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Nature Play + Loose Parts: Invitations to Create

If you’re looking for Reggio-inspired ideas and activities to keep your kids busy over the last month of summer vacation, look no further than a nearby park, forest or beach for this summer’s most inspiring Invitations to Create. There is so much inspiration to be found in nature, and so many learning connections to be made. As a big proponent of using loose parts (open-ended objects that can be re-purposed and re-imagined), we find so much inspiration in natural objects to bring home and use in new ways.

Unplugging and connecting with nature is so important for children of all ages. In fact, being outdoors supports development in so many areas: intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual and physical (Kellert, 2005).

In this post, I share some of our favourite ways to incorporate natural elements and loose parts into learning, in a Reggio-inspired way.

1. Texture Scavenger Hunt


Nature is full of wonderful textures and colours!

Let’s go on a scavenger hunt to see how many textures we can find in nature.

(Click here for downloadable printables for your muffin tin for texture words).

2. Mandalas

Once you've collected nature items from your nature walk or scavenger hunt, you're ready to create beautiful compositions!


Look at all of these beautiful objects you found on your texture scavenger hunt. Can we create a “mandala” with them? A mandala is a temporary picture (it disappears when we’re finished), with radial symmetry. That means the design starts in the centre, and radiates outwards. See what kinds of designs you can make.

3. Driftwood

Driftwood is such a beautiful organic summer material, and can be found in abundance on river banks and beaches.


Create a wall hanging. Use coloured yarn to represent each of your gifts or strengths. (Examples: brave, strong, creative, inventive...)

Extensions: attach portraits or illustrations of family members.

4. Beach Pebble Illustrations

Beach pebbles, smoothed by ripples and waves are a beautiful addition to your loose parts collection. Be sure to collect a variety: large, small, dark, medium and light. Store them in muffin tins for easy access.


Can you tell a story with pictures using only stones?

Next, write a sentence about it.

We used the book Stepping Stones, a moving story about a Syrian refugee who has to escape their war-torn country for inspiration. The entire book was illustrated with stones.

5. Kandinsky-Inspired Painted Tree Slices

When a tree is removed, chances are the trunk and branches are cut down for easier removal. Why not save those slices as loose parts for this beautiful Kandinsky-Inspired project? These make for beautiful classroom decor, and add bright colour and texture to your learning environment.


Let's use concentric circles to paint these tree slices. Where else can you find concentric circles (archery, ripples in a pond, rings in an onion...)

6. Painted Stones

While at the beach, why not bring along a chunky paintbrush and a set of watercolours? Your kids can use lake water to paint found rocks, then hide these to create a family scavenger hunt.


Let's paint these rocks to hide later!

Add points to the back using a Sharpie for more difficult hiding spots.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it on Facebook!

And as a bonus, here is my list of "must-have" loose parts to collect now, before the snow flies! Just click it to download it.

If you like what you see, why not join us for our upcoming workshop, {Homegrown} Artful Learning, Tuesday, August 21 6:00-8:30 pm? Click the image to find out more!

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