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Loose parts are objects from nature or your house that give you unlimited opportunities to problem solve, design, create, knock it down, and rebuild. This week is all about exploring and tinkering with the loose parts you gather to build your STEAM skills. Tinkering starts with questions like, “What can I do with this?” or “How does this work?”


  1. What supplies do you have on hand or need to gather?
  2. Make a plan. Draw or sketch your ideas. 
  3. Gather supplies and bring your idea to life. 
  4. Test your creation. 
  5. Does it work? How could you change it to make it better?
  6. Try it again. 
  7. Show someone what you made. Talk about how you made it.
  8. Listen to their ideas for improving it.


  • toothpicks
  • clean Styrofoam trays
  • cardboard
  • wood scraps
  • plastic cups
  • paper plates
  • tape
  • wire
  • paper clips
  • string
  • shells
  • jars
  • buckets
  • pom-poms
  • feathers
  • gems, buttons
  • colored pencils
  • play dough
  • beads
  • crayons
  • markers
  • pens
  • paper
  • colorful stones
  • measuring cups
  • bowls
  • craft sticks
  • empty paper towel tubes
  • straws
  • pipe cleaners
  • corks
  • glue stick
  • yarn
  • rubber bands
  • coffee filters
  • balloons
  • boxes
  • empty egg cartons
  • spoons
  • colanders
  • washers
  • nuts & bolts
  • uncooked pasta
  • wooden blocks
  • rocks
  • branches
  • blankets
  • pebbles
  • bottle caps
  • flowers
  • seeds
  • pinecones

Look at artwork by the British artist and environmentalist Andy Goldsworthy for inspiration.

“I enjoy the freedom of just using my hands and “found” tools–a sharp stone, the quill of a feather, thorns. I take the opportunities each day offers: if it is snowing, I work with snow, at leaf-fall it will be with leaves; a blown-over tree becomes a source of twigs and branches. I stop at a place or pick up a material because I feel that there is something to be discovered. Here is where I can learn.”

Go outside and see what inspires you. Look for sticks, pinecones, rocks, leaves, pebbles, feathers, seeds, and flowers. Then arrange them in abstract designs like spirals, lines, and pyramids.

Document your creations by taking photos before they blow away or are moved by nature. Share what you create by using #YDLsummerchallenge on social media!


Part of the fun of exploring outdoors is seeking out the unknown, stretching limits, finding shortcuts and secret routes, and searching for high places and lookouts.


  • Use sticks to create a new path by using large sticks to make a giant maze
  • Use logs, stumps, curbs, park benches, anything near your home and create an obstacle course type path for someone to navigate. 
  • Use chalk or other markers to lay out clues for someone to follow your path. 

Once you’ve created your maze or path, make a map. Get paper and drawing supplies. Think about what the path looks like from a bird’s perspective up in the sky.

Then retrace your path and look for unusual trees, logs, rocks, nests, or holes that can be landmarks on your map to help others follow your path. You can even give your landmarks special names.

When you’ve finished, give your map to someone and see if they can use it to follow your path. 


Because loose parts come in all different sizes, shapes, and materials, you can use them to make a variety of sounds. Think about loose parts you have available. What can you design that will create sound? How can you use your objects in new ways to make sounds?

Think about windchimes, shakers, wind or string instruments, rhythm sticks, or drums.

Make sounds, listen to what you hear. Are the sounds high pitched or low? Loud or quiet? How would you describe the timbre? Harsh, clear, shrill, breathy, piercing, mellow? Can you create a tune and replay it for someone? 

Can you alter your creation to make it sound different? The looser or longer strings are on an instrument, the lower the pitch. The smaller the object inside a shaker, the higher the pitch. Have fun experimenting with sound!


It’s fun to use loose parts to make your own space–a fort under a tree or shrubs in the yard or a stick fort in the forest with a pine needle floor. You can also build small–make a table top model of your dream house with small loose parts such as sticks to show where the walls would be and acorns for where you would put chairs or make a fairy house!

Use your imagination, or get inspiration from others–forest fort, pillow and blanket fort, or architectural design plans using found objects.  Build large or small, then show us what you create by using #YDLsummerchallenge on social media. Be sure to help tidy up when you’re finished playing.


We use words everyday in our life. We speak, write, read, even text with words. They are often used to describe an object or communicate with others. Since we realize that they’re so important to us, you can create your own with the technique called portmanteau! 

Click the button to learn how.


With an adult’s help, make a batch of homemade air dry clay or use play dough and use your found objects to make a mosaic. 


1 cup cornstarch

2 cups baking soda

1 1/2 cups water


  • Put ingredients in a large pot over medium-low heat and stir until completely smooth. Continue stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan so none of the mixture hardens or burns. Heat the mixture low and slow until it begins to bubble and thicken. Keep moving the liquid around the pan, and don’t worry if it starts to clump as it heats. 
  • When all the moisture has evaporated, the mixture should come together in a big ball of dough that somewhat resembles a really stiff pile of mashed potatoes. Once all the dough is solid and pulls away from the pan, remove it from the heat. Transfer the dough to a bowl to cool, and cover with a damp paper towel so it doesn’t harden. 
  • Once the dough is cool, roll or pat it to about 1/4″-1/2″ thickness in the shape you want your mosaic to be. Maybe you want a square tile, maybe round.  
  • Press found objects into it such as pebbles, gems, and seeds. You can place them randomly, or try to lay them out in a pattern, radiating from the center, in stripes, or waves. You can also leave some space blank and make impressions in the clay.
  • When you’re finished, let it dry, then put on display. 

Find other inspirational ideas and how-to videos at YDL YouTube. 



Read a Loose Parts book for more inspiration. You can find them at the library or on Hoopla!

You can find Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer on Hoopla, including Iggy Peck’s Big Project Book and Rosie Revere’s Big Project Book.