Tuesday, October 8, 2013

loose parts

We spent this past summer away from our home after temporarily relocating for my husband's summer job.  Aside from being away from my friends and my established routines, leaving my workroom behind, with all of it's making tools and supplies, was a bit of a bummer.  It is a great place to raid when I need something to keep Ella (and myself) from growing bored of staring at each other.  But this past summer we had to make do with what we had available to us in our sublet.  And that means, for the most part, everything in the recycling bin.  We spent countless hours playing with cardboard boxes and paper tubes.  Who'd have thought?

Well the founder of this organization did!  Back in June, at the beginning of this workroom-less summer, a good friend pointed me to an organization called Loose Parts Project, based in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Their mission: "to encourage creativity and collaboration through community based, child-directed play experiences using recycled and repurposed materials."

The idea of child-directed play is great, but it can be tough as a parent of a young toddler to restrain yourself and just let them dive into something without directing them.  I mean, it's natural.  You ushered them into this world and cared for them so intensely when they couldn't do much of anything on their own that, in order to help them begin to realize their independence, you have to let go (just a little).  And, let's face it, it's a difficult idea to get used to.  For me, the pursuit of true, child-directed play is an exercise in re-focusing my parenting on the stage of life my daughter is currently in and moving towards, with the goal of helping her to become a confident and independent child.

I really admire the premise of Loose Parts Project and want to explore how their mission could be adapted and applied to the time I spend with Ella during the day.  To start, we recently created our own loose parts bin, stored in her art and crafts cabinet, where I keep clean recyclables including bottle caps, yogurt containers, cardboard shapes, paper tubes, and all manner of other items we happen to find interesting.  Kept right within her reach, it's become a go to for her.  And watching her just explore from my seat on the floor nearby or while folding laundry in the next room is super gratifying.

Does anyone else keep a loose parts bin for their children (or themselves)?  I'd love to see what you've collected and the imaginative creations that have resulted! 

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