Vacancy Care's December Newsletter

December 2020


Hi there everyone, welcome to our December newsletter! As always, we’re looking at what’s happening within our childcare community. This month we’re looking into loose part play. What is it and what are the benefits?

Loose parts are what some would consider garbage. Bits and bobs that could be thrown away when the local council offer a clean-up. But in the same way that one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure, loose parts are the treasure of childhood. A treasure that can basically cost peanuts, but offers benefits to your child that no purchased resource or toy could outdo. 


Read on if this appeals to you.

Topic of the month 


Loose part play. Sorry, what?

As adults, we’ve all heard the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. Opportunity shops and council clean-ups are clear evidence of this, with people paying good money for something another person has discarded, and feeling thrilled with their find.

Loose parts are often viewed in a similar way. If you were to hunt around your home and collect a pile of items that you consider worthless, ready to throw out, I can guarantee you that your child would likely disagree. 

The concept of loose part play is similar to giving a child a blank piece of paper and a selection of art materials, or better still, a cardboard box, then encouraging them to make anything they want. Imaginations ignite and creativity begins to rule -  because it’s open-ended. 

A great example was during a recent clear out of our garage. There’s a lot of junk in there, so the decision was made to fill the trailer and take a load to the local tip to make a bit of space…. but as fast as we could clear out the “rubbish”, the children were rescuing it. Random items, like one wheel from an old wheelbarrow, swim-noodles used in pools, plastic milk crates, rope, occy straps, hoola hoops, old fence palings of varying lengths…. You get the idea.

By the time we emerged into the backyard, a full spaceship had been built - and was actively being played in - using junk. Junk otherwise known as loose parts. 

From a young age, children demonstrate their inquisitive minds with an interest in loose parts. You may not have recognised it for what it was, but when your baby was more focused on your keys, an old water bottle, or the little box that held the sultanas instead of the collection of valuable toys available to them, they were already appreciating loose part play. As they continue to grow and develop, a child’s imagination really begins firing and these parts are viewed with a different filter- a child’s filter. Children have the ability to recognise potential in everyday items that we’d overlook, and the great beauty of this is that most of these items are re-used, re-purposed and up-cycled… so they cost next to nothing!

An architect called Simon Nicholson coined the term and concept of “loose parts” back in 1971, when he wrote an article called “How not to cheat children. The theory of loose parts”. The theory has been dissected and discussed amongst early childhood theorists and educators ever since, due to the benefits recognised in a child’s development, through this style of play. Play where there aren’t set rules - perhaps just a few guidelines surrounding safety… no dynamite or daggers! 

In a nutshell, nothing created is wrong. All attempts are considered advantageous towards sparking a child’s mind - especially concepts like critical thinking, problem solving, hypothesising and basic mathematical understanding. Loose part play encourages discovery, experimentation and invention. It fosters cooperation, socialising and teamwork. Communication and negotiation. It’s how the world ended up with such things as aeroplanes, lightbulbs and engines, but more than that, it’s enabling the leaders and team players of tomorrow.

Nicholson believed that all children were born with creativity to be unleashed, it was really just a matter of whether their environment encouraged this. You don’t need to colour within the lines of someone else’s drawing - discard it and create your own! A concept now widely embraced by most early childhood services, and is in fact, incorporated into the EYLF, the universal framework across Australia that Educators use to inform their practice. Outcome 4 states that “Children are confident and involved learners”. All we need to do is embrace it.

So with this in mind, how can you embrace loose part play at home? The answer is, in a plethora of ways. Loose parts can be for indoor or outdoor play, so finding the ingredients you need is really a matter of tuning your mind into the idea that everything is useful and is a potential play item. The more options on offer, the more opportunity your child has to extend their play and thrive. Here are some ideas to get your little thinker started.

The Outdoor Supplies Box

Put aside any thoughts of having a box of rubbish in the garden. That’s an adult concept. It’s a treasure trove. Once you see your child engrossed in play, it’ll be worth it!

Ideas for inclusion - 

Cardboard boxes

Dress-ups - like handbags, costume jewelry, old dresses, shoes & hats

PVC pipes

Cardboard cylinders

Pots and pans

Sleeping bags

Milk or bread crates


Hoola hoops

Empty bottles, like dishwashing liquid

Various sized sticks, fence palings or wood leftover from home DIY

Pool noodles

Wheels or tyres


Cable reels
Kitchen sink

Cooking utensils



Skipping ropes

Cable ties


Electrical tape


The Indoor Supplies Box

Think rainy-day forts, palaces, or even art and craft projects.


Ideas for inclusion - 


Sheets / bedding


Masking or sticky tape

Dress-ups - like handbags, costume jewellery, old dresses, shoes & hats

Paper and cardboard
Glass or wooden beads
Leaves / flowers

Pillows or cushions

Markers, pencils, paint

Pots, pans and other utensils
Pine cones
Building blocks
Stacking containers
A variety of boxes - with and without lids
Pebbles / rocks
Wine corks

Food like pasta, lentils or corn kernels

Bottle tops / milk bottle lids

Gather supplies from….

Your own house and garden
Roadside council clean-ups
Garage sales

Opp shops
Friends passing on unwanted items

Make friends with local builders

Local hardware stores

Re-purpose or upcycling centres (ask at your local rubbish dump)

Once you get started you’ll probably think of extra items to add to your loose part collection. How your child uses the parts over time will likely change as they develop, and it’s not uncommon for a child to mix loose part items with some of their toys, allowing them to extend the original purpose of the toys! And since they’re open-ended objects, they can become whatever your child wants them to be! It’s magical to witness.

The Toolkit
Play Australia has put together a fantastic “toolkit” document, well worth a read, that delves deeply into loose part play if you’re interested in learning more.

Worth Noting
Loose part play doesn’t mean dangerous play. While you want to encourage your child, be mindful that there’ll need to be a certain level of supervision. Kids will be kids. In their excitement they won’t always recognise hazards. They probably won’t appreciate that broken items need to be thrown out or replaced, or that a ladder leading to the highest tree in the garden may not be the best decision. Guide your child’s play into a realm that offers maximum creativity but also appropriate safety (although a little bit of risk can be a great thing for learning about boundaries!). Check their loose part collection - and the area they’re playing in - with your adult filter on, making any adjustments needed to facilitate a positive experience. This could be by removing nails from a piece of wood, sanding down sharp edges to avoid injury, or keeping smaller objects, like beads, away from younger children who might be inclined to pop them into their mouths!

Oh, and perhaps be ready to throw things away secretly… if your child is anything like mine, they will mourn the loss of any item. Even if it has been so loved, that it’s now in tatters! 

Here’s a video that demonstrates loose part play simply, so you have a visual and can get started today.

Happy loose part playing!


Childcare development

0-12 month development

Is it possible for newborns to sleep too much?

Author: Cassie Shortsleeve

Naturally, newborn babies sleep a lot, usually between 14 and 17 hours every day. Generally, newborns sleep up to 8 to 9 hours in the daytime and up to 8 hours at night. 

Although some babies need just 15 hours of sleep a day, others will naturally sleep for around 18 hours a day. This variation is completely natural and is not a cause for concern.

One downside is that although your child will sleep all day, you will not sleep through the night. Babies have small stomachs, meaning they must wake every few hours to eat. Most babies don't start sleeping through the night (6 to 8 hours) until at least 3 months of age. 

The original article to learn more about newborn babies’ sleep patterns.

1-2 year development

At what age should your child drop their afternoon nap?

Author: Bianca Wordley

It understood that toddlers need a nap on top of 10 - 12 hours of nighttime sleep. And it is in your best interest to keep your little one well-rested. A tired toddler is more difficult to handle, cranky, irritable, and more likely to have a tantrum or cry. 

Naps are tricky and can disrupt nighttime sleep if they are timed incorrectly. Naps that are too long or scheduled too close to bedtime will disrupt nighttime sleep. 

And once your child is around 3 - 4 years old, it is time to start slowly dropping the nap. This can be done gradually for an easy transition.

Refer to the original article to understand the complexities of dropping naptime.

2-3 year development

Simple tricks to keep the kids’ playroom tidy

Author: Marissa Hillman

Marissa has developed a system to declutter her children’s’ playroom while avoiding the constant battle of convincing her sentimental children to give up their prized possessions. 

Her children’s’ most used toys are kept within reach. On the other hand, neatly tucked away boxes house the toys her children do not play with regularly. 

When the playroom begins to clutter with toys, she makes space in the boxes for new clutter by clearing out items that have not been used in months. These unused items are then kept in the attic for a few months, before being donated. 

The idea is that a toy that is not asked for is better donated. However, I wonder if it would be better to teach your children to willingly donate things they do not use.

Read on to understand exactly how Marissa’s system works.

3-4 year development

How Do Children Overcome a Fear of Water?

Author: Moden Mom

For many Australian children, the water is an enticing playground. Many of us have memories of spending days entire summer holidays splashing around with our friends. Watersports are a big part of Australia.

However, some children have a deep-rooted fear of water, which in extreme cases is classified as aquaphobia. Fortunately, one can overcome aquaphobia and become perfectly comfortable in the ocean.

Parents can assist by both considering the reasons behind this fear, and dedicating themselves to the task of helping their child overcome it. They can transform their water-shy kid into an aqua-loving little swimmer.

Continue reading for a better understanding of childhood shyness.

4-5 year development

The Effects of Academic Parental Pressure on Kids

Author: Madison Pados.

As a parent, you must encourage your children to succeed at school. However, many parents fall into the trap of putting too much academic pressure on their children. Although these parents have nothing but good intentions, their efforts can backfire severely.

Children faced with unmanageable parental pressure can be affected in many ways. To start, excess pressure to succeed can cause immense anxiety, which to an extent paralyses children with fear. Instead of engaging in class and learning, they are consumed with a fear of failure.

Otherwise, excess parental pressure can also harm a child’s confidence and even results in bad behaviour if a child acts out in frustration.

Refer to the original article to learn about the complexities of academic parental pressure.

Development of boys

Labelling playful boys as 'class clowns' is harmful

Author: Araine Beeston

Many boys are naturally playful, continuously being boisterous with their friends or joking around. And while this behaviour is cute, it can result in a child gaining a reputation for being overly playful or the title of ‘class clown’.

These labels can result in the child receiving negative treatment from teachers. Studies have shown that teachers consistently list overly playful boys and ‘class clowns’ as the most disruptive forces in their class.

Ultimately, negative treatment from teachers can result in a child being viewed negatively or even excluded by his/her peers. Continue reading to learn more about the danger of labelling a child the ‘class clown’.

Development of girls

Why kids should learn how to play with fire and power tools

Author: Araine Beeston

Fire pits and power tools are the last things one would expect to see at a preschool, however, research suggests that we should expect exactly this. 

Exposure to various dangerous objects, from open flames to hammers and power tools, helps preschoolers develop confidence, safety awareness and better risk assessment skills.

While playing in the street or climbing trees is discouraged by  ‘helicopter parents’, such activities can be crucial when it comes to shaping how a child sees the world, ultimately influencing how they approach risk.

Continue reading to learn more about the study, which highlights the importance of risky play in a world where helicopter parenting is increasingly common.

Craft Corner

Make paper straw Christmas tree ornaments

Get crafty this holiday season with these decorative paper straw Christmas tree ornaments. If you haven’t done so yet, it’s time to get the Christmas tree up. And if it is already up, let's add some homemade decorations.


Read on for further instructions.

Make an Australian Animal Wreath

Make a locally themed Christmas wreath for your front door or even your child’s bedroom door. For this craft, all you need is a ring of cardboard, coloured construction paper, scissors and glue. A printable Australian animal template is provided.


Detailed instructions provided here.

Create colourful popsicle snowflakes

Although you are unlikely to see any real snowflakes in Australia over the Christmas period, you can make popsicle snowflakes at home. With glue and glitter, this will be a messy task, so be prepared for the clean-up. q3


Follow the steps to create your very own popsicle snowflake

Reindeer Christmas ornaments for your tree.

If your Christmas tree is still looking a little bland, add a few homemade reindeer and snowman ornaments. Decorate white styrofoam balls with eyes, ears, and antlers before hanging them on the tree.  


Refer to the original article for exact directions