My Favourite Things: Create an Invitation to Play

Have you ever walked into a childcare centre or playgroup at the start of the day and seen a whole lot of little ‘stations’ set up where the kids can go and play? These areas are set up in what is called an ‘invitation to play’ – they create a space where kids have access to a group of toys where they can play and explore.

I love that phrase – an invitation to play. Once I realised what it was, I saw examples of how I was doing that with my own kids… from setting up a mat with a few teethers and rattles for my babies, through to elaborate cubbies, table-play activities and even the bag of toys I took to the doctor’s office!

Invitations to play create boundaries for kids – instead of putting them in a room of toys and telling them to ‘find something to play with’, they provide the launch-pad for investigative, imaginative and creative play.

There are so many ways you can create invitations, and they can be relevant across all ages, too!

Just remember that creating invitations to play often requires a bit of preparation, attention and engagement from a parent, too – but there are so many mums who want to find ways to engage and play with their children, this can be an exciting chance for you to get creative, too! (Or at least give you an excuse to look at Pinterest a bit longer!)

How to set up an invitation to play

Some of the simplest invitations are the best:

  • A tub of rice with cups and spoons
  • Some pipecleaners and a colander
  • Cardboard boxes and a roll of masking tape

Toy rotation: if you regularly rotate toys by packing some things away while other toys are available, you can create an invitation to play by placing out a new rotation of toys for your child to discover and play with!

Add something new: An invitation can play can happen when you combine a few new elements together. This enables the child to come up with some new ways of playing. For example, add anything (like toy cars, bits of nature, glitter) to playdough, and it becomes a new experience!

My favourite invitations to play are:

  • Sensory boxes (rice, cooked spaghetti, mud pies, cloud-dough, kinetic sand)
  • Threading activities (pipe-cleaners, ribbons, buttons, blocks)
  • Playdough (combine with other elements like gemstones, buttons, toy animals, etc)
  • Sticky-pictures (stick contact to a door or window with the sticky side facing you. Add buttons, shapes, wool, pop-sticks to make a picture or pattern)

If you’d love some more ideas on how to create invitations to play, check out my Pinterest Board here:

PS I’d love to hear what creative ‘Invitations to Play’ you’ve used in your home! Leave a comment below!

About The Author


Tanya lives in Canberra with her husband and two sons. She is passionate about helping women to live fulfilled, purposeful lives. She enjoys reading, cooking, craft and creating memorable moments for her family.

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