5 Reasons to use Everyday Objects and Loose Parts to support Experiential Learning and Holistic Development

5 Reasons to use Everyday Objects and Loose Parts to support Experiential Learning and Holistic Development

What kind of everyday objects can you use to support Active Experiential learning? Perhaps you have your favourites already…

One of the easiest, most effective and sustainable ways of offering high quality early years and early primary education, regardless of your current location and access to materials, is to take advantage of your local reality. You can achieve this by using common objects as your main educational resource. These may be items that are used in everyday life such as flower pots, kitchen utensils, home storage baskets, or any natural pieces that are part of your geographical landscape, for example shells, sticks, pebbles, leaves, cones, etc. 

Using regular objects to support Experiential Holistic Learning is quite easy, affordable, and very empowering for both children and teachers. You can always find attractive and yet simple everyday items that can be easily used to support holistic education and offer high quality learning contexts. They are particularly useful to promote unrestricted creativity and child-led self-directed play and exploration. They help add authenticity to learning and are one the best ways to offer sustainable high quality education in locations or contexts where access to ready-made educational resources is limited.

Let’s explore the main benefits of incorporating common objects and loose parts into early learning and development.

Top Five Reasons to use Everyday Items to support Experiential Learning and Balanced Development

1. Easy to find

A quick visit to a local DIY, gadget or homeware store is usually enough to find a treasure of good quality inspiring everyday objects to add to your learning resources. These could be baskets, trays, plastic or wooden utensils, and rubber kitchen gadgets that can serve so many purposes and are so touchy-feely. Also pebbles, shells, sponges, pompoms, bowls, small rugs, or soft pieces of fabrics – these can be easily found in kitchenware, DIY, home decoration, or arts & crafts sections. 

sensory learning, early childhood, everyday objects
Simple containers, whether plastic or wooden and dry pasta, shells or pebbles can help you create an engaging multi-sensory Play & Learning Station.

Such things are usually inexpensive and very flexible to use in so many ways. And you don’t need to buy them all at once, but rather treat yourself (and perhaps your children too) to regular outings, or treasure hunts. You will be surprise what you can find if you put your imagination and creativity to work! This way you will also have a chance to observe which items are more popular with your children and get inspired with their ideas and cues. Such trips will also help you develop an “eye” for quality resources and seeing rich learning opportunities in simple everyday objects. 

2. Affordable

Investing in ready-made educational materials and toys is not always necessary and quite often even impossible – certain items may be too expensive or not available in your location. This doesn’t mean you cannot offer highest quality education and care! You can easily substitute most of the learning resources with simple alternatives that will offer similar or even added educational value. You can adapt and adjust them according to your local circumstances and your children’s needs and preferences. 

every day objects in early education

For example, to offer a sorting experience you can use any kind of objects – beads, coins, wooden sticks, pebbles, shells, mini figures, and even pieces of fabric! Your children can sort them according to different criteria such as colour, shape, size, or special features.  Such items will be not only easy to find, but also usually very affordable. They will help you build your unique educational resource bank that will last for long and support you in offering high quality learning experiences on a daily basis.

3. Authentic and practical

Children love using authentic real-life objects to play with because it adds a special level of empowerment to their play and learning. When we encourage them to play with everyday items, they will feel important, confident, trusted, serious, independent, and capable. 

For example, the following may become handy to support role play – a cutting board, a suitcase, real coins, kitchen pots & cooking utensils, shopping bags, wallets, etc. When you offer cooking utensils, chopping boards and bowls for messy play outdoors, it will help your children develop fine-motor skills through cutting leaves or flower petals, mixing or pouring different substances, etc. 

every day objects in early learning
Offering simple pots, sieve, cups for every day play helps children develop practical skills and fosters their creativity.

There’s tons of learning involved in such activities. Children can learn how to use these objects, and how to manipulate and manoeuvre them. They can come up with creative uses for various contexts. When you offer meaningful and safe environments in which children can create, observe, reason, communicate, compare, try and test, you are integrating education with real life.

4. Cross-curricular and holistic

Using everyday objects in your daily practice will help you offer truly cross-curricular education. Every single thing you offer your children can be used in multiple ways. It can serve different purposes in different contexts, or have some background story or even history that can be uncovered, explored, discussed and taken further. These items can also help you effectively provide multidisciplinary education, cover variety of cross-curricular learning goals, and support all areas of child development.  

As an example, just think of a simple basket – it can be used according to its intended function – to play with sand or water. But on the early years level, it will be very effective for so many other activities! Children can use it to move their favourite toys from one place to another, they can change it into a cosy bed for a teddybear, or they can use it for arts & crafts projects. 

everyday objects in early learning teacher training

Children do not really need special  purpose-made resources to learn – they will learn using anything they find inspiring. When offered simple everyday objects and loose parts to play with, they will use their natural creativity and curiosity to explore and understand the world, create something new, and express themselves. 

As natural learning is multidisciplinary, there always will be plenty opportunities to take it further, as/when needed and wanted by children, through exploring contexts related to history, geography, maths, science, and so many more. Working with everyday objects is also very multi sensory – children love exploring various materials, textures, shapes and sizes, smells and colours. The more senses are involved, the more interactive the learning experiences can become.

For example, harvesting in the garden can be an authentic and very meaningful context to support cross-curricular learning. It’s even quite easy to smuggle some early maths – through discussing various shapes and sizes, and sorting the items accordingly. And it will always be linked to real life! You can ask your children to examine the harvested items and check which ones are already ripe and good for eating, and which ones are not ready yet because perhaps they are not ripe yet, or have been eaten by garden bugs. You can do the same with sticks, shells, pebbles, cones and flowers that children can collect in the garden. They can also be used for messy play, arts & crafts projects, role-plays, or to discuss life-cycles or sustainability.

early maths outdoor education every day objects in early learning
Harvesting in the garden can be an amazing opportunity to support cross-curricular learning.

5. Flexible

The best thing about using everyday objects and loose parts in early years education is that they are very flexible and can be used for many different purposes and contexts. For example, wooden spoons may become an excellent prop to support messy play. They can also help you organise various pre-structured fine-motor activities such as sorting, pouring, or scooping. This way you can create a sustainable long-term framework that will help you plan and offer experiential holistic learning on a daily basis. 

Common objects and loose parts are very versatile, and this is one of the main reasons why children love playing with them so much. They can creatively use them in multiple different ways to support their unique learning journey, fulfil the purpose they feel in any given moment, throw them around or paint, and turn them into whatever they need them to be – such as using a collection of pebbles as a construction play material. When offered easy and safe access to everyday objects, children will use them as a fantastic source of inspiration that will help them respond to their unique learning needs and preferences. 

Case Study – educators from Teachers Rural Association in Uganda share how they use everyday objects to offer world class education.

Safety Considerations

Whatever objects you decide to offer, you always need to make sure that they are safe to use and play with at all times. While picking the items, always double check if they are free from long strings, sharp edges, and small easy to swallow elements to ensure safe play.

Avoid second-hand things that are in a bad condition, come from unknown sources, or can potentially cause cross-infection. All objects, toys and clothing items should be regularly cleaned and washed to be enjoyed by your children. 

How to store everyday items and loose parts

Depending on your children’s age and stage of development and also how you are planning to use them, you may need to consider keeping loose and smaller pieces segregated in safe boxes and aside, and offering them to your children as part of pre-structured adult-led learning activities or sessions. This will help you address many safety considerations as mentioned earlier.

Some things can be organised and offered as treasure baskets that children, especially older ones, can have free access to and explore and play with.

loose parts early childhood creativity
You can create dedicated sets that can be conveniently stored and offered as invitations to play on a regular basis.

Consider adding everyday objects to your various play & learning stations on a permanent basis the same as you would offer other resources and toys. For example, fill your outdoor messy play area with pots, pans and cooking utensils to keep it more real. Add some common items to your Role Play Corner to offer an authentic touch too. 

Secret Ingredient – CPD

The ability to look beyond purpose-made resources or toys, and willingness to adapt and adjust to your local reality may be one of the most important teaching skillsets. By constantly developing it further, you will become a self-reliant and tool-independent educator who can offer rich and inspiring learning contexts on a daily basis using simple items and everyday objects you can find in your location. And it will open the door to new learning opportunities for your children too. As you observe them enjoying your own resources, your confidence in your teaching and facilitating skills will grow significantly. 


To help you understand that Experiential Learning is not about WHAT you have, but HOW you can use what is already available to fully support your children’s holistic learning and balanced development, check the ACTIVE LEARNING BOOSTER programme by Natural Born Leaders. It’s a self-paced hands-on online training programme for Early Years Practitioners and Primary Teachers who are ready to offer Future-Oriented Education through the Active Experiential Holistic Learning approach!

using every day objects in early education loose parts teacher training

Magdalena Matulewicz and Witold Matulewicz, Founders of Natural Born Leaders and authors of the Active Learning Booster programme, have been working with this approach for over 20 years – both in early years and primary education. They have trained lots of childminding settings, play groups, day nurseries and schools where dedicated educators have successfully been using Active Experiential Holistic Learning on a daily basis.

In our ACTIVE LEARNING BOOSTER training programme you’ll learn how to create long-lasting frameworks that will help you offer Multi-Sensory & Experiential Learning on a daily basis. You’ll also learn:

– how to support ALL areas of child development through Whole-Person Experiential Learning,

– how to identify Learning Outcomes for your children in naturally occurring activities,

– how to design Safe Indoor and Outdoor Learning Environments, Contexts and Experiences to promote Cross-Curricular and Experiential Learning,

– how to promote Early Literacy and Early Maths beyond pen & paper, worksheets or technology,

– how to foster the development of your children’s Gross Motor Skills and balanced Physical Development,

– and so much more!

tool independent teacher training early childhood

When you complete this certified CPD programme, you will be able to use any resources that are available to you locally, and use them to maximise Experiential Learning opportunities for all children under your care. You will become an empowered, self-reliant, and tool-independent Educator of the Future!

This means that regardless of your location and access to educational resources or funds, you will be able to offer Active Experiential Holistic Learning at the highest level!

Start your journey today – you access the first training module of Active Learning Booster for FREE!

Experiential Learning Future Oriented Education Teacher Training

Magdalena Matulewicz Witold Matulewicz Natural Born Leaders
Authors: Magdalena Matulewicz & Witold Matulewicz – Teacher Trainers, Assessors
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