Children have been playing without instructions and with simple wooden and ceramic toys for thousands of years. The oldest discovered toys date from around 2000 BC, but they have likely existed for much longer.
For most people, the options for toys were limited. Now, with a dizzying array of items available to the average parent, the world of toys can be overwhelming. Brightly coloured plastic toys, toys that make noise, toys that include lights or other electronics - it can all be too much for parents, never mind for children.
Faced with this choice, parents are beginning to rediscover the benefits of simple, beautiful toys for loose parts play, such as Grapat toys.
Grapat is a small family workshop in Spain that specializes in hand-painted wooden toys for children under six. Their mandala toys stimulate a simple, joyful, and creative form of play that has many benefits for physical and mental development. Babies and toddlers often prefer these simple toys to more complex ones. As well as being beautiful objects, they allow children to unlock their inner creative potential.
What Are "Loose Parts" and Why Loose Parts Play?
The term "loose parts" was coined in 1972 by British architect Simon Nicholson. Nicholson was trying to design features for playgrounds and schools that would encourage children to be creative. He believed the idea of "creativity for the gifted few" was a lie. Instead, all children possessed the innate ability to use their imagination and expand their powers of creativity, as long as they were provided with a stimulating environment.
Loose parts refer to materials in an environment that stimulate this creativity. Small materials such as blocks, water, sticks, sensory materials - anything that can encourage a child to use their imagination and combine objects in innovative ways. Loose parts can be used in many different ways and with a variety of age groups.
An environment rich in loose parts will be an environment where children are comfortable with imaginative play. Think back to when you were a child, and a simple stick could become equivalent to a magic wand, or a rock could become a pet animal. Or perhaps you spent hours sorting leaves and stones into piles.
These are all examples of loose parts. Anyone with these memories would likely agree that playing in this way formed an important part of their development as a child.
Providing your child with toys that naturally stimulate their need for loose parts play is a wonderful way to engage their imagination and power of unstructured creative thinking. In your child's hands, these toys can become anything they wish.
Children's minds are very pliable. They react to the restrictions placed upon them as well as the freedoms. Instead of sticking to toys that only encourage one way of play, give your child a variety of loose parts for open-ended, deep play. You will be amazed by what their minds are capable of imagining!
Grapat Toys and Their Benefits
Located in the mountains of Catalunya, Spain, Grapat is one of the most respected workshops in the world of toys for loose parts play. Their toys are open-ended and can be played with in many different ways. They encourage discovery, creative thinking, and experimentation. Grapat toys come in a variety of shapes and sizes, all made of natural wood.
Grapat toys are warm and comfortable in the hand and children are naturally drawn to them. In fact, adults have even been known to keep them at their desks (guilty!) to fidget with during a long phone call or work session. Their shape and material make them naturally meditative and comforting.
Grapat toys come in several different sets. All can be played with in any way, or combined for even more creative possibilities.
Grapat mandalas are sets of toys that come in a colour spectrum of three different shades. Mandala toys stimulate visual learning and pattern-making. Mandalas are available in flower shape (pink), raindrop shape (blue), tree shape (green), stone shape (grey), and several other shapes and colours.
Of course, these names are just starting points. With some imagination, a raindrop can become a sweetie, a flower can become a button, and a tree can become a rocket ship.
Mandalas are a great tool for tracking your child's play development. As they grow, they will begin to sort the mandala pieces into shapes, colours, and patterns.
The ability to create patterns - to bring chaos into its own unique order - is one of the biggest benefits of loose parts play. Pattern recognition is a major part of human cognition, and mandalas are a fantastic way to stimulate this skill in your child.
Grapat nins are Grapat's line of figurative toys. They suggest the shape of a person but are kept free of any other identifying marks. Therefore, they can be men, women, ballerinas, construction workers, wizards, or anything else. They can be made to play any role or feel any emotion.
Nins come in a variety of colours, so they are a great teaching tool for learning different colours and shapes.
Nins work wonderfully as loose parts on their own, or they can be combined with other toys to stimulate social environments and interpersonal interactions.
Nins also come as "wizards," which are simply nins wearing a top hat.
Grapat sticks walk a line between figurative and abstract. To some, they may appear to be forest creatures or gnomes, with two eyes and a pointed hat. But to a child, they can be trees, rocks, food, or many other things.
Grapat sticks are comforting in the hand, and encourage curiosity and creativity in children.
Grapat coins are wooden disks that come in six beautiful colours. Coins are great for interacting with other toys such as nins and sticks.
On their own, coins are a good resource for teaching sorting, counting, and stacking. Early experience with numbers and sets is immensely helpful in early child development. When children are taught basic mathematical concepts in the real world, it helps to connect the world of abstract thought to the world of real, concrete examples.
Grapat rings are similar to the coins, but even more versatile. Rings can be used for teething relief, to teach early maths concepts, or as creatures or objects on their own. The possibilities of rings are numerous.
Best of all, rings fit over the Grapat nins and wizards, allowing for constructive interaction and play between sets.
Grapat Bowls and Acorns
The Grapat bowl and acorn set is comprised of six coloured bowls and six matching acorns for each bowl.
The set includes a pair of wooden tongs. Using the tongs to pick up the acorns can help to build fine motor skills, and the acorns and bowls can be arranged in different sets and patterns, building mathematical thinking skills in a similar way to the ring and coin sets.
Of course, as with the nins and mandalas, the acorns have the potential to become anything else your child can imagine.
Grapat Toys and Your Family
A set of simple wooden toys can stimulate your child's mental development in many different ways. Aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly, Grapat toys are among the best in their class.
Compared to plastic toys or ones with electronics, wooden toys are much less likely to break or lose parts. They are too large to swallow and are free of toxic materials, so there is no need to worry about your child's safety.
Grapat toys are built to last. They have a timeless look and are resistant to almost all forms of damage. When they are finally outgrown, Grapat toys can be passed down to siblings or friends, or even saved for your children's children.
Where to Purchase Grapat Toys
There are even more varieties of Grapat toys available for sale on our website. All Grapat toys are made to the highest standard of quality. All Grapat toys can also interact with one another, creating the potential for intricate imagined worlds.
We believe we have so much to learn from children, their curiosity, and the power of their imaginations. By providing them with a stimulating way to play, we hope to help them to grow to their full potential and become confident in their inherent creativity and imagination.