Go to content
Loose parts and informal play

Loose parts and informal play

19 Jul 2023


Whilst structured play is the element of the playground that attracts people to a specific play area, unstructured play can be just as important as it allows children to use their creativity and imagination to play games with no set goal, which can be great for their cognitive development. Having elements that inspire informal play can encourage some children to use the equipment within a play space as part of their imaginary game.

Within the term ‘informal play’, there are various additions to a playground that allows it to take place. One way of doing this is through sand and water play, allowing children to control the element and choose how they play with it. Whilst being significant for informal play, it also offers brilliant sensory play for the child, which can help with their development. Furthermore, various equipment pieces can be installed to allow for this style of play, such as mushroom pumps, transport systems and building sites.

Water play inspired by a water pump

Informal play can take place with simple concepts, such as leaving empty flat space within a playground where children will come up with imaginary games, such as tag or superhero games. Another way to encourage this sort of play would be to have loose parts around the playground which can be used in different ways, allowing freedom. Crawling tunnels and small stepping logs are great ways to enforce informal play as children can crawl and hop between structures, tailoring to their imaginary game.

Another way to encourage free play among children is to inspire nature amongst a play space. Whether this means keeping large trees or planting flowers and long grass for the children to disguise themselves, it will surely add to the child’s excitement and imagination when natural insects like butterflies interact with the space. 

Having open spaces within a play area offers children the perfect opportunity to test out games they have played with their friends and doesn’t confine them to specific equipment, as some playgrounds tend to do. Whilst some pieces of play equipment allow for informal play, having an open space offers the child the freedom to operate within the area as they choose.  

Natural open space designed for informal play

Timberplay specialises in natural, landscape-led play solutions for the UK, Middle East and beyond. If you want to find out more about designing for informal play or general playground structures, contact us here.