Invitations to Play

As an early childhood teacher and a mum I love creating invitations to play for young children.

 'Invitations to play' are playspaces set up to encourage engagement in a variety of developmental areas and for a range of interests.


Setting up playspaces for your kids keeps them engaged in meaningful exploratory play and allows them to develop an ability to play independently (giving you a chance to get all those things done!).


Invitations to play should invite the child to interact, engage, think, experiment and create. 


You don't always need to go to a lot of effort to create engaging invitations to play. Sometimes a simple box of Autumn leaves is an entire experience in itself.    


I have pieced together this page with some of my favourites from over the years. Please feel free to use these ideas as you wish and adapt them to suit the young ones that you're working with.


Have fun, 

Sarah xo









Creating an Invitation to Play: As Simple as Making Stone Soup

This is an invitation to play I created for my two year old daughter, inspired by the book "Stone Soup" by Jon J. Muth. Read more about the story here .

I fell in love with this book years ago when I first started my training as an Early Childhood Educator. I used it in many of my placements at that time but then it ended up hidden away on my shelf and temporarily forgotten.

My daughter (aka Critter) I am pleased to say loves books. After recently rediscovering this book I placed it in her book box so she could flip through it (and nag family members and guests to read it to her) at her leisure.

She fell in love with it too.

A couple of weeks later and she was finishing the sentences for me and rushing off after the story to make stone soup for her bubbas. *Oh so much cuteness* Don't you just LOVE it how kids can just take an idea and run with it? They are such inspirations.

Critter's 'run with it' attitude really motivated me to get my felt and thread out and make her some of the vegetables mentioned in the story. I also pulled a few stones out of the bottom of a vase and polished them up. I love putting together 'invitations to play' - it's one of the things I most love about working in Early Childhood settings and primary schools. Being a stay-at-home-mumma and being able to go to town with my creations is sooooo much fun! I've been putting together invitations to play for my daughter since she was just a month old, some of which I'll dig up pics of and blog about at a later date. As a result she is really great at playing independently which has meant that I can often work on creating new play spaces, doing craft, writing books or doing house tasks without that tug at my shirt every two minutes. That's not to say we don't spend quality time together - I swear by the theory that when children are clingy they simply need ten minutes of one-to-one time. There's a great article I read about this here at if you'd like to read more on it.

 It was a melting hot day here in Melbourne's January and if it wasn't for my inspiration motivation I would've been starfishing on the couch, naked and covered in ice. Despite the heat Critter managed to fall asleep and nap for a couple of hours. This is when I really got to work!

For the vegetables -
I'm a no fuss craftitian. This means that I rarely use patterns or pins. To make these vegies I simply folded a piece of felt and cut the shape of the vegetable freehand - no I didn't even draw it first. Trust me, the kids will love it even if it isn't perfect.

With the thread doubled over I simply blanket stitched around the edges. That's right, I didn't match the colour of the thread with the colour of the vegies - I'm that much of a rebel! Actually I think they look pretty cute that way, don't you?

To finish them off I added some little green offcuts as the leafy bits on top of the carrots and tomatoes.

For the senses -
I found an old toblerone choccy box kicking around which had four sections. Perfect! But you could just as easily use plastic container with dividers or a set of small bowls - even a muffin tray!

I added barley, green lentils, flaxseed & rice. I chose things according to colour and texture. I considered making rainbow rice ( but in the end decided to go with the natural look.

For a bit of added sensory experience I raided my spice cupboard for any spices with whole pieces - cinnamon stick, cardamon pods, peppercorns, pieces of dried ginger, star anise & bay leaves. Even though these would not necessarily be added to such a soup in reality, I decided they would give Critter a nice aromatic experience as she stirred the pot.

Also a mirror placed at the back meant that Critter would be able to watch herself making and doing or observe others without the need to move.

The Fire - 
I grabbed a few sticks and twigs from a vase in Critter's room, leftover from a previous playspace and arranged them in a triangular shape to allow the pot to sit nicely on top. I used a length of a red crepe paper streamer to give the impression of flames then put a pot on top.

By the time Critter awoke this wonderful soup kitchen (which she later named "Got Rocks In It" Soup Kitchen) was ready for her to interact with. And her response?...

(*The boxes of wine in the background are for our invitation to play for grown ups.)

At Critter's request we read through the story together and we added all the items from the story into the pot as we read about them.

By the end of this we had rice and lentils all over the floor and some very hungry little friends who couldn't wait to taste Critter's marvellous stone soup.

 Sure it was messy, but - given that she worked on some pre-reading skills, engaged in a sensory play experience (sight, touch, smell, sound - potentially taste) & also imaginative play - I think the mess was totally worth it. This space replaces her traditional "baby kitchen" space and will remain for a couple of weeks and either evolve or change to make space for new things as she becomes interested in them.

Now to see to those boxes of wine...

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