The Lethbridge College Early Childhood Education program will host an exciting community event in conjunction with Spring Nature Fest at the Helen Schuler Nature Centre. From 1 to 5 p.m. on Friday, March 16, the nature centre’s outdoor play square space will be turned upside down with the launch of Lethbridge’s first community loose parts playground.
Loose parts refers to open-ended materials that can be used in infinite ways. Loose parts expand children’s thinking, stimulate their imaginations and trigger their creativity and sense of wonder while providing the opportunity for social interaction and collaboration beyond what traditional, fixed playground structures can offer. Because the materials are open-ended, there is no right or wrong way to play with them. Children’s ability to explore, manipulate, investigate, test and modify how they use loose parts results in play with endless possibilities, and endless learning opportunities.
“Numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of unstructured outdoor play for children’s development and learning,” says Bora Kim, Early Childhood Education faculty member at Lethbridge College. “When children are engaged in unstructured outdoor play, they are encouraged to make their own decisions, lead their play and challenge their skills, which give them a sense of ownership and self-confidence.
“Parents and families are invited to stay and observe their children play while learning about how they solve problems on their own, how they collaborate with others and how their imaginations soar.”
Lethbridge College’s loose parts playground will provide the community with an opportunity to rediscover the possibilities of outdoor play and to become part of a growing national and international outdoor play movement. Early Childhood Education program faculty and students will be on-site to share insight about the benefits of unstructured outdoor play for people of all ages, not just children.
“The loose parts playground is a perfect fit for the Spring Nature Fest and we are so happy to be able to host it this year,” says Jessica Deacon-Rogers, Helen Schuler Nature Centre programming coordinator. “The festival encourages people to venture out and enjoy everything that the spring season has to offer. Outdoor, unstructured play is a big part of that.”
Lethbridge College’s pop-up version of it Loose Parts Playground will get parents and children thinking beyond the monkey bars and into a whole new world of outdoor play.