Discover Natural Loose Elements with Imagine Childcare

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of incorporating natural elements into early childhood education. These loose parts, such as sticks, stones, shells, and branches, all offer children unique opportunities for exploration; creativity; and learning.

With the change in season and the leaves changing colour to brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red, Autumn is the perfect time to collect natural materials and explore loose parts play with your little one.

At Imagine Childcare and Kindergarten Collingwood Park, the children celebrated ‘Nature Week’ by exploring self-expression with self-portraits. The children used natural loose parts to create temporary art of their very own ‘nature faces’.

Using natural resources within play encourages children to observe more closely and use all their senses. Furthermore, natural materials are open ended materials as they can be used by themselves or with other things.

There are many creative ways in which our Imagine Childcare centres incorporate natural material loose parts play into our educational programs. Let’s delve into the benefits of integrating these materials into our childcare centres, including providing examples:

  1. Encouraging Creativity and Imagination

Natural material loose parts are open-ended materials, meaning they can be used in countless ways according to a child’s imagination. A stick, for example, can become a magic wand, a fishing rod, or a sword in the hands of a child. By providing children with these materials, childcare centres encourage them to think creatively and explore the endless possibilities of the world around them.

The Toddler children at Imagine Childcare and Preschool Nowra created amazing “potted plants” out of natural materials. The children were so creative with how they arranged the plants in their pots and were able to use this as an opportunity to also discuss how plants grow.

  1. Fostering Sensory Development

Engaging with natural materials stimulates children’s senses in ways that plastic or synthetic toys cannot. The textures, smells, and sounds of natural loose parts provide rich sensory experiences that contribute to children’s overall sensory development. For instance, playing with sand, pebbles, or leaves can enhance tactile sensitivity and fine motor skills.

At Imagine Childcare and Kindergarten Oakleigh South, the Nursery children indulged various senses as they used leaves they had collected, combined with other materials to create a beautiful lightbox!

  1. Promoting Environmental Awareness

By using natural materials in childcare centres, educators have the opportunity to instil in children a deep appreciation for the natural world. Through hands-on experiences with materials like wood, stones, and shells, children develop a connection to nature and learn to respect and care for the environment. This early exposure lays the foundation for future environmental stewardship.

The children in the Nursery Classroom at Imagine Childcare and Kindergarten Holmview started exploring the textures and scents of various natural elements from their surrounding environments. The children enjoyed exploring sticks, bark, flowers, and leaves.

  1. Supporting Cognitive Development

Manipulating natural loose parts involves problem-solving, decision-making, and spatial reasoning skills. As children engage in activities like building structures with sticks or arranging stones in patterns, they are exercising their cognitive abilities and developing important skills for academic success.

At Imagine Childcare and Kindergarten Southport, the Junior Kindy Classroom used various natural elements found around their yards to explore name recognition.

  1. Facilitating Social Interaction

When children play with natural loose parts, they often collaborate, negotiate, and communicate with their peers. Whether they are building a fort together or sorting leaves by size and shape, these activities promote social interaction and cooperation. Through play, children learn important social skills such as sharing, taking turns, and resolving conflicts.

At Imagine Childcare and Kindergarten Jensen, children used natural elements such as water, leaves, and sticks from around their outdoor spaces to create potions, dinners, and bush tucker together.

At Imagine Childcare and Preschool Ballina, the Educators set up a small world play to further learn about dinosaurs using natural elements such as leaves, sticks, and sand. Small world play is a great way for children to participate in collaborative and imaginative play with their peers.

  1. Embracing Risk and Resilience

Playing with natural materials inherently involves an element of risk, as children explore uneven terrain, balance on logs, or climb trees. While ensuring safety is paramount, allowing children to engage in risky play with supervision encourages them to assess and manage their own risks, fostering resilience and self-confidence.

At Imagine Childcare and Kindergarten Oakleigh South, the Tiny Tots Classroom explored their outdoor spaces under careful supervision from of their Lead Educator, to collect natural materials for their bug habitat.

  1. Connecting with Cultural Heritage

Many natural materials have cultural significance and historical relevance. By incorporating these materials into childcare settings, educators can introduce children to different cultural traditions and practices.

Imagine Childcare and Preschool Blueridge Park took advantage of this opportunity for Indigenous Literacy Day by learning culturally significant stories, words, and terms using natural loose parts found in their outdoor spaces.

In conclusion, natural material loose parts offer numerous benefits for children’s development and well-being in day care settings. By providing opportunities for creativity, sensory exploration, environmental awareness, cognitive growth, social interaction, risk-taking, and cultural connection, these materials enrich the learning experiences of young children in profound ways.

We have Imagine Childcare centres located across Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia and as early childhood professionals, we embrace the beauty and potential of nature to nurture the next generation of curious, compassionate, and resilient individuals.

If you are looking for quality early education and care for your little one, call 1300 001 154 or visit our website at for more information.

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