I had never really heard of an 'invitation to play' before I became a mother. The majority of my teaching career was with older kids, so our learning was set up quite differently. Since having kids though and moving to work with younger children, it is something I encountered quite a bit. In the UK, children can start school as young as age 3. They don't have to, but the option is there. In Canada it is similar, kids can start at age 4 (JK) but don't have to legally be in school until age 6. After returning from my second maternity leave, I had the pleasure of covering in a nursery class (age 3-4) quite frequently for a term. It was lovely to see how they invited kids to play at various tables and stations throughout the room and in the outside space.
Even if you've never heard the term before, an 'invitation to play' is pretty self explanatory. If you make a space look appealing or interesting, children will come and investigate. That is really what 'learning' at age 3 looks like. I'm not going to pretend that I do this every day in my own house, but I do try to set something up each week for my toddler. It is in no way on the scale I would set up a classroom, but I like having a little table in the play room that I change around. It sometimes makes old toys seem interesting again.
I'm pretty excited these days because my 2 year old is really into naming colours. I love, love, love this age! Listening to his language develop and increase, blows my mind. I also happen to love colours and it is a natural stage all kids go through. Everything we see walking down the street gets labelled by its colour. Every toy is called by its colour. Colour is everywhere! It is probably one of the first adjectives that children start to use naturally when describing things. Don't let that skill pass them by!
Aside from inviting my kids to play with particular toys, I always like to link our play with a story. We visit the library all the time to keep on top of things but also have a pretty big collection of books. Loads of baby board books cover the colours but my favourite has to be a colours primer by Jennifer Adams. She has a whole series based on famous pieces of literature but that really focus on things like shapes or numbers or emotions. If you haven't seen them before, check them out.
There have been an increasing number of studies during the past decade, focusing on the importance of parents’ verbal engagement with their children. Some studies discuss the differences between higher income and lower income housing (the famous ’30-million-word gap’ study by Hart and Risley). Other studies discredit this one and focus more on cultural differences in raising children. I am not here however to debate those or write a professionally sited paper.
I am interested though, in ways people can engage with their children and what makes sense to me is that the more words your children hear, the more they will come to recognise. Again, I have read papers that say having normal conversations with babies and toddlers is the best way for them to learn new words. I have read others that say reading books to them is actually better. Surely it is all good, no? A baby/toddler hears lots of words, from lots of places and starts to recognise them. Eventually they will start to use them. Finally when it comes to reading, they will recognise them in print. You are more likely to read/recognise and remember a word that you already know and understand.
Hello! I'm Deb,
a book-toting mother of two and an elementary (primary) school teacher. I love making stories engaging and interactive for kids.
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