Repository logo

Preschool children’s loose parts play and the relationship to cognitive development: a review of the literature

Faculty Advisor




play, cognitive development, toys, play objects, loose parts, loose parts play

Abstract (summary)

Play is an integrative process, and the skills acquired in it—overcoming impulses, behavior control, exploration and discovery, problem-solving, reasoning, drawing conclusions, and attention to processes and outcomes are foundational cognitive structures that drive learning and motivation. Loose parts play is a prominent form of play that many scholars and educators explicitly endorse for cognitive development (e.g., divergent thinking, problem-solving). It is unique among play types because children can combine different play types and natural or manufactured materials in one occurrence. While educators and policymakers promote the benefits of loose parts play, no previous research has explored the direct relationship between preschool-age children’s indoor loose parts play experiences and cognitive development. We address this gap by bringing together the relevant literature and synthesizing the empirical studies on common play types with loose parts, namely object and exploratory, symbolic and pretend, and constructive play. We also focus on studies that examine children’s experiences through loose parts, highlighting the impact of different play types on learning through the reinforcement of cognitive skills, such as executive function, cognitive self-regulation, reasoning, and problem-solving. By examining the existing literature and synthesizing empirical evidence, we aim to deepen our understanding of the relationship between children’s play with loose parts and its impact on cognitive development. Ultimately, pointing out the gaps in the literature that would add to the body of knowledge surrounding the benefits of play for cognitive development and inform educators, policymakers, and researchers about the significance of incorporating loose parts play into early childhood education.

Publication Information

Cankaya, O., Rohatyn-Martin, N., Leach, J., Taylor, K., & Bulut, O. (2023). Preschool Children’s Loose Parts Play and the Relationship to Cognitive Development: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Intelligence, 11(8), 151.


Item Type




Attribution (CC BY)