The Secret Formula for Getting Your Kids To Play Happily - Invitations to Play

May 03, 2019

 Do you know what invitations to play are?

If you're looking for ways to keep your kids happily playing on their own while you work near them, you need to know about invitations to play. They're used in a lot of preschools and early childhood classrooms to get the kids interested in activities. Why wouldn't we use them at home, too?

An invitation to play setup is arranging the environment so kids want to explore, discover, investigate, and play. It's designed to spark kids' curiosity to play. It's a way to get the play started.

By taking a few toys or materials and arranging them together in beautiful ways at home, I call these invitations Play Presents. We set them up because they help the long days pass more quickly, they ease transition time, and they allow us to keep the kids off the screens. They'll naturally play with their toys for a while, but by adding play presents, it allows them to play even longer, and more independently.

Here's how to get started using Play Presents. Think about how you might use current toys, or items around your home, in these ways:

1.  Gather toys in new combinations.

Create a small world using animals, sand, and blocks, or use paint with cotton swabs, instead of brushes. Set things up in new and unique ways, so it is like a brand new toy or activity for your child. We also like to use one new item with two or three old toys. The new item can be something super simple, like recyclables or new markers, stickers, or tape.

2.  Set the items up attractively.

Reduce the clutter all around the area, or take familiar toys to a new location. Bring plush animals outdoors, or build a fort with books and flashlights, or set up some items on a table in new combinations. Create themes by gathering items that are all the same color, texture, weight, or size. Holidays are another great way to create a Play Present theme. Make sure there's plenty of white space around your play area.

3.  Add a sensory element.

Could you add something that would allow your kids to play a little bit longer? Add essential oils for scented playdough or colored dry rice, add bubble bath or soapsuds to colored water, or hide small toys and scoops in a bin of dry beans - they sound beautiful.

What's your child into right now? Grab that toy and add two more materials that make sense to pair with it. Then, find a clear table or lay a blanket on the floor, set them up and wait for your child to find it! 

For even MORE ideas, check out my book on Play Presents for preschoolers!

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