Sticks and Stones

I blogged recently about the awesome time my kids had building cubby houses with children of various ages.  (If you missed the post you can check it out here: Outdoor Multi-Age Play)  One of the comments I received was from Brooke, and it really got me thinking…

Then Jenny posted a wonderful entry on the same topic, “A Playground Of Loose Parts!”  (She also has another post on Loose Parts if you are interested.)  In the post she writes, “Providing a rich diversity of interesting loose parts that can be mixed, lifted, carried, stacked, shaped, pushed, pulled, gathered and rearranged gives children limitless opportunities to play in creative, productive and exciting ways.”

My kids don’t play with many toys in the backyard (apart from trucks).  What they have instead is a collection of buckets, spades, baskets and containers which are used in their play, plus the natural loose parts we have available.  In our yard this includes rocks in a range of sizes from the dry creek bed, sticks, bamboo, bark, branches, sand, water, soil, vines, macadamia nuts, and leaves.  I love watching the ways they use these materials in their play.

Sometimes I still get it wrong, and impose too many rules.  I want to say, “Can you please not take all the rocks out of the creek?” or “Don’t pick all the heads off the flowers!”  I have to remind myself that the point of the creek was to give the kids a natural playspace, not to be an untouched art installation in the yard.  And I have to remind myself that a flower picked to decorate a child’s creation is not a wasted bloom.


I want my children to be able to play in creative, productive and exciting ways, and I know that giving them a space rich in natural loose parts is a great way to provide the playful opportunities they need.

Are there any loose parts in your backyard? Do you find it easy to let the kids play in their own way, or like me – do you sometimes have to bite your tongue?!!


11 thoughts on “Sticks and Stones

  1. Dadda is on holidays as of today, so hopefully we will finally get to work on the garden and start creating some kind of space for play to be done, rather than just for weeds to grow and insects roam.

  2. Yes I do …mainly about moving sand where it isn’t supposed to be ;) oh the flowers thing too.

    We made a Teepee from old tree branches …such a fun activity.

    PS I wanted to build a dry creek bed …and hubby wants me to enocurage the boys (& I) to pick up the 1000+ rocks he thinks we require off the newly graded tracks LOL.
    .-= trish´s last blog ..Search and rescue =-.

  3. awesome post! Loose parts have been on my mind lately too, and it’s nice to read your validating thoughts. We have a bucket of rocks that have had multiple uses: a painting project, burying and then discovering them in the sandbox, sliding them into a pool of water, etc.

  4. We have plenty of ‘loose parts’ and I too (now) love allowing the kids to play to their imagination’s content. I’ll admit though, that it has been hard to ‘let go’ and just let them play & discover. A lot of people I know would probably ‘tut tut’ me for allowing it!

    It’s also a shame that people need to be encouraged to let their children discover the outdoors, when years ago, it was the most natural thing to do.

  5. Very interesting and eye opening… I had never thought of it this way. You’ve certainly given me some food for thought!

  6. What a surprise to find my name on your blog today! Thanks for the link.

    I love that you got me thinking about my own comment. When I wrote it all I could think of was how our backyard has nothing but a boring strip of grass. But really we have rocks down the side, clover and flowers (albeit from weeds!), and leaves blowing in from the neighbour’s property. So really when we have nothing, we actually do have something. It’s really just encouraging the kids to use those things.
    .-= Brooke´s last blog ..Double Post Friday =-.

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