UC students host pop-up playground showcasing loose-parts play
The Sector > Quality > Professional development > UC students host pop-up playground showcasing loose-parts play

UC students host pop-up playground showcasing loose-parts play

by Freya Lucas

April 27, 2023

Bachelor of Early Childhood and Bachelor of Primary students from the University of Canberra have made the Easter break a little brighter for locals aged from birth to eight years with the presentation of a pop-up playground, showcasing the benefits of loose-parts play.


The exercise served as an authentic assessment task for the students; not only were they gaining practical experience in designing engaging playscapes, but they also received real-time feedback from the true play experts – children!


Katy Meeuwissen is a Lecturer with the Faculty of Education and convener of the Philosophies and Pedagogies in Early Childhood Education unit. She said that the exercise was based around the theory of ‘loose-parts play’ and playwork.


“Loose-parts play has many benefits including social development, gross and fine motor development, creativity and problem-solving skills,” she said. “Free play with these resources allows children to be themselves and use the resources for the affordances that they offer.” 


Inspired by ‘junk’ adventure playgrounds that came about after World War 2, loose-parts playgrounds incorporate nothing static or expensive, instead they are filled with what some perceive as ‘junk’, including items such as planks of wood, tyres, cardboard boxes, pipes and logs.


After researching loose parts play and playwork, students selected their materials and resourced the space, the students then step back, and take on a role as play workers.


“The role of the students at the event was to act as a ‘playworker’, rather than an educator. Students were tasked with facilitating and enriching children’s play, stepping back, and observing the play as it unfolds instead of putting an adult agenda on the play itself,” Mrs Meeuwissen said.


Second year student Meeka Piscone worked with Alyssa Metherell to facilitate the loose parts playground.


“We’ve got lots of wood, beads and crates. Our playground is very open ended and can be used in so many different ways,” Ms Piscone said.


“Today we’ve seen all the benefits of play represented here; the children are using creativity, and imagination, there are kids who don’t know each other interacting, and the families have been here all morning and they’re still having fun and engaging – it’s great to see.”


Ms Metherell is also a second-year student and a parent, and is keen to share with other families how beneficial loose parts play is for children, and how easily it can be incorporated at home.


“There’s so much potential in everybody’s homes for loose parts play, any parent can do it. I think, as a parent myself, the major barrier we face is mess versus play. You don’t want to create any extra mess or work, but the benefits of it, as we’ve seen today, are just outstanding,” Ms Metherell said.


Naomi White and her grandson came along to the event and enjoyed every minute.


“This is a wonderful outreach initiative, and just fantastic that it’s open to the public,” Ms White said.


“My grandson has been occupied since we arrived, and I’ve just been able to step right back and watch his creativity blossom.”


She was impressed with the passion of the students and how they brought the activities to life for the community.


“I hadn’t heard of ‘loose-parts play’ before this, but I’ve always been very conscious of the importance of play for kids and letting them roam. Kids don’t actually need a huge number of toys, pre-made toys — I’m always looking for the perfect cardboard box for them!” Ms White said.


“The students are very clear about what’s going on, which is lovely to hear.”


To learn more about playwork and loose-parts play,use the links provided. Information about studying with the University of Canberra is available here

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