What is an invitation to play? It's simpler than you think, and really exactly as it sounds. Invitation To Play is a way for children to learn and play creatively through use of materials. Your job? Just supply the collection of interesting, unique, or diverse objects and materials they will be playing and discovering with. Sound simple? It is. Sensory play is perfect for growing brains, and includes any activity that develops or stimulates your baby or child's senses. When children play using scientific processes (discovery play), this stimulates their senses to help them develop cognitively, socially, emotionally, physically, and creatively.
Your goal with this play is to be open-ended, with no specific outcome or requirement to finish playing. This simply means, don't have an expectation for them to complete a "project" in any structured way. If you are setting out finger paints, toilet paper tubes, sponges, and water, the idea would be that we don't expect them to create an art project but rather play with the items in a way they choose.
If you are wanting to steer your playtime into more constructive learning, remember to keep it simple. Don't force it, instead supply the tools and items for that subject or development area. For example, sensory play stations you provide can be specific to the "subject" or theme. It's amazing what is learned through dramatic and pretend play! If your goal is to learn more about colours, shapes, or numbers, then your items in play would include those colours, shapes, or numbers.
Invitation To Play is not just for toddlers and big kids. Babies also benefit from this free-play! Again, keep it simple. Babies and young toddlers learn best by hands on play, with younger babes mouthing objects. Remember to keep play items a safe size, and safe to put in mouths. Sensory play is a great option for this age group, or discovery baskets. You can easily make several sensory or discovery options, and rotate through the month. Baby friendly objects would include items such as balls, colourful scarves, musical instruments, bubbles, books, flowers (edible or safe such as tulip touching, or dandelion squishing), blocks, etc. Try to incorporate different textures, sizes, colours, sounds, and sensations. And don't be afraid to get messy! Babies also love to squish food and mud between their hands, touch sand, play in water, or swat at foam.
Here are some great ideas to use for your next Invitation To Play!