30 Invitations to Play
Time is short, but we all want to feel like we are stimulating our children. Engaging them. Helping them learn. Sometimes I think this seems complicated but it really isn't.
When you look around on Pinterest or Google ideas for play it can seem like you should be doing a lot. I absolutely feel this way. Sometimes I even find myself creating elaborate play set ups for my kids that they inevitably completely ignore or play with for 5 minutes before heading back to their train tracks.
Kids do not need complicated.
More than anything they need time and space to play, but every now and then it can be helpful to set up an invitation for them to play or create. Invitations should be simple. They should be open ended and child directed. The wonderful thing about activities like these is that they are simple to set up and can be left for several days for your kids to return to as they wish.
Recently on Instagram, the lovely Meri Cherry started the hashtag #30invitationstoplay and it has exploded! There are so many fascinating and creative ideas. This inspired me to share more of our invitations that often don't make it onto Bambini Travel.
Today I have gathered 30 of my invitations. Mine tend to be on the fine motor or creative end of things. These are only intended to give you ideas or inspiration because truly they could be taken in so many directions. I encourage you to browse through these ideas, check out the hastag, and then think about what your child likes to do. How can you push them a little further? Twist their play in a slightly different direction? Introduce them to a new material? Then think simple.
Spend 5 minutes gathering materials and laying them out and then step back and see what happens.
These colored pencils are so cool! You dip them in water and then they act as watercolor paints. They were a new material gifted to us, so I started with a basic invitation to introduce them. White paper, a cup of water, and watercolor colored pencils.
2. Chalkboard Frame Invitation
We did this a while ago on paper and it was a huge hit so I tried it on the chalkboard. I have seen something similar on Artful Parent and she has a printable for you if you don't want to draw your own. There is something about frames that seems to draw kids in and encourage them to draw a little differently than a blank sheet of paper.
3. Cutting Circles
Increasing their ability to use scissors is one of my Four Year Old Homeschool Goals this year. My kids have both mastered cutting a straight line but circles and curves are trickier. This simple invitation was white paper, circles drawn on paper, and glue to make a collage with what they cut. We have soft handle kids scissors like these.
4. Cutting Curvy Lines
After watching my kids cut circles, I realized that they weren't that interested in making a collage. They only wanted to cut. It was their focus and they were engaged. A few days later I created this cutting tray and placed it on their art shelf. It has a variety of curving lines drawn on squares of construction paper. They have been happily cutting ever since.
5. Light Table Loose Parts People
Magna-tiles, "gems", and packaging sticks were placed on the light table during our Emotions Unit. When they discovered them, I simply asked if they wanted to try to make some people on the light table. The results were awesome.
6. Firefighter Building Invitation
My kids were fascinated by Firefighters for a while so I prepared this construction invitation. All I did was place a basket on red duplos and duplo firefighters on the chalkboard. (You can get this First Fire Station Duplo set on Amazon) A few days later I drew some flames on the chalkboard as well.
7. Skyscraper Drawing Invitation
During our Skyscraper and building unit I taped some big paper together and drew this simple invitation. Soon the buildings had elevators and all kinds of residents.
8. Construction Site Invitation
This was super quick and probably could have been more attractive, but it was intended to inspire some skyscraper building. I laid out their construction trucks and some legos on a board in the playroom. No skyscrapers were built, but they did have fun hauling and dumping legos with the trucks.
9. Fish Drawing Prompt
During Quiet Time I often give them some sort of simple drawing prompt. It engages them longer than a piece of paper and markers day after day. This one was part of our Ocean Unit.
10. Fish Patterning Prompt
This was another Quiet Time invitation to work on patterning (another one of those Four Year Old goals). My son made a blue fish, rainbow fish pattern which took him almost an hour. It was awesome.
11. Barn Drawing Invitation
A simple question and barn shape on a piece of paper. I added some word cards to encourage some writing with this prompts as well.
12. Leaf Investigation Tray
A magnifying glass and some leaves from our Leaf Hunt. This encouraged them to look more closely and could easily work with anything you collect.
13. Thankful Leaves Invitation
We used this as part of our Thanksgiving Preparation but it could just as easily be a simple leaf drawing prompt.
14. Stamping Invitation
This Fall I laid out this simple invitation on the table one morning. You could create a similar stamping invite with any theme or no theme at all.
15. Contact Paper Pumpkin Invite
I LOVE contact paper for collage making, especially on windows. This Halloween invite was a huge hit. I cut out pumpkin shapes from orange construction paper and stuck them to contact paper that was taped sticky side up to the window. Then I put a bunch of small construction paper scraps in the container on the sill.
16. Pumpkin Watercolor Invite
Remember those watercolor colored pencils? They came back here with a pumpkin drawing prompt. I used the exact same prompt with dabbers when my kids were two.
17. Foam Castle Invitation
Another material I love is foam. When you dampen it, the foam sticks to the wall of most bathtubs. During our Princess Unit, I cut out some basic shapes (and a sad attempt at a princess) and laid them out on the side of the tub.
18. Rapunzel Building Invitation
This was simple and fun. You can read the details in the original post.
19. Fall Window Collage
Another awesome use of contact paper. We repeated this Fall Window Tree Collage a few years in a row.
20. Loose Parts Invitation
This invitation was created as part of our investigation into landmarks and skyscrapers, but loose parts and a basic base with some glue is a wonderful invitation any time. What do you have lying around?
21. Perfect Square Invitation
Some of my favorite invitations are inspired by books. This one was inspired by the book Perfect Square by Michael Hall. What is one of your favorite illustrators? Can you create an invitation with the materials they use?
22. Train Track Drawing Prompt
This drawing prompt was one of the first I ever made for my kids. A simple track drawn across the paper. I've repeated it on different sized paper and with different art materials. If your kids likes trains - this is a winner.
23. Fall Tree Drawing Prompt
Three lines + three colors of crayons and you have an invitation.
24. Counting Invitation
This was made when my kids were younger toddlers. We were working on counting higher than two with any sort of correspondence. You could make a similar basket for any number you are working on. The materials are playful and offered a lot of built in reasons to practice counting and pairing items.
25. Glue and Yarn Invitation
Simple. Most of the successful invitations that engage children are basic materials - especially for toddlers and younger preschoolers. This one is from when my kids were toddlers. My kids, at four, still love any excuse to glue things to paper. The glue is fun, but it also help children learn about the material and develop fine motor skills.
26. Playdo and Natural Materials
Playdo can be paired with just about anything. Here I paired it with leaves and sticks from our Nature Hike.
27. Chalk Patterning
Take your invitation outside! I drew a simple pattern on the ground with chalk and left the bucket as an invitation for my kids to continue. Much of what you can do with paper and markers can be duplicated outside with chalk.
28. Writing Prompt
A journal or piece of paper, writing tools, an alphabet, and some word cards. This is great for kids who have shown an interest in learning to write letters and/or words.
29. Game Invitation
Do you have games stacked on a shelf? Do you have a specific skill you want to work on with your child? Games are often great for skill building. This fishing one is great for fine motor and hand-eye coordination development and this post has more of our favorites. Placing the game in a basket or out on a table invites them to play with you more than having them in a box on the shelf.
30. Christmas Tree Invitation
Okay, this one I admit took more than 5 minutes but not by much. I took some green, white, and red felt and cut it into shapes and arrange them on our flannel board. My toddlers had fun decorating their mini-Christmas trees.
Various Art and Play Materials
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