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The internet is full of activity ideas for kids. In just a few minutes of scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest, you can discover tons of activities from picture-perfect crafts to fun DIY games.
But despite having all these ideas just a few clicks away, coming up with things to actually do with the kids every single day is not easy.
Sometimes the activities require a lot of preparations or supplies, and we don’t have the time or energy to set them up.
Other times, the “perfect” idea we decided to try doesn’t spark the kids’ interest for more than a few minutes and creates more mess than fun.
And other times, the activities require a lot of guidance from the parent, which makes them feel more like tasks for us to complete than activities meant for the kids to enjoy.
Our days as parents are already busy and demanding, and finding ways to keep our kids busy and creative at home shouldn’t mean wasting a lot of time and energy preparing activities.
A simple solution for more independent, creative play at home
When my oldest son was a toddler, keeping him busy all day was hard. Some days felt so exhausting that I couldn’t truly enjoy the time we spent together.
I knew we both needed a change, so I started looking for simple ways to get him engaged in fun activities so he could enjoy the benefits of play while I could enjoy some much-needed time for myself.
This is how I fist discovered the idea of preparing “invitations to play” (or “invitations to create”) for my kids, and it made such a big difference in our life!
If you are looking for an easy way to keep your kids busy at home without having them spend hours in front of screens, I encourage you to try this idea as well!
Once you start building a habit of preparing simple invitations to play for your kids, setting up activities will become a lot easier, so you’ll spend less time looking for ideas and more time being present with your kids.
Not only will it make it easy and fun to encourage creativity and independent play at home, but it will also offer you more time to get things done while the kids happily play close to you!
The best thing about setting up invitations to play is that once you have a system in place, you won’t need more than 10 minutes to prepare them.
The key to easily getting your kids engaged in independent, creative play is to set up open-ended activities that capture their interest.
But what are open-ended activities?
They are activities that focus on the process and not the result. There is no “right” way to do these activities, so they allow kids to make choices and express their creativity.
Open-ended activities help children develop their problem-solving and decision-making skills, and are the best way to encourage independence.
The easiest way to set up open-ended activities for your kids is to prepare invitations to play or create for them to discover and explore.
An invitation to play is a simple set up of play materials inviting the kids to explore without any pre-defined result in mind. An invitation to create is a simple set up of materials inviting the kids to get creative any way they want.
Below you can find an easy step-by-step process to help you get started.
How to easily prepare invitations to play for your kids
Here is how you can easily start preparing invitations to play for your kids and enjoying more playfulness and creativity in your home:
Step 1 |Organize your play materials
To quickly prepare play prompts for your kids, you need to be able to easily access the materials you need. Find a place in your home where you can store materials for invitations to play.
This can include loose parts, art and craft supplies, nature items, toys for imaginative and small world play, playdough, sensory base fillers (like rice, beans, sand), toy rotation boxes, etc.
Step 2 | Prepare a few trays and containers to help you set up the activities
When it comes to creating invitations to play, the way you present the materials play a big role.
The play prompts need to look inviting to get the kids interested in exploring them.
One of the most helpful items to use when setting up many invitations to play is a tray. The tray allows you to prepare the invitation to play in advance and take it out anytime you need.
It also helps you display the materials in a way that captures your child’s interests. And it makes cleaning up easy because your kids can just put all the items back in the tray when they finish using them.
Step 3 | Keep things simple and fun
When setting up an invitation to play or create, don’t include too many materials at once because this can lead to overwhelm. When kids have only a few materials to choose from, they have more opportunities to get creative and use their imagination.
Also, always think of ways to make the play prompt fun for your kids. You can do this by focusing on a theme they like, including a toy or material they enjoy using, or sparking their curiosity with something new they never tried before.
⭐ If you are looking for activities to try with your kids, check out this set of activity cards that will make it easy for you to set up engaging invitations to play in less than 10 minutes.
Step 4 | Choose the right time and place
Set up the invitation to play in an inviting, uncluttered place where kids can play close to you. It is best to choose a time when there are no other distractions and the kids can play without interruptions.
Some of the best times to try are: in the morning after the kids wake up, after returning from school (or waking up from their nap), or in the evenings, while preparing dinner.
Step 5 | Let the kids discover and explore the play prompt in their own way
After preparing an invitation to play or create, leave it in a place where your child can easily discover it. It might be that your kids don’t engage with the play prompt immediately, or they use it in a completely different way than you expected.
Don’t try to direct their play or tell them what they should do with the materials. Play doesn’t need to feel like a “task” for them to complete, but an opportunity for them to explore.
When the kids finish playing, take some time to connect with them. Ask them questions about what they created, tell them what you noticed while they played, and talk about what they enjoyed the most. These conversations will not only help you get closer to your kids, but also provide you with inspiration for creating more invitations to play.
Need some inspiration to help you get started?
When it comes to preparing invitations to play for your kids, the more you do this, the easier and quicker it gets to set them up.
Once you discover what your kids like, setting up one invitation to play every day will take you less than 10 minutes (or you can even plan a whole week of invitations to play in 30 minutes).
Also, after exploring your invitations to play for a while, the kids will be inspired to come up with more play ideas on their own, which will bring even more independent play time to your home.
If you want to try this with your kids, I encourage you to start by setting up one easy play prompt for them every day for 30 days. This will help you build a habit of preparing simple activities for your kids that can make your days with the kids a lot easier and more fun!
You don’t need a brand new idea every day. Once you discover what types of activities keep your kids engaged the most, you can repeat them and create similar activities with just a few simple changes.
How to get ideas to try with your kids:
- If you are looking for activities to try with your kids, check out this set of activity cards that will make it easy for you to set up engaging invitations to play in less than 10 minutes.
- If you are a member of the Family Joy Club, you will find plenty of ideas to try inside our monthly activity guides. (If you’re not a member yet, you can find out more here.)