10 Play Invitations to Inspire Creativity

by Rebecca Eanes

Play invitations can be simple, such as a poster board and paint, or something more complex. They are designed to spark curiosity and invite play. If you provide materials with no goal in mind, these are open invitations. Your child can do with the materials whatever his or her creative heart desires. Suggestive invitations, such as my Box Town Invitation, obviously point toward a desired goal. Inspire your child's creativity to blossom with these play invitations.

1. Box Town Invitation: Display 2 or more boxes of different sizes, construction paper, glue, scissors, crayons or markers, and various little toys. Our box town provided hours of fun and got transformed many different ways!

2. Build Invitation: There are endless materials one can provide for an invitation to build, and it can be left entirely open or suggestive. Invite your child to create something using toothpicks and marshmallows. My children ended up creating all sorts of things from letters to people to constellations.

3. Construction Site Invitation: There are a variety of materials that can be used for a construction site. Anything from your backyard, the sandbox or blocks can used to spark your child's imagination. Cloud Dough is easy and fun to use. Set it out in a container along with construction toys for digging, scooping, and dumping.

Cloud Dough Recipe: Mix 1 cup of baby oil with 8 cups of all-purpose flour.

4. Play Dough Monster Invitation: Display play dough, toothpicks, gems, googly eyes, and craft sticks. This invitation requires no explanation. Children will make a lot of creative creatures from this. It's one of our favorites!

5. Felt Creations Invitation: Creating a felt board or felt notebook is easy. Simply staple felt to a foam board (or heavy card stock if you're creating a notebook) and provide plenty of felt cut-outs in varying shapes and sizes. This is a favorite activity in our home.

6. Outdoor Painting Invitation: Provide poster board and poster paint. Brushes are optional, as are squirt bottles, spray bottles, and paint-filled balloons! Mine mostly painted with their hands and feet.

7. Shower Curtain Painting Invitation: From your local dollar store, purchase a vinyl shower curtain, acrylic paints, and paint brushes. My sons decided to do a superhero theme, but see what your child comes up with. It's a wonderful addition to a child's bathroom when finished.

8. Design a Shirt Invitation: Display a plain tee with several paints. I placed cardboard inside the shirt to stop seepage and had some sponges as well as brushes. 

9. Invitation to Draw a Famous Work of Art: Use a book or pull up an image on the computer of any famous work of art you feel your child would be interested in. Provide an easel, large paper, pencils, markers, and crayons. My son drew his own version of Vincent's Bedroom in Arles.

10. Bath Play Invitation: Craft sticks and craft foam both stick well when wet. You can cut the foam into faces, shapes, buildings, or characters! The sticks can be used for fences, stick figures, etc. It's a great way to be creative while you get clean!

Rebecca Eanes is the author of The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting and co-author of Positive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide for Putting Positive Parenting Principles into Action in Early Childhood. She is the founder of and creator of the Facebook community Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond. ??Through her Facebook community and website, Rebecca reaches thousands of parents daily with the message that connection trumps coercion and love is most powerful motivator. She does not claim to be a parenting "expert" but writes parent-to-parent with the hope of inspiring others to create peaceful homes through positive parenting.

She is the grateful mother of two boys.

Posted on Aug 20, 2014

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