Invitation to Play

2 Jul

One of the new things I was planning to try for the coming school year is the idea of an Invitation to Play: items set out in a new and inviting way, just begging to be played with.  I combed Pinterest and my own closet shelves for a list of interesting ideas, with the intention that I would use these Invitations in the fall, when my 2-year-old niece Munchkin would be with us during the weeks.  I thought that at that time, Munchkin and Jenga could mostly play with these together and give me a block of time when I could work more intensely with Catan.

But my own kids decided they just could not wait for September to see what unusual tricks I might have up my sleeve, and they asked me to start the Invitations when our new-paperwork-year started – this week.

On Monday, the kids were greeted with some new-to-us stand-up cardboard figures – a King and Queen, Prince and Princess, with their castle and steed and a fairy godmother, an archer and a dragon.  I set the figures up in their little stands atop a green leafy playsilk.

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This Invitation was a huge hit, as my kids adore pretend play in many forms.  6-year-old Jenga played with the figures herself for about 45 minutes before Catan woke up, and then they played with them together for nearly an hour, cooperatively and with great give-and-take.  The story started out being about a curse that turned people into ogres but by the end, it was a meta-story about people making a movie about a curse that turned people into ogres!

On Tuesday, I set out a more abstract Invitation.  I dumped out a bag of foam pattern blocks and set out three small wooden nesting boxes.  I made my own pattern on the top of one of the boxes to give the kids a jumping off point.

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This Invitation was a little rougher, but only because Jenga likes to copy everything that Catan does, and so when he made a pattern using all of the small rectangles, she got mad that there weren’t any left for her.  Eventually they smoothed that out, but they only played with this one for about half an hour or so before going on to something else.  In the end, Catan had decorated one box with a pattern and then used more blocks to build a fancy bridge leading up to it.  Jenga laid out plates of pattern-block food!

It will be a challenge for me to keep up all year, but here’s my own motivation: the kids react as if they’ve been given a brand-new toy to play with!  Even when it’s something we’ve had for years, like the pattern blocks, somehow seeing it set up for them, maybe in a different way or with a different mix of items, really is inviting and draws them right in.

Do you use invitations to play?  I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences.

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One Response to “Invitation to Play”

  1. Linda S July 5, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    What a great idea! This could be used as a boredom-buster, or to introduce a new skill or a new unit in our homeschool. There are tons of ways to apply this. Thanks for sharing!
    (stopping by from 123Homeschool4me)