An invitation to play tutorial

I have been seeing a lot of “Invitations to Play” across the web and on Facebook.  The photos being shared are beautiful and inspiring to look through but there are many things to consider when creating an invitation to play…

Defining the Invitation to Play

Simply stated, an invitation to play is arranging the environment so that it “invites” young children to come to an area in your classroom to explore, investigate, question, examine, participate, touch, feel, and manipulate through as much independent play as the materials can possibly allow.

An invitation to play should…

  • Capture a child’s curiosity
  • Be intentional in design and purpose
  • Be appropriate for the age of children you teach
  • Include materials that the children can freely touch, manipulate, and explore

Questions to answer about the Invitation to Play

The invitation to play is not just setting up a pretty table but it is instead intentional in design to foster learning and to keep the child engaged the learning process.  I am an avid believer in creating an invitation to play whenever and where ever I can in my classroom. As I am preparing my invitations to play, I try to visualize how the children might use the materials and at the same time leave room for exploration that may not be what I expected.

It is a good idea to consider some of the following questions when setting up an invitation to play…

  • Are there plenty of materials available for the children to equally and fully participate?
  • Can the children freely explore the materials?
  • Is the area well organized and can it be easily managed by the children and the teacher as needed?
  • What do I think the children will do with the materials?
  • What do I hope the children will do with the materials?
  • What kind of developmental growth or learning am I trying to promote or do I visualize taking place in this area through play?

Tips for creating an invitation to play

I have compiled a few photos from my own classroom that I consider to be an invitation to play. Each of these invitations to play lead to different kinds of experiences but I hope they will inspire your own ideas as you take a look…

Make it appealing

Make it engaging

Make it challenging

Make it hands-on

Make it curious

Make it colorful

Make it surprising

Make it tempting

Make it obvious

Make it creative

Make it real

Make it fun

Make it ready

Make it interesting

Make it open ended

Some of my invitations go beyond just the area of play and include an invitation to create, cook, write, and draw. Ultimately, I want to send my preschoolers an invitation to participate in all areas of my classroom and in all types of play and learning experiences.

Links to Grow On

You can view more invitations to play on Pinterest by clicking here!

Creating Invitations to Play from The Imagination Tree

Elements for Creating Play Scenes and Invitations to Play from Childhood 101

An Invitation to Play (Play Dough) from Learn with Play@home

An Invitation to Play (Fine Motor) from Famiglia&seoul

By |2012-07-09T07:00:41+00:00July 9th, 2012|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Chelsea July 9, 2012 at 7:32 am - Reply

    Thank you for this blog entry! Fantastic ideas.

  2. Jill July 9, 2012 at 9:16 am - Reply

    thank-you for sharing! i will be starting a new job soon, and am nervous about leaving my daycare environment and starting a preschool job…your blog has been so inspiring im sure i will be using LOTS of your ideas!!!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 9, 2012 at 10:12 am - Reply

      I wish you all the best Jill as you start your new job! I love new adventures and you will be a wonderful addition to your new preschool! ~Deborah

  3. Ness @ One Perfect Day July 9, 2012 at 10:25 am - Reply

    This is such a great tutorial. It will be so helpfulusing this as a checklist for creating invitations to play that are meaningful and which will hold my son’s attention.

  4. Carrie July 9, 2012 at 11:25 am - Reply

    Thanks Deborah… I will be using this for my teachers when they come back in the fall.

  5. Mud Hut Mama July 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    You have great timing! I’ve also seen a lot of invitations to play popping up and been wondering if I should be doing this but haven’t really known what to do or how to start. You’ve got some wonderful ideas.

  6. Adriana Lopez July 9, 2012 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    Each time I look at your site and your wonderful ideas I want to be 4 again! you are true inspiration to me!

  7. Georgette July 9, 2012 at 11:02 pm - Reply

    I am always impressed with your stuff but this Invitation to Play Tutorial is exceptional. I forwarded it to all the preschool teachers from my school. The pictures would make beautiful posters for a staff lounge or to be used for a teacher workshop. Your information is RIGHT ON TARGET!
    Thanks for the inspirational material.

  8. Denise Lee July 13, 2012 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    I love ALL of Deb’s creative projects – but this particular link is very exceptional (tapping in on MANY aspects of learning). Much credit and appreciation is due to this Wonder Woman ;o)))

  9. Kelly at Little Wonders' Days July 14, 2012 at 11:33 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this post! I’ve been seeing these “invitations to play” on the web too, but haven’t known too much about them.

  10. […] An Invitation to Play Tutorial from Teach Preschool […]

  11. […] post on learning centers or invitations to play. i first learn about invitations to play over on Teach Preschool   where i watched 4 videos from Deborah on how to set up invitations to play to what makes them […]

  12. […] out an open ended invitation to play with playdough, Iron corn, acorns and mini pumpkins and see what they come up […]

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