An invitation to play tutorial

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 [email protected]

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


  • Chelsea Posted July 9, 2012 7:32 am

    Thank you for this blog entry! Fantastic ideas.

  • Jill Posted July 9, 2012 9:16 am

    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. Posted July 9, 2012 10:12 am

    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

  • Ness @ One Perfect Day Posted July 9, 2012 10:25 am

    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.

  • Carrie Posted July 9, 2012 11:25 am

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

  • Mud Hut Mama Posted July 9, 2012 4:51 pm

    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.

  • Adriana Lopez Posted July 9, 2012 8:45 pm

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

  • Georgette Posted July 9, 2012 11:02 pm

    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.

  • Denise Lee Posted July 13, 2012 12:59 pm

    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)))

  • Kelly at Little Wonders’ Days Posted July 14, 2012 11:33 pm

    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.

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