Monday, June 2, 2014

An invitation to play....with marbles!

 Have you heard of the strategy of offering an "INVITATION TO PLAY" for your children?  Simply put, you set up an appealing area with whatever play materials you want them to use.  You do this while they aren't watching (napping, in bed, in another room, etc.) and then "surprise" them with the invitation.  Sometimes you tell them to expect an invitation, other times you just leave it out somewhere for them to stumble upon and notice.

Invitations are highly motivation for kids.  First off, the appealing nature of how the activity looks instantly grabs their attention.  Second, it's new!!  And fun!!

Invitations are great tools for fussy/grumpy times of the day.  Dinnertime, anyone??!!  We use invitations on the two mornings a week that Quinn doesn't go to school--before I go to bed for the night I set out a small breakfasty snack and some type of art or play invitation on our kitchen table.  She wakes up earlier than everyone else.  We like our sleep.  So she can come down, eat her little snack, and start working or playing with whatever I've left out.  This (usually) works great in the mornings!

Invitations are also great tools for encouraging kids to play with toys/materials they haven't seemed to get "into" before.  Maybe setting it up a little bit, making it look appealing, and then placing it somewhere for your child to notice would encourage them to try new materials.  I also like using it to reignite their interest in toys and materials they haven't played with before.

For this particular invitation I had bought some marbles at the thrift store.  I set them on a tray (it's always a great idea to "corral" your invitations somehow--helps for both set up and clean up--I often use a rug, a quilt, or a tray, depending on the activity).  I poured the marbles out of the tin so he would spot them right away.  I also put out three tiny wooden bowls, a couple glass jars (on the carpet), some measuring spoons, a sifter, and a strainer.  Of course you know I tried to use natural materials--no plastic--and as many different types of natural materials as possible.  I envisioned him using them for pretend cooking play and also for music-making--two of his current interests.

He loves his marbles and plays with them for long periods of time quite often.  I do put the tray of marbles up between uses--to keep everything together, to keep marbles from getting lost, and to keep the novelty of the activity.  Every couple of days he asks for his marbles or I suggest them to him.  They continue to be a hit!!

I'd also recommend starting small with invitations.  Just put out a few things.  You can always add more items/steps the next time you use that same invitation.
Invitations also work with:
*cooking activities
*block play (build a little something to get them ingrigued--leave it set up along with a pile of unused blocks!)
*books (set a book open on end to catch child's attention)
*bath toys

Really the possibilities are endless....and this is one of those teaching tools that can be adapted to any age!!