What on earth is an invitation to play and why are they useful to parents?

colourful disovery engaging gellibaff imagination invitation to play sensory sensory pasta sensory rice

Every now and then you will see me use the term "invitation to play" I use this term because of my background in childcare and it was something I was taught before I even had children.....You see my childminding career started long before the birth of my first child - which in itself caused me some issues with how to parent as oppose to being a child carer - but that is a story for another blog coming soon!

I could write this blog and explain the ins and out of an invitation to play and what it means in a learning and development world  but people have already done that and I would be offering no other input to what the phrase really means. So here are some links to some good explanations as to what an invitation to play means and in particularly how it is used in childcare / school settings.

So, what I wanted to touch on was what an invitation to play means in reality...For me, as a childminder, setting up an invitation to play was daunting and a lot of planning had to go into it as you have OFSTED monitoring your planning and you have to ensure you are meeting areas of development and that activities do not cover all the same things...So it actually seemed at the time a really big thing!

As a mum of two I now see it slightly differently, I find setting up invitations to play an actual god send!  Nowadays these invitations are mainly focused on my youngest who is one and half, as the seven year old has developed her own play routines and favourite games through using invitations to play since birth which means her imagination is fantastic and she has better play ideas than I do!  Not to say she does not get involved in what we do and in fairness I tend to set up more creative focused activities for her away from small hands! But we do find some activities we set up work for all of us and we all have fun..for example a sensory rice tub! 

So....as a parent and not a childcare/education setting what do you do?

Here is what I do...

  • I look at the different resources and toys we have available
  • I may (may) look at the interest for some ideas based on what we have available resource and toy wise, (if I have time and if I want to)
  • I think about what things we haven't played with for a while and what might work well,
  • I decide if I have the brain power for anything messy or not (you cannot do messy play if you are not prepared mentally I find)
  • I clear a space, I make sure all the other toys are away and I set something up - this is pretty important, having space and no other distractions are what is going to help with engagement and exploring and allowing imagination to flourish (in my non professional opinion) plus...play this way means only a few things out at a time...less mess to clear up! Winning!         

Here is the one point I would like to make, which I think is important! when you read bloggers and Facebook and Instagram and for sure Pinterest the pictures will look amazing, they will look organised and neat and tidy and it puts fear into us that ours will most definitely not look like that...Don't worry, most of the invitations to play you will see are from educators who have so many ideas and so much experience they have all the resources and planning and assistance to do that, but the one thing that I can safely say is that it all gets played with and the set up demolished by their exploration of it, especially if its messy play whether it is dry or wet it will all end up looking the same, no matter how organised and beautiful the original set up looked when the photo was taken!

PLUS and this is the BIG PLUS, you never know what is not showing in the picture...think this is a good thing we should all remember about any picture of post we see on social media xx

So, back to the point of all of this, why do i think inviration to plays home are useful to parents (me):

  • Changing toys and resources around gives children a new perspective, createing an engaging environment which they want to explore - which in turn results in focused play
  • Peace and quiet from the focused play which allows me to do something with the eldest child
  • Peace and quiet from the focused play which allows me to iron...who the heck am I kidding I don't iron!!!!
  • Peace and quiet from the focused play which allows me to cook dinner...yes OK I do that occasionally (less home cooked from scratch meals since two children on the scene, god help me when the third arrives!)
  • On occasions the activity is suitable for all ages which means I get to do something fun with both of them while pretending to be seven again! Winning!
  • No toys everywhere!  The idea being you set out one area (or a few ) and the rest of the toys stay packed away! Less distractions from other things cluttering the space means more engagement which means more focus and more calm....honestly it works!

Top tips for creating an invitation to play for parents and families:

  • We are not all pinterest mummy bloggers and we are not all educated in childcare so it doesn't have to be perfect photo shot  play set ups, it just needs to be right for you and your little ones!
  • It does not need to be pretty or planned - thrown together and spur of the moment is going to work just as well as long as it gives the lilones something to explore in a different way to usual!
  • If you do find time to plan it, all good!  I tend to say we are going to do something one day and then something comes up and we do it when we are ready too!  I used to panic I had not done it on the day I told myself I would, I am over that now, plans change in a family environment!
  • Mix up the textures and the resources, but don't panic you don't have giant coloured rainbows like the lady on Pinterest or that your messy play doesnt look as good as the post from Instagram you just saw, just be inspired and use what you have! Remember no one is watching you...its your home and your ideas...and if you have a play fail...let us know on Lilbits of Play and share the failure with us!  We have them all the time and I will be encouraging people to share their failures along with their successes!

I have added some pics of some of our set ups, some planned some not, also some of the tuff tray set ups from customers and myself just for inspiration more than anything and to show anything goes as long as it is inviting!

 Sensory Rice for scooping and grabbing with additional coloured counters for hiding and collecting   Tuff Tray Set up with Ocean Rice 



Thanks for reading!  Mrs Sam xxxx

Lilbits Top tip: If you are not keen on the most recent trend of making slime but your lilones love the idea, try this version using basil seeds, cornflour and water xxx

Older Post Newer Post