Crozet Play School

Kids at Play in Crozet

Invitations to Play and Themes Beginning to Unfold!

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We just wrapped up our first full week of Crozet PlaySchool!  I was amazing just how quickly the week flew by with lots of smiles and children that were happy at school.  We had a lot of tears on the first few mornings of school, but everyone seems to be adjusting to time away from mommies and daddies.  I hope that as the year progresses we will start out mornings outside enjoying the fresh air.  But, I have decided to start our mornings at the tables until everyone can leave their families without getting upset.

Last week on the tables I set out some different “invitations to play.”  You may be wondering what an “invitation to play” might be.  Here is a wonderful definition I found about invitations to play from the Teach Preschool website.  She has an entire article on play invitations here.

Defining the Invitation to Play

Simply stated, an invitation to play is arranging the environment so that it “invites” young children to come to an area in your classroom to explore, investigate, question, examine, participate, touch, feel, and manipulate through as much independent play as the materials can possibly allow.

An invitation to play should…

  • Capture a child’s curiosity
  • Be intentional in design and purpose
  • Be appropriate for the age of children you teach
  • Include materials that the children can freely touch, manipulate, and explore

Invitations to play are set up in a way that allows for open ended exploration.  There isn’t necessary a set “goal” to be finished our completed at the end of an invitation.  I usually have an idea in my head about how the materials will be used, but give room for children to use the materials in ways that I might not have imagined.  One of my invitations this week was a table with lots of loose parts, mirrors, and pictures of sea mandalas that I had printed out.  At first children weren’t sure exactly what to do with this “invitation to play.”  I have noticed that many of the kiddos gravitate to the types of play that they are more comfortable with around the classroom.  But, with some encouragement students really started to study the materials and the mirrors.  The first few days they made their own creations.  On  Friday some of the children tried to replicate the sea mandalas with the loose parts.  It was fascinating to the watch it unfold!



M made a tee pee with a long train


P made a castle with swords laying beside of it.


Ellie made a turtle inspired by one of the sea mandala paintings.


M made a wall of grass.

M also had another really neat discovery with the loose parts.  He spent a great deal of time one morning stacking the gems into towers.  With the effect of the mirror, they actually looked even neater!  We showed his findings to the group at the end of choice time, and the tower creation spread around the room the next morning.  I will continue to lay out invitations in the morning to be explored during choice time or upon arrival to school.




I also had an open exploration of magnets that the children loved.  I used four white stove top covers that are magnetic as the magnetic boards, and I placed all of the magnet pieces from another activity I have called “Imaginets, on the center of the table. You can click on the link to see more about the product.  It is a great open-ended activity and perfect for long car rides since it folds up easily.  I loved having the magnets outside of the case, because it allowed for more possibilities for creating what they wanted.  Some children made alarm clocks, people, animals, and some children just found the magnets that matched each other which was interesting.


Lemonade for Sale!!  I am sure that many of the kids have seen lemonade stands pop up around their neighborhoods.  I wanted to give them a chance to get to know each other better, have a sensory experience, and add some imaginative play to our outside area.  I set up a little mini lemonade stand.  I died rice yellow and added lemon extract for a strong lemon smell.  Then I took Ellie’s puppet theatre outside for a ‘selling area.’  On the tray were three different larger cups for pouring, smaller cups for drinking, and little mini cups with glitter for the sugar.  It was an instant success!  Quickly they were selling, pouring, talking, sharing, and pretending to drink lemonade!  Rice play is great outside too, because once they were done I swept up the extra rice into the grass.  Easy clean up!


This type of play promotes language development, social skills such as communication, problem-solving, empathy, working together, learning to share, and creativity.  The positive effects of pretend play are listed in more detail in this wonderful article in Psychology Today.


I also added little red and yellow counters to be the money while they were playing.  So children started paying each other for their lemonade.  They were telling their friends how much their lemonade cost and then having them count out the correct number of coins to pay for their drinks!


We all got the chance to help make slime too!  Slime is a fun, gooey sensory experience.  You need two bottles of clear Elmer’s Glue, a cup and a half of liquid starch, and we added some sliver watercolors and glitter to the slime too!  When we first made the slime everyone kept running to wash their hands of the sticky slime.  It left a residue on your hands that lots of the children didn’t find very pleasant.  But, after a lot of talking and persistence, many of the children really started to play and explore with the slime.  It is really fun and stretchy!  I am going to leave it out in the art room again this week for exploration.  I let the children put the fairies and dragons in the slime, along with some very special gems!



If children weren’t interested in playing with the slime, I encouraged them to explore some of the other sensory bins open this week.  Here are some of the children in the sand dough and mermaid lagoon!



There are two very different themes that are beginning to unfold in the classroom.  My M/W/F group is very, very interested in pretend play and dress up.  They spend a great deal of their “choice” time in the dress up bin, changing outfits, cooking in the kitchen, and acting out some very detailed story lines.  This week we had a little bee that was stuck in the mud, and the fireman was coming to save him.  There was a large group of bats in the kitchen and the police had to have a plan at the top of the loft to decide how to catch the bats.  They are all doing a great job of including anyone in their story that wants a part, and solving some very important problems too!  I didn’t even realize I had a bat problem!



This was taken when they were meeting about the bats!


We must hurry to the meeting!



My younger group has shown quite an interest in our cars, trucks and ramps.  They have taken a great deal of time each morning to create parking lots, ramps, and racetracks.


This is a race track that E and L set up complete with muddy pits.  They were zooming around the track and letting their car fall in the mud!



L made quite the parking lot one morning!

The T/TH group has also shown quite an interest in play dough.  The coconut play dough was a huge hit with them! They enjoyed using the scissors for fine motor practice and stacking up the sea shells to make different creations.



I am going to be documenting these themes more closely in the upcoming weeks to see how I can foster more learning through these group interests.  I can’t wait to see what will unfold!

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