Is Snow A Loose Part?

by | Jan 21, 2022 | Occupational Therapy, Outdoor Play

When you hear snow in the forecast, what comes to mind? Do you think of ceaseless shoveling? A slow morning commute? Or do you think about the hours of fun you had as a child building, creating, and sledding in the endless sea of white? For me, I look back upon my childhood winters fondly, remembering how I would stay outside for hours building snowmen and forts, having snowball fights, and sledding.

One of my favorite childhood memories was when my father would attach a toboggan to the back of his snowmobile. My siblings and I would hop in the toboggan while my father pulled us all around the field. The end of the snowmobile would spray snow at our faces and we would be laughing the whole time. My father would pull us up a huge hill nearby, unhook the Toboggan and push us down the hill. We would slide all the way down to the bottom laughing and screaming. Winter has always been one of my favorite seasons, because of the natural resource: SNOW!

Working with TimberNook, I have learned about the term “loose parts,” which in my own words is any item or material that can be used in a variety of ways. For example, a loose part could be a wooden plank because it can be used as a table, part of a fort, a seesaw, and anything else children want it to be. There are no directions involved, just creativity and imagination. 

Something that has been going through my mind lately is whether snow is considered a loose part. My honest opinion? YES, it can. Snow can be used and created into just about anything. As an occupational therapy student working with TimberNook, I have seen children make snow into snowmen, large forts, snowballs, chairs, snow angels, and even creating slopes for sledding. One time, I saw a little girl create a whole “candy shop” by molding snow into muffin tins and flipping them out. As seen in the picture, I even witnessed children rolling huge balls of snow to create a snowball fortress. They sat in there and played for hours. It amazes me what children can do with snow and it reminds me that snow is a LOOSE PART! 

If you live in a cold environment, bring your children or students out and play in the snow. Snow play provides so many benefits! Not only does snow spark artistic skills, but it provides a whole-body sensory experience. Snow is cold and wet, and children will have to adapt to the feeling of being cold. Snow can also provide essential “heavy work” when walking through deep snow, shoveling or rolling into large snowballs. When building snowmen or snow forts, children can practice executive functions and problem solving skills when deciding how much snow to use and where to put it. 

If you invite some friends over to play with your child or take your students outdoors, you will notice the amount of social skills that are incorporated into snow play. Children will have to communicate with each other on how to make different snow forts or even pick teams for a snowball fight. 

Here are some tips on how to inspire play using snow:

  • Put out sleds or even cardboard boxes to use as sleds.
  • Lay out different sized shovels.
  • Provide kitchenware, so children can pretend snow is food.
  • Fill up squeeze bottles with colorful water, so the children can use the snow to create art.
  • Put out clothing pieces, carrots, buttons, hats and scarves, so children can create snowmen.

After placing out these items, the adults can step back and let the children decide how they use the items. They will surprise you with what they come up with every time!