Invitations to play are little set-ups of materials which tempt children to come and explore. Children have an innate need to discover their world, through play, and are hard-wired to learn, through their play. Everything that a child will become, as a person, has its foundations in play, and through play the child develops every part of themselves, their brain, their ability to reason, their gross and fine motor skills and their speech and language.
Happiness in adulthood has its roots in the amount of time spent playing as a child and when children have lots of time and opportunities for play they are happier, calmer and more settled, especially when that play takes place outside. Our boys ( 15 months and 4 years) play so happily in our small garden and are much less prone to outbursts of anger and frustration, as adults we feel calmer out of doors too and are more likely to engage in play with our children.
Setting up little invitations for the boys to play and explore generates excitement and interest in playing in a different way with familiar toys (or perhaps a new object temptingly displayed). Our children often amaze us with the variety of ways they can play with the objects we have left for them to ‘find’.
We live in a small home and my minimalist tendencies and passionate need to protect the Earth’s resources mean that we do not have many ‘toys’ in our space, however we love the challenge this presents and it makes us consider every object in our home as a potential toy. Shoe boxes become repurposed as treasure chests, dolls houses and garages; pots and pans are used for mud kitchens, instruments and water play toys; and the ingredients in our larder cupboard are frequently used for play dough, sensory boxes and play food. We find that these objects spark far more interest than traditional toys – every child prefers to play with the real item rather than an imitation anyway!
A treasure chest of surprises left in the willow house.
A pot of oozy mud waiting to be mixed into a wide variety of potions.
A warm bath of bubbles with added scent and colour from food colouring and a lavender essential oil.
Some vintage kitchenalia for a little boy fascinated by spinning and cogs.
Salt dough and a variety of tools left to explore.
My mum kindly reminded me of salt dough and its potential- I’ll leave the recipe here for those who may like it.
Recipe For Salt Dough
2 cups of flour ( plain / all purpose)
1 cup of salt
1 cup of water
- Mix together the flour and the salt and slowly add the water
- Knead the mixture together for 10 minutes on a floured surface.
- Leave for 20 minutes
The dough can be baked ( 120C for 2 hours) to form solid shapes.