Case Study: Loose Parts Play using reclaimed, reused and recycled items

a pathway made of pallets across grass at Whipton barton loose parts play

At a recent Growing Devon Schools Forum day we visited Whipton Barton Junior School. While we were there staff showed us their   loose parts play area. Every lunchtime loose parts are used to engage students in creative thinking and problem solving.

At lunchtime all children play outside on the large grass field. Children are encouraged outside in all weathers as coats and boots are part of the school uniform. There are boots available if for some reason children forget. This in itself is a bit of a revelation, in terms of whole school attitude to playing outside. Many schools do not let children play on muddy fields during the winter months, saying they don’t want mud in the classrooms and that kids will make a mess of the field.

So what do kids actually do at lunchtimes?

Well, the staff admitted that it does look like a mess, but children have free access to a range of building materials, pallets, tubes and tools. There was an area for digging holes in mud. A large sand pit had been constructed over the summer with the help of volunteers. The play area is tidied up on a Friday, and everything is put away for the weekend.

Assorted items like a spade, plastic chair seat, planks and tyres lying in muddy piles for loose parts play at Whipton Barton Junior School

Loose parts have been gathered by the school community, so everything has been recycled and reused. Recently children had a non-uniform day and brought in items from home that could be reused, rather than donating cash. The school sent a letter home listing the items children could bring in; items as varied as wellies, suitcases, carpet samples, garden hoses and dressing up clothes and hats.

Image of a list of items for loose parts play at Whipton Barton

We love this idea and think it is a great way of reusing stuff that your school community (parents, grandparents, staff, friends and family) may have lying around their home or business. It is great for creative play at school, for getting kids outside in all weathers and using stuff that would otherwise be thrown away! Why not try it at your school? We’d love to hear from you if you do!