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3 min read

An "Invitation to Play" is a really cool concept. It's a simple idea but has so many benefits!

It's a term to used describe the set up of materials in a way that 'calls the child to play'. In other words, the child sees the toys or activity and can’t resist wanting to explore.

For example:
  • Cars & Trucks - Use painters tape (inside) or chalk (outside) to create a road, add street signs, familiar shops, etc. Put the cars and trucks at different spots along the road or leave them in a basket to the side.


  • Animal figurines - Use blocks, Magna-tiles, a Grimms rainbow or something other building toy, and set up little homes/pens or a zoo for the animal figures. You can add some loose parts in for foods and other pretend materials.


  • Sensory Bins - rather than having the tools, toys, etc. beside the sensory bin, put them in the bin.


  • Play Dough - put the playdough in a container the child can manage or simply have a ball of it on the tray with tools that will invite open-ended exploration, i.e. rolling pin, cookie cutters, loose parts, etc.


  • Trains - rather than leaving the trains pieces (tracks, trains, accessories) in a bin, make a basic track and set out some of the accessories
  • Loose Parts - set out a container with compartments containing various loose parts. You don't need to do much else but you could also put out a large bowl, mixing tools (whisk, spoons) play dough, or tongs to go with it.


  • Tonging or Pouring Activities - set out tongs + bowls or jugs and something your child can transfer. Set it out on a tray, inviting your child to explore.

There's No Wrong Way To Do This

The examples above are really specific, just to give you some ideas, but you don't have to do much.

It's about piquing a child's interest and sparking their imagination - not taking over their play.

You just want to draw attention to a specific material and make it look inviting.

For younger children, it's even simpler:

  • put out a basket of scarves, child-safe kitchen tools, balls, etc.
  • make a bunch of block stacks for your child to knock down
  • hide objects in pots, clear tupperware, or under cups and set them out on the floor


And the best part - you don't need new toys for this. This is actually more about making old toys new again! 

What's The Point?

Aside from piquing your child's interest in toys they haven't played with in awhile, one of the biggest benefits is that it engages the child right away and promotes focused, independent exploration.

Rather than sitting with your child and suggesting activities, the materials call to them, drawing them in.

Invitations to play are also great because they:

  • Develop creativity - the child is free to explore the activity and experiment with materials in a way that suits their interests, developing their creativity along the way
  • Increase engagement and focus - when children are presented with interesting and inviting materials, they are more likely to become deeply engaged and focused on their play, which enhances their learning experience

If you try any with materials from the store, I'd love to see them!