Loose parts play & Cumulative development

What is Cumulative development?

‘Cumulative learning is the cognitive process by which we accumulate knowledge and abilities that serve as building blocks for subsequent cognitive development.’


As quoted by inspirational childhood theorist Montesorri;  

Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and the strength, use it to create.”


Encouraging the children within our care to explore their own curious minds, to prod, poke and manipulate resources to reach a chosen goal is the inspiration behind a large part of teaching at Little Hands.

We fully support and embedded this thought process throughout children’s educational experiences at Little Hands. We recognise the importance of exploration through play and the educational benefits of children taking a lead in their own learning.


Imagine walking into a big open room with 60 minutes to fill. In the room is a small, strong wooden box. You have 60 minutes to explore this object, the object does not come apart. Your exploration would be very much restricted. Maybe you could attempt to roll the box, maybe you could sit on it or you could attempt to try and balance it on the corner to stop it falling, apart from this there isn’t a huge opportunity to explore this resource further.


Imagine now, the box is not a whole unit, it is in separate pieces, with 18 slats, all which are a range of shapes and sizes. Think of the array of learning opportunities that have become available. You could make a wand, a sword or a walking stick. You could make ramps, garages, houses, buildings or simply a beam to walk across. You could explore how to make the objects join or build the tallest or most spectacular tower. This I’m sure you would agree will fill your 60 minutes of time a lot more than that one basic object (Closed resource).


What are loose parts (Open resources)? 


Utilising a range of resources that offer a plethora of possibilities that are of different size, shape, texture or format. Examples of these items can be any of the following and more;


  • Tyres
  • Wooden logs
  • Planks of wood
  • Saucepans/kitchen utensils
  • Pegs
  • Curtain rings
  • Tins, pots and bottles
  • Photo frames
  • Pinecones
  • Foil


Our imagination flourishes when given the resources, support and belief to be open and creative. Imaginative play begins with exploring what depths our minds can go to. Here at Little Hands we support children’s next steps by exploring their current interests. Key persons have a sound understanding of children’s next steps and what they are working towards. 


Offering resources that spark interests enable children to explore their environment in their own way and at their own speed. Observations have proven that offering children (and adults alike) activities that spark interests, in turn allows productivity and high engagement levels.


We gain knowledge through using a range of processes, many starting at an early age


This can begin with goal driven behaviour, attempting a task and maybe becoming a little frustrated with the outcome. This then leads to thinking about the processes that took place and what could be adapted. These adaptations are then tried, sometimes causing failures and sometimes achieving success, this is what we would call a trial and error approach. This is what will develop the knowledge and abilities to further develop cognitive development.

This approach is vital when engaging with loose parts play and subsequently learning through play, developing those building blocks to support and extend their own learning, through exploration of their immediate environment and taking the belief and support systems that are in place, to take chances and learn how the world around them works. This is such a beautiful part of child development, making them stronger in all aspects of their earning and personal development.


Nursery World have released a descriptive article going into the benefits of loose parts and investigatory play on children’s development.




102-104 Brettell Lane, Amblecote, West Midlands, DY8 4BS

T: 01384 441441
E: amblecote@littlehandsdaycare.co.uk

Nursery Manager: Lara Owen & Bev Ramsell

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The Sunday School, 2 Chapel Street, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, B60 2BQ

T: 0121 820 7119
E: bromsgrove@littlehandsdaycare.co.uk

Nursery Manager: Emma Gerrish

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Nursery Block Heart Of Worcestershire College School Drive Bromsgrove Worcestershire B60 1PQ

T: 0121 824 4697
E: howcollegebromsgrove@littlehandsdaycare.co.uk

Nursery Manager: Clare Fereday

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16-18 Hagley Road, Stourbridge, West Midlands, DY8 1PS

T: 01384 396920
E: stourbridge@littlehandsdaycare.co.uk

Nursery Manager: Lara Owen & Lucy Brettle

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