Loose Parts: Cones


The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations and the richer their experiences. – Loris Malaguzzi

Loose parts this year hasn’t always been easy. This group of children gravitate towards materials that have a pre-determined purpose: baby dolls, cars, blocks, kitchen toys, puzzles. We have slowly worked loose parts in as the year has progressed, and their ability to use materials in a flexible manner was highlighted for me this morning on the playground.

I took out a box of cones and placed them on the ground, with no instruction. I didn’t even know if anyone would use them. Many children came over, picked them up, placed them down, and walked away. I heard a few ideas thrown around, “we could build with them.” However, no one acted on their ideas. They seemed curious, but unsure.


What I know about these children: they love anything that has to do with babies, family play, or physical/fighting type games. I decided to bring out a box of dinosaurs, making sure to place both big and small dinosaurs together, next to the cones. Immediately the play began to unfold.

“Let’s trap the dinosaurs!”

“The big ones are too big to trap.”

“That’s okay, we can just trap the little ones and the big ones can watch.”

“We can kill the big ones.”

“But they are too big.”

Once they were all trapped, singular children began to pick up a few cones and walk away to do something else with them. Soon, there was a variety of cone play happening all over the playground.


They were used as shooters.


Used as start and finish lines for racing.


A made her symbol out of two cones. (a diamond with a line in the middle)


M managed to find herself with all of the cones all at the same time. She used this as an opportunity to line up the cones by size and color.


They were often used as microphones to sing into.

They were used in various types of construction based play all over the playground.


And then there is the classic, used as a hat!

There is a time, much greater in amount than commonly allowed, which should be devoted to free and unguided exploratory work….Children are given materials and equipment – things – and are allowed to construct, test, probe, and experiment without superimposed questions or instructions. – David Hawkins


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