Invitation to Play: Halloween Sand Play

Thu, 10/24/2013 - 6:40pm -- Jessica Baudin-...

Halloween Invitation to Play

Today I created my first Invitation to Play.  You may be wondering, what is an invitation to play? Pop on over here, Anna, a blogger at The Imagination Tree, has an amazing post about it. 

If you don’t have time to read the entire post, basically an invitation to play is “a little set up of play materials for your child to come and discover and play with in any way they choose.” (Anna ,

What you need:

·      Black sand

Halloween Invitation to Play

·      Glitter

·      Halloween foam shapes (the ones without the sticker side are best, got mine at Dollarama)

Halloween Invitation to Play

·      Googly eyes

·      4 cups or bowls to hold supplies

·      a cookie sheet (I covered mine with foil, but this isn’t necessary)

Halloween Invitation to Play

What to do:

You want to arrange your supplies in a thoughtful way, which invites your child to play.

I prepared my invitation early in the day and then had it sitting on the counter waiting to be played with; my daughter queried about it several times before it was play time, this was great in creating a good sense of anticipation.  When I set out the invitation for her I only had 1 “rule” keep the sand on the tray or on the table. As you can see I covered my cookie sheet with foil and then put each of my supplies in a different cup. This way my daughter could choose, what and how much of each she’d like to play with. I set the tray on the kitchen table, and she immediately started playing and was engaged for 35 minutes straight.   

Here are some things I observed while she was playing.  First, remember I didn’t prompt her play in any way; I set down the tray and told her to keep the sand on the tray and the table, not on the floor.  That’s it, that’s all!  This was all independent exploration of the invitation.  First she looked in all four cups, wondering what was in each of them. She spent about 15 minutes just exploring the materials, pinching some sand on to the table (great fine motor development), adding some glitter, and then more glitter.

Halloween Invitation to Play

She proceeded to add the foam pieces and the rest of the sand. Finally she added the googly eyes to the sand pile and used her pincer grasp to flip all the eyes so they were facing up (another great fine motor development)

Halloween Invitation to Play

After exploring all the supplies my daughter started in with imaginative play.  She began to “feed the pumpkins some glitter food.” It was interesting to see how open ended this activity was.  She then started playing with the cups (something I hadn’t previously anticipated being part of the activity).  She began cupping handfuls of glitter sand into the cups and then dumping them from one to the other.

Halloween Invitation to Play

Halloween Invitation to Play

Make sure you also have something unrelated to do, close by, but still available to help if necessary.  You don’t want to hover over or influence their play, but you should be there for when they want to share with you.  A great way to respond to their stories and experience is to use “I really love to watch you…” statements.  Here I would use “I really love watching you play (or explore or learn).  This creates a positive learning environment unencumbered with expectation and performance mentality.

Halloween Invitation to Play

Remember, your child will not play with their invitation in the same way mine did.  An Invitation to Play is just that, and invitation for the child to play, explore and learn in any way they would like. 

Kelly Milligan is a former early elementary school teacher turned stay at home mom.  She lives in Sunny, and often cold, Edmonton, Alberta with her husband and two children (students); her daughter Adeline (3), and son Anders (1).

You can find Kelly doing what she loves best: living life with her family and documenting it with photographs on instagram and twitter @themommyathome