An Invitation to Play

|• Let their imagination soar •|


Why do we always want what others have? We spend endless hours scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest and daydream about what we could achieve if we… only had more money, only had one child, only had a bigger house…. in truth much of what we see is set up for a nice photo and isn’t the reality of how people are day-to-day.

I work as a registered childminder in Manchester, England. My setting and my practices have evolved over time…. and my way of sharing ideas has also expanded and in January 2018 I decided to include my early years ideas onto my instagram feed Mama’s den.

One of the main areas I have been asked about are what play scenes I provide for children and how I organise and structure them.

I don’t claim to be an expert, I can only base my ideas on my own experience of working with Early Years children and I tentatively started posting ideas for ‘Invitation’s to play’ onto my page.


We can only start with the basics and improve and enhance them as time passes, as our practice gets more affective and our knowledge of early years learning improves…. we evolve as parents and practitioners.


What exactly is an invitation to play? An Invitation to Play is just as it sounds. Inviting your child to play with certain materials or resources. You provide, your child investigates.

It should be about exploration, discovery and above all play.

But do you have to have all of these beautiful (expensive) toys that you often see in these popular settings?

Of course not, work with what you have and with the resources you own.

Everything can be substituted.

Looking at this photos, on the Left a budget play scene on the Right a more high end scene. Both are a road play scene, both have bridges, people, cars but each one makes the most of the resources at hand… Nins, grimms tunnel, wooden cars can be swapped for Happyland, duplo and toot toot cars. Even the play mat can be created with washi/insulation tape.

An invitation to play should encourage your child to get involved. Either of the above play scenes would fire the imagination and allow the child to develop their own ideas.


You can also apply this to creative stations

So you see we can do lots of creative things with relatively little cost.

When you first start to think about invitations to play it can seem a little daunting. We are used to just getting toys out and not really thinking about their benefits. We need to think about ‘setting the scene’ but still leaving room for imagination.


Pick up little ideas from here and there but do your best to create a learning environment which reflected your child’s own interests.

We love natural, wooden, open-ended toys and learning environments.

Ned the Robot available from Rudi and bear – use code mamasden10

I think about how the toys and activities benefit the children as individuals. It might be useful to take a look at an early years tracker so you can see where your child is up to developmentally so that you can encourage their next steps.


You can also create interesting spaces for babies. High contrast is useful and I like to keep baby areas neutral with different textures.

Here is a recent invitation to play I set up for an 8 month old.

Whilst this looks like an expensive set up lots if these resources are very cheap. Sensory exploration baskets are fantastic to fire the brain and by including bricks, spoons, shakers a little one can practice fine and gross motor skills.

A papertowel holder with some old bangles is a fab ring sorter.

And jewellery boxes are a great way of adding exploration.


We all have our strengths and it would be so easy to be overwhelmed with the wealth of knowledge that others have in this field. Step back and look at what you could use in your home or setting, what are your strengths? What is within your means? What is achievable and focus on one area at a time.


Please feel free to drop me an email or send me pictures of your setting and tag me into your Instagram posts. I’m happy to share any hints and tips with you and love to see your feedback.

One Comment Add yours

  1. busybusylearning says:

    Great Post lovely. Lots of super ideas and I love the budget ideas too 🌈😊🌈

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to busybusylearning Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s