As preschool teachers, it’s in our nature to hold onto things. We just can’t help it, we might be able to use that for something! I know how deep this runs, I’ve been out of the classroom for almost two years now and I still have a collection of empty containers in one of the cabinets in my office – they might come in handy one day!
Collecting loose parts plays to this piece of our “hold onto that” mentality. The most difficult thing about loose parts is that you often need a fair amount of whatever item you want to use. You need enough that the children can actually do some creating with it, and enough that more than one child could work with the item at a time.
Here are some of the ways that I’ve gathered loose parts quickly and effectively;
- Go for a walk – natural materials are ideal loose parts because their supply is seemingly endless and they are usually free. I’ve been known to take the entire class on walks around the neighborhood so that we can collect pine cones, acorns, stones, twigs, and leaves. I’ve also collected natural materials from my home – the river rocks in our landscaping, soy beans from the field next to my house, if I can put it in a bag its come to my classroom!
- Ask parents for donations – you’d be amazed what parents are willing to collect for your classroom, I’ve asked for lids off of plastic jars and bottles, old CD cases – and old CDs too for that matter, nuts and bolts, ceramic tiles, and packing peanuts. Families are happy to get rid of all of these things, especially if they can be given to a good cause. They will also be curious to see what the children do with these items, which makes this a great family engagement opportunity. I also love to ask my families for help because you never know when they might have a connection, I had a parent one year who worked for a contractor and he would bring us the most incredible tiles from bathrooms and kitchen back splashes, these were all extras from jobs that were going to be thrown away.
- Find sources in your community – do you have a local business that will donate materials? Can you take items that others have dropped off at the recycling center? It never hurts to ask! A couple of communities in my area have retail stores that specifically designed for people to drop off random things (empty containers, empty spools, corks, fabric scraps, paper tubes, etc.) and then others can come in and purchase these. Often these places will have teacher discount days so you can really stock up!
What are your favorite sources for loose parts?