crafting a meaningful little project at a time

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Day 4: Materials and Invitations for March

Day 4: Materials and Invitations for March

After a long day of staring into my computer, working on
grad work and grading papers, it was a treat to come home and clean the house!
Don’t get the wrong idea- I left the mop and bucket where they rightly belong-
out of my line of sight! I cleaned in the way of putting order back to
everything that had become displaced, disorganized, and disenfranchised throughout
the week…read: cleaning up after the littles.

Since I was doing an overhaul on the toy corner and craft
center anyways, I used this as an opportunity to pull out all things green for
the month of March. These are the materials I pulled out while doing the
regular Sunday afternoon clean-up I would usually do- using the time as a
focused “green hunt” tacked on an additional 20 minutes or so. I took the
picture you see here and printed it to stick on the fridge: it gives me a
visual reminder of all the things I have for planning purposes without having
to drag everything back out. I put everything in small in labeled baggies, and
stashed it all in and on this organizer we keep in the dining room for easy

Now on to the fun part…setting up invitations to play! I
picked up this term from one of my favorite blogs, Play At Home Mom- check
their site for more information on setting up invitations- and prepare to be

These techniques are based on constructivist learning theory,
which holds that children construct new knowledge based on experiences-
remember Piaget in college?- yep, that’s his deal, and I favor Montessori
principles, which you can learn about here
and the Reggio Emilia approach to teaching and learning for birth through age

An invitation to play is just what it sounds like: cool
stuff set up in an interesting way for the littles to walk into and say, “Whoa!
What’s this? Let’s play with it!” But the invitation is more than just throwing
a bunch of toys out to keep them occupied. The selection of materials is
intentional, based on your objectives for the experience, and while the play
can be guided (by you) or independent (child-led), you are the one who does the

So an invitation for play based on the green-themed items in
the photo here might be as simple as putting out four bowls containing the dark
green, light green, white, and orange snap cubes. Enter the littles…
My daughter would likely approach the table and start lining
the cubes up in alternating colors all on her own. I would let her play for a
while, and then sit down with her and ask her to tell me about what she was
doing. She would likely say that she was making something spectacular, like a
dragon tail or a road. I could take the initiative and build a length of cubes,
creating a pattern. Knowing her, my daughter would automatically imitate my
action, unknowingly making a pattern of her own. I could introduce the math
term “pattern” and practice making patterns with her, or I could just leave it
at that: playing and experimenting with building, organizing, sorting, making
patterns, etc.

My son would need more monitoring with this invitation, as
he is half the age of my daughter, and is still likely to fling things about on
a moment’s notice. He would probably first find a spoon to stir the cubes and
call it “soup.” Then he might dump them all in a big pile and mix them up- he
might use his hands or feet to do this. He would probably then either line them
up or try to build with them. I could insert myself here to talk to him about
the shapes, colors, texture, and feel of the cubes. We could build together, me
modeling, him following…or I could just let him be to explore on his own. After
15 minutes, though, I could expect cubes to start zinging past my head, which
means that we cut this invitation experience off at about 10 minutes. :)

Stay tuned for more on the invitations, teaching and
learning through play, green-themed activities, St. Patrick’s Day happenings,
etc.! Keep crafting, keep creating, keep collecting resources to engage your
littles’ hands and minds!

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