Have you heard about invitations to play? I use sand trays as my go-to invitation! These invitations are about putting together thoughtful materials to spark interest and to encourage play. It’s not complicated, but it is purposeful. That was the key that I learned as a preschool teacher: be purposeful and be thoughtful when planning activities for kids. Throwing out some legos on a table might be easy when you are in a pinch, but it is not as inviting as placing a few legos on a table with other materials that spark your child’s interest. Plus, I’ve found that making play materials look inviting really does help to encourage longer, more developed play. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m always doing this!
I recommitted myself to try and to set something up for her before I go to bed and, again, when she takes a nap. Since I’m so excited about what I’ve set up, it normally gets me engaged, too!
Here’s a simple Fall sand tray that I put out for her:
I filled our art tray with sand from the sandbox, cut a few pipe cleaners into sections, and added our fall leaf and apple jewels. I don’t have any other pictures besides this one. And, as you can tell from other posts, I take A LOT of pictures – I love my camera. But, this is the only photo because Lil went out on the porch by herself and carefully worked on building a tree. It emerged into lines and little piles, and I believe that some of the apples turned into little people, but the invitation worked: she was able to engage in meaningful play. I loved it. You can see the picture I took of her through the sliding glass door on my instagram account. It was such a joy to watch her blissfully engaged in her own, independent play.
The sand trays didn’t stop there. In fact, I made another for her and simply added some googly eyes and buttons:
Often, the sand and salt trays that I have seen have been for early literacy and writing. I love the inspiration, but Lil has really used them to draw. I thought some loose materials might help the experience to be more rich and dynamic. Can you see the smile and the brown, button hat she made?? Adorable! She quickly made another with her Dad bursting with buttons for his beard. Then, she made a portrait of little ‘ole me when I was pregnant. She added a circular pipe cleaner and drew her little brother inside!
Can you see my button hair? This picture just doesn’t give it justice! But, I laughed as Lil has been reminiscing about the times when Matthew was in my belly and when she was the only kid in the family 🙂 The best part about these sand trays, is that I can just dump the sand back into the sand box. Easy clean up and I get to reuse the sand! Win-Win don’t you think??
Do you have an idea for an invitation to play?
These are beautiful and inviting Katie. Out of the “build a tree” activities I’ve seen so far this season, this one is my favorite because 1, it’s in a sensory tray, and 2, it’s reusable and changeable.
What a compliment. Thank you, Heather! It was such a quick activity that my daughter loved to do all on her own 🙂