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Your Trash is These Kid's Treasure

Updated: Jul 9

How playing with 'junk' has become all the rage, and it's dominating our play spaces.

When you think of play, you probably don't think of old car tyres, milk crates, rope, dilapidated plastic play equipment, and old bed sheets. If anything, that list should make curbside collection come to mind. Yet, it is these very things, 'junk', that children want to play with the most. But why?

Children playing amongst rocks, trees and grass with loose parts equipment.
The back corner of the oval has become home to many creative play sessions.

What's Loose Parts Play Anyway?

Loose Parts Play (otherwise referred to as risky play) provides children with creative, inspiring, and free environments to test boundaries, learn their limits and challenge themselves, all within the safety of our care. We take everyday items that adults perceive as useless or limited in use and repurpose them, allowing the kids to creatively and imaginatively give these items new purpose. It can be an incredibly satisfying, thrilling, and addictive play, as kids build, create and roleplay all kinds of imaginative play experiences. The ABC wrote an article on risky play, and its unexpected results, and it's worth a read!

'Stonehenge' is a massive hit with kids for fort making, outposts and other roleplaying activities.

So why do the kids love loose parts play?

Loose parts play is an opportunity for kids to let their hair down and get dirty (and even a little bit dangerous). When I walk around observing and talking to children, they are always thinking creatively, communicating their ideas, and collaborating with others.

"Loose parts play is really fun because I can be creative and build things with friends, like slides."

Tyler (Year 6)

"I love that we can use the rocks and create things like sleds. You can workout with tyres and pull people in bins."

Ben (Year 3)

There is never a dull moment and there is always something to do. It's also their opportunity to play with things that we, adults, would otherwise tell them not to play with, out of concern for safety or risk.

"I like loose parts play because we can play with things that we don't get to use at school or home."

Gabi (Year 1)

In fact, we try to avoid saying no to kids in this space, instead reframing our concern as questions like "How could this be safer?" or "Do you feel comfortable doing this?". A child's creativity shouldn't be shut down without explanation because something is unsafe. We should always ask questions and explain our reasoning, otherwise, they will never learn how to identify danger and make it safer! That's the reason kids thrive here; because they can learn to push the boundaries safely while still having immense fun.

"I like this area because it's fun and we can do anything that we want."

Chloe (Year 2)

One of the best parts about loose parts play is that we try to integrate nature, and care for nature, as best we can. This includes only using sticks and leaves that have fallen from trees, being respectful of wildlife and their habitats, and not over-using the space to avoid erosion and habitat loss.

"I love that we can play with nature, we can climb and we get to make sleds."

Olivia (Year 2)

"It's important that we look after the plants and animals because if we aren't careful, we could kill the nature and cause problems to the ecosystem."

Lachlan (Year 6)

IN PICTURES - Loose Parts Play In Action!

Nathan pulling a silly pose surrounded by loose parts equipment.
Nathan loves loose parts play too!

How did it start?

When I started as Educational Leader, Camp Hill OSHC was brought to my attention by members of our community. Why? Because they are pioneers and industry leaders in risky and loose parts play and have a loose parts playground that even I want to play in. You can check out some of their work here Their play work inspired me to offer similar experiences here at Jamboree Heights. After some careful planning and resource preparation, as well as risk assessing and staff training, we started to trial loose parts play with the kids. Since then, it's been a massive success!

What's next?

We will continue to offer loose parts play throughout each week, as it continues to be our most requested activity! Be sure to keep an eye on our Weekly Program to see when it's set to happen. Our long-term vision is to improve facilities (primarily the shed) to improve storage so we can provide even more resources. We're also investigating water-based play, as well as potentially more permanent structures (like a cubby or giant rope swing).

Ultimately, we'd love for this play experience to be a daily opportunity, but we must be conscious of the environmental impact our play has on the space. This means offering tyre rolling and other risky play experiences elsewhere in the school may become a more frequent activity option.

We'd love to hear any feedback, thoughts, or suggestions you may have, or if you have resources you'd like to donate! You can contact us at or speak to us in service!

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