DIY Color Sorting with Loose Parts

I don't know what it is about loose parts that young children love so much, but they seem automatically drawn to them. Maria Montessori observed in her work how attracted young children are to small objects. And, with the right care, children can use them for all sorts of learning.

A while ago, I bought a small wooden divided shelf. It was meant to hang on the wall, but I wanted to use it for something in our classroom. I really wasn't sure what to do, so I've just been holding on to it. Well, long story short, some of the younger siblings that come to co-op are starting to get old enough to participate but not quite ready for the trays I generally prepare for the rest of the kids.

So, I decided to make the shelf into a color sorter. To make the transformation, I just used some acrylic paint along the middle of each section. It was super easy and cheap -- my favorite type of tray. I paired the tray with a small box of loose parts -- wooden shapes, ribbon, glass beads, buttons, pom poms -- whatever I had sitting around.

Now, here's what surprised me. This tray has been a much bigger hit with Henry and some of the older co-op kids than it was for the younger ones! Henry is so attracted to this, even though he has mastered color sorting. He loves the different textures of the loose parts and all the different shades of colors.

At times, I've even noticed that he has pulled out just the box of loose parts. I'll find him making patterns and designs on the floor, which I think is amazing for Henry {particularly since he refuses to create in nearly every artistic medium.}

It's been a great reminder that the work we do doesn't always have to be complicated. Sometimes simple is better. And it's inspired me to incorporate loose parts into both our learning and our play a lot more frequently!

Have you had success with using loose parts? Have ideas on how I can use them?