It’s a common question: how do I ignite my child’s interest? Well, the answer is a simple one – by offering an Invitation to play! It’s a simple way for you to spark your toddler’s interest and introduce them to new themes by setting up their toys.

The “invitation to play” concept comes from Montessori education, as a way to encourage children to learn through exploration, by providing materials that “invite them to play”. It’s based on the idea that “play is the work of childhood and adults can do a lot to make this “work” as productive and fun as possible! According to Maria Montessori’s approach, rotating children’s toys and books every few weeks is very important in order to keep their curiosity vivid and prevent boredom.

Well, “invitation to play” is an exciting way to introduce new toys into the home and it can get your toddler thinking and playing in a new and creative way, without encroaching on their “free play ». So, let’s see when you should use an invitation to play and what you need to set one up.

First of all, deciding when you should use an invitation to play is completely up to you, and there is no specific time for them. You can use them whenever there is a theme or a toy you would like to introduce and explore. As to what you need to set up an invitation, just look around and try to think outside the box, mixing different games, toys and materials…Let yourself be inspired by your surroundings and create a world of imagination and rich scenarios.

Remember, an invitation to play is not a constriction, it’s a free play process in which children are led to freely express themselves and encouraged to have fun by learning new exciting skills.

When setting up your invitation to play, it can be quite easy as an adult to have a particular outcome in mind, but often, children see something very different, or add something new. Don’t worry about this and just go with it; as long as your children are engaged in playing, they are always learning something new and precious.

Sometimes your child may not look interested in your invitation to play, it happens, but try not to be discouraged, as you can always revisit your idea another time or try to find a new way to engage them. Or, better yet, you can use a little trick: just sit and play by yourself. You’ll almost certainly see your little ones become suddenly interested if you do this!

When you invite your little one to play, try to use materials such as wood, paper and felt, etc, that allow them experiment with different tactile sensations such as rough-smooth, hard-soft, light-dark and so on. In this way, children’s creativity and sense of imagination are stimulate.

Are you curious to know what kind of activities you can invite your child to play?

The treasure basket is an ideal game for such a scenario, and you can play with children aged six months and up.

Take a basket made of wicker and cloth (it has to be soft inside), and fill it with ten to thirty different objects, before placing it in front your baby.

You’ll see your little ones taking the objects and exploring each material with vivid curiosity. This a very special moment, because as they touch and think, they’re learning a lot of things, practicing their grabbing skills and coordination, and working on their balance and dexterity.

You can create differently themed baskets, such music baskets, colour baskets, bath time baskets and so on, if you want to introduce your baby to a specific category of things. In this way, you can put in each basket all  the things that have some characteristics in common, such as the context in which they are used, etc.

Moreover, there are lots of toys that are perfect tools for invitations of play, toys known as open-ended toys, which don’t have a precise goal or rules, but are designed to stimulate children’s fantasies.

Great examples of open-ended toys are blocks, such as these beautiful and colourful Maple Blocks, which inspire hours of play by building and rebuilding new constructions.

And what about these Twist and turnables? These fun blocks will give construction a new twist and let your toddler’s have fun whilst fine-tuning their coordination skills.

Toys like these and the endless solutions and strategies that you can come up with, help you to keep the attention of your baby as they jump into new realms of playful learning.

Can you think of a more fun way to learn and grow?

At Hape there’s a huge collection of toys which are made according to the Montessori educational philosophy, a philosophy of childhood in which play holds such an important and profound role.

It’s this philosophy that has shaped all Hape toys and what Hape believes in: we LOVE our children so much since we understand how important it is for them to PLAY and, by doing so, they LEARN. So, here’s our mantra: LOVE, PLAY, LEARN!