Pick up a package of colourful dollar store sponges to add to your collection of loose parts in the playroom. Here, I’ll show you all the creative ways my toddlers and preschoolers explored and played with ours in a mere half hour the other day.
“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.” – Fred Donaldson
This is just a short, little post with an important message: Never underestimate the potential for play that even the simplest of items provide.
Sponges as Loose Parts
My husband came home from grocery shopping the other day, and tossed me a sleeve of brightly coloured kitchen sponges, and said “I picked these up for a dollar. I thought you and the hooligans might be able to use them for something”. He’s such a great guy. 🙂
My wheels started turning, thinking about all of the things we could do with them, but it was getting late in the day and there wasn’t enough time left to start a craft or to use our sponges for an art project.
I put the sponges in basket and simply presented them to the kids that way to see what they would do with them.
First of all, you should have heard the squeals of delight and the ooohs and ahhhhs, when I placed the basket on a table in the playroom. You’d have thought the basket was filled with candy.
It’s so great when kids get excited over the simple things.There was no question that THEY could see the possibilities that this basket held.
Loose parts encourage imagination and creativity
That’s the beauty of “loose parts” for play. Open-ended items that have no pre-defined purpose opens the door for all kinds of creative and imaginative play, which won’t happen nearly enough with toys that are “meant” to be played with in a certain way.
All hands were scrambling to grab as many as they could, and the basket was quickly emptied, and they headed off to do what they do best.
For the next half hour, until they children went home, these sponges were the main attraction. Each child played with them in their own way.
I took a few photos to show you how they were being used.
They were the key pieces in a construction site here.
Someone used them as building blocks to build a tower.
They became beds for the animals.
The kids used them as obstacles to drive their toy cars around.
Sensory and Vocabulary
There was also pretend scrubbing of toys happening, which I didn’t photograph, and they each rubbed their hands and faces with the sponges, describing the scouring side as “scratchy and rough” and the soft side as “squishy”.
The sponges even encouraged some critical thinking: at the end of the day, before the the last hooligan left, she tucked all of the sponges into the doll house. Notice how she arranged each sponge with the thin scouring surface facing to the right.
Who would have thought a little sleeve of coloured sponges would present so many opportunities for learning and imaginative play.
I’m sure we’ll eventually use these sponges for various arts and craft projects. but for now, I think we’ll just keep them in the toy room, and enjoy the open-ended play possibilities they provide.
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Jackie is a mom, wife, home daycare provider, and the creative spirit behind Happy Hooligans. She specializes in kids’ crafts and activities, easy recipes, and parenting. She began blogging in 2011, and today, Happy Hooligans inspires more than 2 million parents, caregivers and Early Years Professionals all over the globe.