The power of play in building resilience

For ECE lecturer Pearl D’Silva, the role of loose parts play in building resilience in children has always been of interest, but it wasn’t until having children of her own that she appreciated these benefits first-hand.

“I have always been fascinated with loose parts, although much later in life. However, I have two young children and so I’m a first-hand witness of the marvels of loose parts!

“Both my children had a fascination for boxes and they’d go around collecting twigs, leaves, flowers and other resources to put into these boxes. They would then open the box later and play with all the things they had collected.”

In her article ‘Sailing the 7 Cs: Exploring loose parts as anchors to nurture resilience’ published in NZTC’s online ECE journal He Kupu, D’Silva explores loose parts play as a tool to nurture children’s resilience.

D’Silva says loose parts play is beneficial to all areas of children’s development, including physical, language, cognitive, social and emotional, and helps develop important life skills.

“Over and above these benefits, loose parts empower children to develop crucial 21st century learning skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, imagination and creativity.

“When children play with loose parts, they test their working theories and develop learning dispositions such as perseverance, curiosity and risk-taking.”

In her article, D’Silva discusses the relationship between resilience in young children and the development of key skills such as competence, confidence, character, coping mechanisms and control.

“When children play with loose parts, they have opportunities to hone these skills and to learn new ones. When applied to real life situations, these skills can support children as they navigate lockdowns, uncertainty, and come to terms with what is happening.”

D’Silva encourages teachers to look around their home, at op-shops, garage sales or local resource centres to find appropriate resources. She also suggests involving the children and their whanau by inviting them to contribute to the collection.

Loose parts are versatile by nature and can be used in both indoor and outdoor settings. Contrary to popular belief, D’Silva says loose parts are not restricted to just natural materials. Other items such as pots, pans, fabric, bottle caps and cardboard boxes also provide children with endless opportunities to explore.

“First and foremost, I would encourage teachers not to be apprehensive and to freely explore the use of loose parts in their centre. It is after all the process of playing with loose parts that is important, not the end product!”