Our Everyday Play: Loose Parts for Creative & Imaginative Play

Matchsticks and story stones

I am a big fan of open ended toys, toys that allow a child to respond in a myriad of spontaneous, unstructured ways. Fortunately these resources don’t have to be expensive. In fact, a collection of everyday bits and bobs can provide preschoolers with hours of creative and imaginative play.

open ended play

A Fairy Birthday Party ~ Part 1

And I guarantee you, a child who has free and regular access to these types of ‘toys’ will adapt them within their play in ways your adult mind would never imagine.

open ended play

A Fairy Birthday Party ~ Part 2

Can you spot the sparkly party decorations hanging in the party above? They are sticky tape and large sequins which Immy needed a little help to assemble but it was all her idea.

Taking it outdoors. An invitation to the fairies to come and play in our garden.

Creative and divergent thinking and problem solving are important skills of the future and ‘teaching’ children these skills can easily begin with the ‘lesson’ that it is okay to use materials in new ways and in different spaces . It frustrates me, especially in educational settings, when children are denied the opportunity to play with resources in new ways just because. “No Tom, we do not take the blocks into the home corner.” If Tom is playing purposefully with the blocks, why should he not use them in the home corner? Especially if he has been made aware of the expectation that when he is finished he will put the blocks back so that the other members of his class know where to find them to use in their own play.

Stepping stones, a feather maze and a shell jumping game all feature in this arrangement


Our collection of bits and bobs varies over time, depending upon what I may have found in the discount stores and what we may have recently recruited for art projects.

You might like to try;

  • Sparkly things – large sequins, shiny fairy stones, large beads
  • Buttons
  • Popsticks and matchsticks
  • Pretend flowers and leaves
  • Stones
  • Shells
  • Feathers
  • Small tiles
  • Cotton reels
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Old CDs
  • Small sticks
  • Gum nuts or seed pods
  • Coloured lids
  • Dolly pegs

By keeping our supplies in clear, plastic containers, it is easy for Immy to find what she needs and to pack them away when finished so they can be used over and over again. Keep as few or as many containers of bits out as you feel your child (and your sanity) can manage.  It can be a good idea to just start with one or two components, adding to them over time as your child becomes familiar with packing them away.


We keep most of our bits and bobs with the collage materials in the drawers of our art space. Immy brings out containers as she needs them and uses them on the mat area in front the shelves that house her imaginary play resources.

With her tree house, wooden blocks, tree blocks, figurines (animals, dinosaurs, fairies and princesses) and coloured scarves also in the space, creative and imaginary play are never far away!

Do you encourage your children to use materials in new and different ways?

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  1. What a great post outlining some simple necessities for anytime explorative play! :) Love your blog and am now following! :) Please come say hi at Just For Daisy next time you sit down with a cuppa! x

  2. I feel so inspired! What’s great collection of versatile objects or “toys”! And the organization makes even better!

  3. I cannot even tell you HOW incredible I think this is. This is REAL play, creating REAL experiences and building infinite stories in your child’s head. Your child will have such rich and varied stories to draw from when she begins to read and write. Magical, inspiring, rich, and IMPORTANT – that’s what this is!

  4. Where did you get those glass story stones from? Were they a recent purchase? I have been trying to find some intermittently for a few months now with no luck. I use them at school for play scenes and would like to have some for home too. Any suggestion of where to find some?

    Something we did over the holidays was to get some air dry clay, roll it into balls, flatten them slightly and then press objects or toys into them to create impressions. Some were failures but we ended up with a few goodies that are now part of R’s play on a shelf in her room. So cheap and easy with plenty of clay left for future adventures!

  5. This is my first time to this site – and it is great! I am def adding it to my Pinterest for go-to ideas for my son. Just wondering, do you have any posts for the younger audience – 8m?

  6. Pj the clear container IDE is brilliant Christie, than you. We have too many supplies & the collage box is over flowing. We also have hundreds of pop sticks & they become all manner of things from cars (of course!) to trees poking out if the garden. We grabbed one of the samples of artifices grass from the hardware store too. I must try your idea of story stones too. As always you inspire me! Xx

    • I mean idea of course not IDE! & also wanted to say I raid the baking cupboard frequently for this type of play. The little loose silicone moulds we have for muffins etc and chopsticks are a favourite with Bebito to play creatively with.

  7. Wow! Absolutely love your blog. Just started using Pinterest for the first time this week since I got a new iPad air for Xmas. Great ideas.

    Proud mommy of two
    6 yr old girl, 3 yr boy

  8. We love loose parts too but I struggle with the storage organisation. I have a 19 month old and a 4 year old. How do you manage all the small stuff with your littley? Mine won’t put things in his mouth but he is a great emptier, poster and dumper. I am happy with mess as a result if play but picking up a multitude of small, fiddle items turns me off having them out permanently for the 4 year old. Any suggestions?

    • I have let Immy take some into her own bedroom so that her supplies and ‘creations’ are somewhat protected from her little sister, Naamah :) I would also suggest having less options but rotating them regularly or using a divided container with a lid (the craft box type) and just having a little of each available – then sorting as they pack them away becomes an interesting activity as well..and the small quantities are not so overwhelming. Hope that helps x


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