts.
Some of our favourite inexpensive small
loose parts play items:
These glass stones, in a range of colours, can be found in craft shops, or at Bunnings. They are a fantastic loose part for invitations to play and create. With many possibilities for play, including small world, loose part creations, water play, sensory play and so much more.
These blue larger transparent pebbles were an inexpensive find at a local discount store. These types of stores have lots of fantastic options for loose parts that don't cost a lot. Just make sure that what you buy is suitable for the age of the child you are using them with (e.g. no small parts for children under 3).
Another inexpensive loose part that is lots of fun for in play invitations and for craft projects are sequins. These ones are from Clever Patch and as you can see above can be used on the light panel as an invitation to create.
Loose Parts From Nature
These leaf outlines are part of the Mindfulness Mats for Kids, which you can read about here. They are a free download for our email list subscribers. We have printed out an A4 and A3 sized leaf to use with real leaves from the garden and glass gemstones. Subscribe at the bottom of this blog post to download and print to play now.
Items that can be collected in the garden or outside in nature make fantastic loose parts.
Some of these may include:
Shells & Pinecones
This was an easy invitation to play with plain coloured playdough, shells and pine cones. Our pine cones were collected on a nature walk and the shells I bought in a jar from Educating Kids.
Both girls loved this invitation and played for a long time, creating and making prints. They ended up using the playdough and shells to make food in their play kitchen. A simple invitation, that led to lots of play.
Pom poms are another fantastic loose part with so many possibilities for play! Add them into a sensory play tray like these two trays below for fun creating. Pom poms also go really well in the play kitchen for making pretend food and pom pom coffees.
Add pom poms to water for some fun sensory play, or add in for some creative play while crafting.
This is another inexpensive loose parts option that can be used in many ways, for sensory play, with playdough .... there are many possibilities.
The rainbow chickpeas in the photo below were made by dying a couple of packets of chickpeas with food colouring and water and then drying them on low heat in the oven. I used the recipe for making these from @where_learning_meets_play on Instagram. The colours came out looking very vibrant! These will last for ages when stored in an airtight container after play.
These chickpeas below were coloured using Crayola metallic paints. They make great loose parts for using with playdough as shown below. They can be used to decorate or make creations.
Download these free printable number leaves 1-30 pictured above here in this blog post. They are a free subscriber download.
There are so many possibilities for using beads for play. They make a great item in a sensory play tray and are fun with playdough. They are also wonderful for working on fine motor skills by using them for threading onto string or pipe cleaners. We used beads for decorating playdough cookies (pictured below).
If you want some more playdough ideas, check out this post: Play-filled Fun with Playdough.
Feathers are fun to use with playdough or for art and craft activities. They can also be a fun loose part to use for imaginative play .
Buttons are another fantastic loose part for children. They are great for sorting, counting, creating art and using in play for many different purposes. We like to use our buttons for playdough play and even for pretend cooking in the play kitchen.
These buttons were from Officeworks and only cost a couple of dollars for a bag. We have a couple of bags of them.
Gemstones, crystals and mini cubes
These are such pretty loose parts that can invite all kinds of play and learning.
They could be used for:
building with blocks
This is an invitation to play using the gemstones and playdough.
These one pictured were from Pickwick and Sprout and are called:
Counting gems ($12.99 for pack of 50)
Mini cubes ($12.99 for pack of 100).
Mini Gems (10 for $6.99 the largest gemstones pictured).
Smaller loose parts like these gemstones are also great for developing fine motor skills, as they require skill to be able to pick them up and manipulate them.
Picking them up and squishing them into the playdough here is a fantastic way to develop hand muscles and eye-hand coordination while being creative in some child led play.
Reusable ice-cubes are another fun to use loose part with many options for stacking, using with playdough, imaginative play or even water play! They can be found online or sometimes in a discount store, which is where we got ours.
Rainbow Loose Parts Jars
These pretty rainbow jars started off as a baby play toy. Now they are used as loose parts jars for pretend play e.g. cooking in the play kitchen, for small world props or for decorating playdough.
We used a range of things we had around the house to fill our jars such as:
Small wooden pieces
Plastic greenery etc.
These jars are really easy to make using what you already have.
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Ways to store small loose parts for play
Storage that is clear allows the loose parts to not only look pretty, but be easily found for play. We use clear containers for these reasons. They look beautiful on display when not being used and are easy to pack away and find when needed. Our containers and jars are plastic as they are safer for the girls to use than glass.
We use a variety of containers to store our loose parts and use bowls and trays when we are ready to play to display the loose parts in an inviting way.
Here is a list of some of the storage that we use:
Trays - used for displaying in an inviting way for an invitation to play. This flower sorting tray is from Modern Teaching Aids.
Mini candy jars - plastic from Kmart Australia found in the party section. These are the perfect size for storing little loose parts.
Round plastic storage containers from Kmart Australia in the kitchen section.
Bamboo lid containers from Kmart Australia from the kitchen section.
Baskets - These look very inviting!
Display on a pegboard or on shelves when not being used
These are just a few ideas. There are lots of different ways to store small loose parts depending on your needs and budget. Recycling containers, jars and boxes is another way to find storage, while being more environmentally friendly.
Let me know in the comments below how you like to store your loose parts collection.
Free Download: Inexpensive Loose Parts Resource List
For quick and easy reference I have created a free printable loose parts resource list for you to download and print.
There is space in each box for you to add your own ideas too, as I am sure you have lots of other great loose parts suggestions too!
Click to download your copy of 'Inexpensive loose parts resource list"
If you like this free printable make sure to subscribe to the email list below to access the VIP Free Playful Library to download and print more free resources to support your child's play and learning.
Loose Parts Play
There are so many options for different loose parts to use for play and learning with your child and/or students. There are many more loose parts that I could have added to this list.
I hope you found some inspiration that you can use with your child to inspire their play.
I think it it nice to look at some options that don't cost a lot, as sometimes with social media it is easy to get caught up into thinking that loose parts must be expensive and new to be valuable
What are some of your favourite loose parts to use? Were some of them mentioned above? Let me know in the comments or over on Instagram @our.playful.learning.journey
Until next time, have fun learning in playful way!
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