Playtime at Grace Village is used to expand play activity, to take games and endeavours to where each child wants to explore. We do this with what we call invitations to play. You may have also heard the term ‘provocations’. These terms are used to describe the same concept.
Play is a wonderful and fun time for your child. It is also an instructive activity for your child to learn about their world, their place in it and to experiment.
It is a time when imagination is set free, to explore, attempt new things, to fail and try again. Play is the seed of their growth and development.
What is an invitation to play?
An invitation to play or provocation is a way of setting up your child’s play session and inviting them in; to new and different ways to trigger their interest and open new directions of play.
Invitations to play encourage your child to expand their thinking and play in a fresh and creative way, without intruding on their free play.
It is a great way to introduce pieces from nature, objects from around the home or different uses for their toys.
The 3 elements to create an invitation to play
Uses open-ended activities
An invitation to play usually includes open-ended activities. Also called loose parts, they are components that can be played in a variety of ways.
Let’s say shells are a part of your provocation. The shells are the loose parts and can be used for so many activities – counting, weighing, sorting by colour, size or shape, or their tactile properties. The shells can be used in games, to construct, decorate or in art. All these activities expand your child’s imagination, more so than structured play.
Inspiration: You can set up an invitation to play with a variety of shells, a pair of small kitchen tongs and several varying sized bowls.
An invitation to play has the elements set out in an obvious space or zone so they are inviting as well as self-explanatory.
For invitations that contain smaller elements, the use of a tray or base is perfect. For larger items, the invitation to play elements can be clearly set out on a table or arranged in a section of the floor.
Inspiration: Arrange salt or sand in a drinks tray (should have an edge on it to contain the sand or salt) and place toy trucks in it with some small twigs and leaves.
Little direction from an adult
During an invitation there is little adult direction. The invitation to play should be self-explanatory for the child to explore each of the elements. By containing the number of elements, the direction of play is decided by the child or children as a group.
During invitations to play, an educator or adult asks or invites the child or class to think about or explore an idea.
Why are invitations to play important?
Play that is initiated by your child (with little adult instruction), encourages new ideas and expands their ability to explore and be in control of their learning. Their play resources and choosing how to play with them inspires them to have first-hand experiences.
Children given the opportunity to make their own choices, learn independence for life-long learning.
Reggio Emilia and invitations to play
The Reggio Emilia Approach is an innovative and inspiring approach to early childhood education which values the child as strong, capable and resilient; rich with wonder and knowledge.
By applying invitations to play to your child’s playtime, you are encouraging your child’s wonderment and knowledge in their actions by provoking thinking, ideas, and creativity.
Learning is best through exploration. Offering elements and materials that invite children to play in a creative, non-instructive way, with no conditions on achievement promotes your child in his/her search of the world.
Every child brings with them deep curiosity and potential and this innate curiosity drives their interest to understand their world and their place within it.
Grace Village follows the Reggio Emilia approach to early learning and use invitation to play as an experience set up in response to each child’s ideas and interests.
Idea: Find a piece of packing foam or similar, some golf tees and beads of different sizes, weights and shapes.
Where do I begin with invitations to play?
For new comers, it can be quite tricky to create new invitations to play, but once you understand and start thinking differently, they do come together quite easily.
Observe your child
Watch as your child plays. Listen carefully to their conversations and the kind of questions they ask. Observe how they interact with others. Take note of their favourite toys, games and books.
All this information will help direct your creation and set-up of an invitation of play for your child.
Think creatively and differently
Now that you have fully observed your child, think about how you can incorporate their curiosity, ideas and interests into an inspiring playtime.
A few items will do
Don’t overcomplicate it. You don’t need a lot of items for your invitation to play tray or table. Three different parts is a good start to get them on their way to free play.
A little inspiration
Now that you have an idea of what your child likes, their interests, and some topics they would like to explore and experiment with more, you’re ready to create your very own invitation to play.
Start with a toy as the base
If you choose one of your child’s favourite toys to start with, this can be a good base on which to add the other invitations to play elements.
Idea: Grab several toys of various sizes and textures, some fabric scraps and a handful of rubber bands.
Use nature as your inspiration
There is so much to do, see and to love about nature, go outside and see what you can find. Is it Autumn and large different shades of red and orange leaves are around, or perhaps you have brought home some shells from a recent visit to the beach or it’s Spring and the flowers have sprung?
Idea: Set up leaves, sticks, flowers and rocks with their play insects
Look around the house
There’s a treasure trove of items you can use. Look in the kitchen utensil drawer, or the plastic container cupboard. How about pull out different shape pastas or flours with varying textures. Try the linen cupboard with an assortment of fabrics in varying colours and textures or the garage for some unusually shaped tools.
Grace Village loves to use recycled materials. These are always fascinating and inspiring as well as fostering a culture of sustainability.
Inspiration: From the recycling, gather some caps, lids, jars, boxes and containers, with small pom poms.
Check out social media
Use the hashtag #invitationstoplay to find an abundance of ideas from other parents or early learning childcare centres. Remember, your invitation to play does not have to be Instagram worthy, a few items around a theme is all your child needs to explore.
Get inspiration from Grace Village
In line with our Reggio Emilia approach, we use invitations to play every day for our children. When you next pop in, have a look around each of the rooms at what is set up for the day. You can draw inspiration from our trays or use elements as a base to develop one for your child.
Alternatively, ask your little one’s educator. We can help direct you in the areas of learning and play they love the best to build on what we are teaching at Grace Village.
Don’t get disheartened if your child doesn’t want to engage with your table invitation to play, or even play with it how you imagined. That’s the beauty with invitations to play. You are seeing their world from a whole new perspective, so different from our own. This is what makes us all so special and unique.
Invitations to play are fun. Once you get started, you will see the possibilities are unlimited – you won’t be able to stop!