Autumn is the perfect time for invitations to play because there are endless possibilities of materials to present your children. This invitation to play is simple and easy, but with a few basic materials the learning possibilities are also endless.
Not only are items from nature, like acorns and fallen leaves, of abundance as we transition from summer to fall, items like table scatter, leaf confetti and silk leaves hit the craft stores, too. They can create beautiful and welcoming invitations to play. I find they are the perfect addition to any autumn or fall preschool theme.
As I stated, the set-up is simple. I purchased some acrylic leaves in beautiful autumn colors and some acrylic pumpkins from Amazon. I love that both these items are transparent, so you could also use them on a light table where they would create the most warming glow. I also love this set of harvest scatter.
To set up this invitation to play, simply scatter the table scatter (appropriately named, right?) on a mirror. I sprinkled some leaf confetti on this mirror as well. I pulled down the full length mirror from my closet door because I like that it stretches all the way across my preschool table, thus allowing multiple children to investigate at the same time, and yes, using some of the same space. I don’t have a light table, but when the strong autumn sun filters through the south facing windows of my house, the table scatter lights up, glowing in the sunlight. It is when this is happening that I invite my preschoolers to come and play.
It always seems that the children begin by simply playing, and this is ok, because even when children are just playing they are learning a lot about their environment and materials. This student below begins by exploring sound as he allows the table scatter to pour from his hands. As he does so, he sings a song about leaves falling all around.
Then he drops the pumpkin scatter one by one, listening to them clang and crash onto the glass mirror. As he does this, he tells me how he is making pumpkin soup, and offers some to his classmate to try. He then asks for the book Pumpkin Soup that we had read earlier that week and as I watch him play I can hear and see this little boy retelling the story as he continues to make his own pumpkin soup.
This student lines up the pumpkins to “make letters,” and I hear him naming the letter he remembers from his name. While he does not actually form any letters, this is an important part of play as it demonstrates the connection he has made between letters and writing. For an awesome book about how to incorporate literacy into play, try More Than Letters: Literacy Activities for Preschool, Kindergarten, and First Grade.
As this student lines up the acrylic pumpkins, he counts. He pulls them out of the line and counts the pumpkins in groups, and then put them back into a line and counts again. It is a unique demonstration of one to one correspondence and knowledge of quantity.
These two students work together to make a pattern. While at first, this line of pumpkins and leaves was certainly not a pattern, I let them be. I wanted to give these students time to define their pattern, to work it out among themselves, to take risks by changing, redoing, and evaluating what they had done. This was done with good reason and Corinne and her classmate came up with a pattern we had not learned in class. While difficult to see in the photo, they made an AACCCCCCCAACCCCCCC pattern. That is, their pattern read two leaves, followed by seven pumpkins, two more leaves, and another seven pumpkins. Had I interfered, I probably would have limited the girls’ learning to an AB pattern, or ABC pattern. The pattern above was truly unexpected.
Setting up an invitation to play is a very basic way to encourage play based learning. As demonstrated in this post, and in this post as well, an invitation to play allows children to play in such an open ended manner that they are not hindered by adult interference. That is not to say that I put my feet up while offering an invitation to play, but it is to say that I allow the children to guide my interaction with them. True invitations to play are not presented with a specific end goal, rather the children are allowed to use the materials as props for their
play learning, which is exactly how I approached this autumn themed invitation to play.
These are some of our favorite books which support this invitation to play.
I am Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home mama of five! I am the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught range of levels, including preschool and college, and a little bit of just about everything in between. Right now, my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction