3 Simple Steps to Create an “Invitation to Play”
First of all, what is an “Invitation to Play”? Simply put, an invitation to play is where you curate an environment or space where you thoughtfully arrange a collection of items, materials, or props that children can engage with and use.
Here, children have the freedom to explore, investigate, and ignite their curiosity and imagination during play, as well as learn about the world around them, communicate, and expand their language vocabulary.
It’s incredibly beneficial in a child’s learning and development, and setting up only requires 3 simply steps.
Step 1: Theme Selection
Choosing a theme is an important step as it determines the child’s exposure and learning. It may be brain-cracking as there are so many interesting topics that you and/or your child could be interested in or fascinated with. However, always remember that the theme chosen should always be child-centred and should attract the child to engage. Here are two tips to choosing a theme:
A theme based on the child’s interest Observe the child’s latest obsession, whether it be dinosaurs or worms, for instance.
A theme where you want the child explore and learn about something specific (be clear of your intention behind your invitation to play).
For example, if your intent is for your child to explore weight as an extension of mathematical learning, your theme could be based on or inspired by this.
Step 2: Material Selection
Remember to plan ahead! You would not want to crack your head in selecting materials as this whole process can be costly and time-consuming… but not if you know what to do and how to prepare beforehand!
To make things interesting and easy, here are a few tips:
GOOGLE your way to wonderful ideas! Admit it… Google is the best of helpers. Be creative, be very general, and even try to be very specific in your word search. You’ll be amazed and inspired by the myriad of ideas out there in the world wide web, from Pinterest to blogs and more. For example, to set up a Christmas-themed invitation to play, search for “Sensory play ideas during winter”, “Christmas colours” or “Christmas tree decorations for children” - it doesn’t have to specifically be an invitation to play, but these activities and ideas could be launchpads for fun learning experiences for your child that you could take from or recreate.
Open your eyes (literally!) Be observant for the theme in your mind and look around you. You may find things around your house, the supermarket, the park, and even in unassuming things like recycled materials. For instance, for a shape-themed invitation to play, you can add materials like bottle caps, rubber bands, boxes, and so on.
DIY materials For example, use some play dough, slime, or moon sand, which you even make your own. These are some very good materials to use as they are very flexible and open-ended, and also allow children to explore the different textures.
Ask for a little helping hand You can even get your child to help with brainstorming. Getting them to partake in the setting up of this space helps to develop their confidence and makes them even more involved and interested in exploring. After all, it’s their little exploring station; they should participate in the planning, as well.
Be mindful when it comes to the material selection. It’s our responsibility as adults to minimise accidents. Always check if the materials you choose are child-appropriate & age-appropriate.
Be intentional. As mentioned, this is made for the benefit of the child. Ensure that you are comfortable to allow your child to play around with the materials.
Involve different sensory and tactile materials, all while making them appealing, engaging, challenging, and also hands-on.
Step 3: Location SelectionThe set-up of your invitation to play should be within your child’s reach, whether it be indoors or outdoors. Children should be able to access the space and engage with the materials freely. However, there are a few tips that can ease your worries.
Choose a location where you can monitor your child while they play. This lets your child observe and join in anytime, and allows you to guide them indirectly or directly anytime during play.
If your invitation to play involves materials like water or sand, set it somewhere that is easy to clean. For example, it could be the bathroom or the corridor.
In conclusion, setting up an invitation to play can be super simple. All you need is to be observant, open-minded, a little creative, and also intentional. I hope these tips have helped you, and I hope you and your child have the best time engaging in your invitation to play!
Wendy Oon is the business owner of A-DOUGH-RABLE (hey.adoughrable), selling homemade and non-toxic play dough to little explorers, learners, and creators. With a background in early childhood education and 8 years of experience under her belt, she infuses learning and education tools with fun, family bonding activities.