One of the main goals with this blog as a whole is to educate families as to the importance of the deep and meaningful aspects of play and how "play" is actually the very important business of learning for little ones. It is further to dissect the actions of educators, like myself, that provide experiences specifically designed and engineered to provide certain outcomes for children to make observations and build skills from, that they may not receive in any other setting.
The phrase "invitation to play" has long been a buzzword in the Early Childhood Education community. It is an "engineering of play" to provide such outcomes and play based learning experiences for young children.
In simple terms, it is designed to draw a child in. With a true "invitation" the child will naturally WANT to explore, discover, and have the freedom of time and materials to make a valuable impact on their own education. The teacher literally sets up and sets out materials in an impactful manner designed to make the play irresistible to little minds and big hearts!
But, in most instances, I think we are missing the true intent...
The "Invitation's" true importance.
The true "Invitation to Play" or "Invitation to Create" is as old as play itself. In simple terms is means, "Come play with me." It is designed to signify importance. It's purpose is to communicate a time of togetherness to the "invitee."
However, this simply is not the case in most instances. In most of the articles and images I have researched regarding the "Invitation to Play or Create" the MOST important aspect is missing.
Time and togetherness.
This is a sad portrayal of the American child's preschool (and often home life) experiences.
We can provide beautiful materials arranged, balanced, and researched. We spend time and money purchasing these, setting them up and then watching little eyes as they bound toward the awaiting objects, the tea party, the finger painting with loose and unconventional parts, the mud kitchen, the science lab filled with ladybug larvae or worm farm.
We photograph the excitement, label it, post it and we are DONE!
Mission accomplished, drop the mic, we did it!! We brought them joy and encouraged play (aren't we amazing teachers/parents/care providers?!?) PAT ON THE BACK and an A+++++ for effort!
Then it happens, "Will you play with me?"
"What? Ummmmm....I mean look at all this fun STUFF you have!" the child looks at it and looks at you and again asks, "Will you play with me?"
What most of these valuable experiences are missing is YOU.
Recall above when I noted true meaning of an "Invitation to Play?" The true meaning to a child is "I want to play WITH you." The child is drawn to the beauty and possibility of the mud kitchen, the tea party, the marble run, the leaf painting, the worm farm and what they want more than anything is to share it with you.
Without the conscious and deliberate presence of a caregiver meaningful conversations and authentic, lasting learning stagnate. WITH the presence of a parent or caregiver we can open up an incredible world imagination and understanding into how this little personality thinks, moves, and defines their world. It is nothing short of miraculous.
It takes patience, dirty hands, lots of paper towels (usually) and a willingness to be part of the mess. It takes the adult making observations about what they see and asking the child what they see, then listening and reflecting.
The best part? It really is so simple and easy to do.
This Invitation to Create is from our curriculum partner, Mother Goose Time, who has an amazing variety of "Invitations" that span science, math, language arts, and creative arts.
They have paperbags, cotton balls, black paper, and sticks. They also received (post pic) brown, white, and black paint and glue. Their inspiration piece was an owl family in a tree.
Now....how are children 1-4 going to make something that resembles owls with those? It actually turned out beautifully.... I was asked to help on several occasions with cutting, mixing, holding this here or there while it dried. We had cotton and brown bags stuck to everything!
Here we were talking about the dark and how things look different or "scary" because it is dark, but dark is just.....well....dark! In this "Invitation to Create and Play" we made "dark" animals (common ones that might be found in our room at night) with cut-outs from Mother Goose Time. These allowed us to have many conversations about dark and light and pretend and real. Every child needed my help creating these. Does it look like we are getting any less benefit from them because I didn't make the children, "do it themselves" so that it would be "their own creation?"
I ask them to show me how they are creating their art, if they would like to do it together, if they would like help or to do it themselves.
Their answers vary based on the idea in their heads. Helping a little one cut out a shape or use scissors, or create just the right shade of brown is not "doing it for them" and does not stunt growth. Helping with tape, glues, and glitter and assisting them in creating what they are wanting to rather than frustrated little ones quit because, "I can't." is an incredible experience in cooperation.
.Rather, it creates a spirit of cooperation and confidence that they know if they cannot do it themselves, they do not have to sit frustrated. They can simply come to me and I am always willing to help.
Isn't that what we all want? Someone to come along side us and lend a hand as we are reaching goals that may at first be out of reach? We still learn. Often, we learn more as we get to experience the help of an "expert" and watch and again and again allowing ourselves to be taught and coached. This is true for little ones as well.
Being a part of the "Invitation to Create" is a vital component to the education of young children whether one chooses to provide open ended, child-led play or project-based, teacher-facilitated materials. The MOST important part of the play is time and togetherness.
As always, I wish you well and I hope YOU get to play today.
Life is made of moments...
"There isn't anything more full of hope, joy and peace than a child's smile... It captures the mundane and makes it extraordinary." - LaDonna Woolsey
I am a Mother Goose Time Blogger. I decided to become one after trying their products because I they are comprehensive and serve my mixed age group well. I do receive products to review from Mother Goose Time and do so with my own honest and thorough opinions. For more information, please contact me at Ladonna@woolseyacademy.com