10 Best Loose Parts for Infants & Toddlers

By Robin H. Temple

By Robin Hewitt Temple, Early Childhood Educator

Loose parts are defined as open-ended materials that can be used in many different ways. The following are the 10 best for infants and toddlers.

1. Tin Cans - Cans of all sizes with clean metal edges are typically safe. Be sure to use a safety can opener, one that leaves no sharp edges on the lid or the can.

2. Fabric - Fabric of all textures this category includes ribbons.

3. Cardboard Tubes - cardboard tubes of varying circumference can be used so many ways.

4. Balls - offer balls of all sizes and textures. These large sensory balls are great!

5. Container lids - lids of varying materials and textures. When placed with intent in different areas of the room, they could be used for filling a container, dump truck or drink holder.

6. Egg cartons/to go drink holders - these are great for holding and transporting other safe parts.

7. Tree cookies - tree cookies of different circumference and width including cookies with holes. These baby tree blocks are great, too.

8. Boxes - small boxes for non-mobile infants to put things into, small boxes and also larger boxes for walkers to push around and get into.

9. Sensory bottles - sensory bottles filled with objects for exploring sight or sound. They should be small enough for an infant to grasp. Toddlers enjoy the challenge of larger bottles to carry and roll.

10. Pots and pans - A real favorite of all ages for banging!

What are your favorite loose parts in the infant and toddler classroom?


Robin's philosophy is child initiated, play-based learning with high-quality interactions that scaffold learning without interrupting. She has been practicing for years and owns an early learning center in Massachusetts. She is currently living in Fairbanks, Alaska.

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