I don’t know about you, but my little one will not go to a box of toys and get one out and play with it! I thought this is how kids play or at least some do.
So a way I’ve found to combat this is to set up invitations to play. So what are they…?
An 'invitation to play' is a concept derived from the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. The Reggio philosophy encourages children to learn through exploration, by providing materials that 'invite them to play' in a creative, non-directive way, with no criteria for success.
This is how we do it at Play Plus, we put out interesting objects, sometimes they are normal household objects, sometimes they are toys and invite the children to play, to explore and to learn in a way that they only know how to. And they will probably learn things that we never expected of them. I am often stunned that they do things with the invitations to play that I couldn’t even have imagined!!
But this doesn’t have to be only for a child care setting, but you can do it at home too. Some will work brilliantly and some will flop quite dramatically, but don’t loose heart, that is normal. Try to set up invitations to play based on the interests of the child.
This works well for younger children - Hunt round the house for different materials. (Nothing sharp please) Cardboard, pipe cleaners, pasta, bubble wrap, silky material, demin, scraps of wallpaper - what ever you can get your hands on.
Then put everything in a box and let them explore. I remember my little one flapping lining paper over his head for ages, because of the sound it made! Even if they are not in the talking stage yet, can you talk about the different materials - soft, hard, bendy! Or just sit and watch they do whilst you enjoy a cuppa!
Toy invitations to play
Here I used some wall paper scraps (this is optional) and then added in some bricks and a boat. O and a posting box, because who doesn't love posting!
If you don't have a post box then just put a few bowls around for added sound (As the bricks clink inside when dropped etc)
Your kitchen colander can be a great invitation to play - poke some pipe cleaners in the holes or if you don't have any pipe cleaners, what about some spaghetti. It's great for fine motor skills.
Pots and spoons
Kids love scooping and transferring objects from one bowl to another. We just don't love the mess, but why not give it a go. If you have a garden then get loads of pots and spoons and use water.
If you don't have a garden you could use lentils or a bit of dried rice or we used a small cupful of porridge oats.
Table top Invitations
Also just setting up the toys you have can invite them, especially if they struggle with imagination. My Little one would play if it was set up but not if it was in a box, because he couldn't see what it could be.
Why not set up an invitation to play while they are napping (if that still happens) or during snack time and see what they play!