What is an Invitation to Play?
An invitation to play is a concept derived from the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. The Reggio philosophy encourages children to learn through exploration, by providing materials that 'invite them to play' in a creative, non-directive way, with no criteria for success.
The materials on offer are open-ended, which means that they can be used in many different ways. For example, a pebble can be enjoyed by the very youngest child for it's tactile properties, but it can also be used for sorting, counting, creating and imagining during play. The same pebble can be a cake decoration, a stepping stone for a character, or a magic bean. Through this type of play a child can develop their imagination, free from the constraints of more structured activities, and they are likely to play for longer too.
These open-ended materials are often referred to a 'loose parts', which can vary is size, shape and type. I like to offer a range of natural materials where possible, as I believe they provide the most interest and variety, and I passionately believe that exploring nature fosters an enjoyment and love for our precious natural world. I also use interesting and stimulating recycled materials to encourage a culture of sustainability
Children especially enjoy discovering these invitations themselves as opposed to being directed towards them, and will often surprise you with how they engage with the materials, if you allow them to follow their own paths of inquiry and remain non-intrusive.