Tinker trays and loose parts
Loose parts are exactly that, they are simply interesting bits and pieces that are not connected to each other. Loose parts are brilliant for learning during the early years but are also great fun for older kids too and even adults can get enjoyment from them.
Loose parts can be presented in many ways but a popular one is in the form of a tinker tray which is an idea taken from the wonderful Reggio Emilia method of teaching. A tinker tray is basically a box with compartments and each section is filled with loose parts that children can 'tinker' or play with.
Tinker trays offer endless opportunities for open ended play, hands on learning and child led learning. As young children pick up and move the small pieces around they develop their fine motor skills which are essential for learning to write at a later stage.
Tinker trays encourage creativity, stretch imagination and develop story telling skills. As children play and choose which pieces to use they develop decision making and problem solving skills along with independent learning. As the items will usually be made from different materials and have a variety of textures loose parts offer a great sensory experience too. They are also useful for sorting, counting and comparing activities.
Loose parts and tinker trays can be centred around a theme for example 'Winter' or 'the jungle' or they can just be random items. They can have a colour theme or be made up of a rainbow of colours.
Loose parts are a great addition to children's learning resources because the items can be used for a variety of themes and purposes and can be easily used with other materials for example with play dough, in a sand tray or with water.
They can be used to create mandalas, portraits and transient art using place mats, old frames or just a table.
If you want to use your tinker tray without any additions you simply, leave it out where your child will see it, once seen it will spark interest and your child will naturally want to see what is inside. The items will be touched, looked at and moved around depending on how they engage your child and the ways the pieces are used will be different every time.
You will very likely have many items at home that you could use to create a tinker tray or loose parts collection, think of that draw with odds and ends stuffed inside, or if you're a crafter your button or bead box will be a tinker tray making gold mine!
If you would rather buy a ready made set we have a variety available in our shop and remember, as we are a social enterprise any purchase you make will not only give joy to the children you care for but will enable us to provide free workshops and materials to many others too.