‘They’d rather play with the box the toy came in, than the toy itself!’ We have probably all heard or said this.

When your child chooses to play with a box rather than a toy, it’s because they see its potential for play. Children see potential in all sorts of stuff. They see that it can be used in more than one way.

What kind of stuff is good for play?

Stuff like boxes, string, sticks, paper, pasta, cushions and fabric often make the best playthings. Used by themselves or together, they can become anything your child wants. And they are ideal, because they are usually things that are lying around the house, or easy to find.

Things like sand, water, shells, fabric, buckets, boxes, rope, tyres, bottles and wood are easy to find outdoors and don’t cost a lot.

‘Loose parts’

We call these sorts of everyday things ‘loose parts’. Children can move them around, carry them, roll them, lift them, pile them on top of each other, or put them together to create interesting, original structures and experiences.

Loose parts are great for children’s play because they:

  • Increase their creative and imaginative play
  • Help them play co-operatively and socialise more
  • Encourage them to be more physically active
  • Help them develop their communication and negotiation skills.

What stuff should you give your child?

A few well-chosen toys and lots of loose parts will improve your child’s play space and allow them to be in charge of their own play. Toys that can be used again and again in different situations are ideal – things like building blocks, arts and crafts things, and stuffed toys.

Some ideas of how your child can use loose parts

Fabric

Old curtains, sheets and become dens, stepping stones in a river or a wizard’s cape

Cardboard boxes

The list is endless – big, small, by themselves or together, they become houses, castles, cars

Cardboard tubes

Like the ones in wrapping become wands, swords, drumsticks or a trumpet!

Other junk

Food cartons for playing shops or kitchen, string and tape help children to create and change things