Thursday, May 6, 2010

Loose Parts Play, Part 3

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the value of having open-ended or "loose parts" birthday parties instead of highly orchestrated ones. Then I offered practical tips for how to plan such an outside party. Today, I'll focus on what to do in times of inclement weather.

You loved the idea of loose parts parties, right? But, you say, "I live in a two bedroom walk-up" (or other small space). Or, "I can't possibly fit all of those kids in my house." Or, "What will I do if it rains (or snows, or...)?" The key is planning. Even if you plan well for an outside party, things happen to make it move indoors. If you’ve planned well for an outside party, however, only a few adjustments on the day of the party will be necessary.

Here are my top 5 tips for planning an indoor "loose parts" party.
1. The most important one. (You'll remember this from my last post). Keep the guest list short.
2. Locate places to host your party. Reserve them in advance, if needed. If the weather is good, you can skip the reservation (just give a courtesy call to let folks know you’re not coming). Here are some places you may not have considered:
• your garage
• your unfinished (relatively clean) basement
• the community room at your local library (usually it's free and all you need to do is sign up in advance)
• the community room at your local church, synagogue, or mosque
• the gymnasium or other open classroom in your child's school (Public schools generally let community members lease space for a couple of hours. There may be a small fee attached, but as long as it falls outside of school hours and during hours when the custodial staff is working, you should be able to reserve a space.)
• The community room at your local YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, etc. Again, a fee may be
involved, but it's still cheaper than paying for an organized party at a typical party location.
• A gazebo in a state park (often requires reservations)
3. Still provide those healthy snacks mentioned Loose Parts, part 2.
4. Provide lots of loose parts. Some examples:
• Random empty boxes from cereal/ shoes/ crackers, paper tubes, egg cartons, large appliance boxes (try appliance stores for these)
• Adhesives such as glue, tape (scotch, double-sided, masking, duct)
• String, elastics
• Balloons (Be careful of latex allergies).
• Markers, crayons, pens, pencils
• Paint and brushes - if you’re adventurous! Use old T-shirts as smocks.
• Scissors
• Old CD’s (they make cool wheels!)
• In a pinch, you could also put out a bucket/bin of random building toys such as legos, K’nex, Lincoln logs, etc.
• Or, in the original invitation, you could tell parents that in case of rain you’ll be having a
“Dress-up Party” and ask them to bring items for dress-up. (This tends to work better for young children ages 3-5 or older girls). Some families have special “dress-up” clothes; others may choose to bring items from their own closets. Sharing makes it fun.
5. Set the kids up and let them go! Stay nearby and keep your eyes on them in case you’re needed, but don’t get involved in the play- they’ll usually be more creative. Have fun! And maybe write down some of the funny conversations that are bound to come up.

Have you planned a "loose parts" party for your child? What did you do? Do you have any suggestions?


  1. After reading your last 'loose parts' blog, for the first time ever, we went without a plan for games or crafts and went totally loose parts for Jemberu's 6th birthday party. Thankfully it was a beautiful day, it was HUGE hit, the kids had a blast and it was less stress for Kurt and me. Long live 'loose parts'!

  2. Alison,
    I'm so glad your "loose parts" party was a success. Have any other readers had one? How did it go?