An ‘Invitation to Play’

Natalie, the wonderfully creative founder of Starting With Art, has come up with all sorts of fun ways to keep your little ones busy during our London ShopUp this December! Trained both as an artist and educator, Natalie is uniquely qualified to nurture your budding artists. We can’t wait to for you to see what she has planned!

In order to whet your appetite before December, we asked Natalie to share some ideas with you about how to encourage your children to explore their creative sides through art. We absolutely love the ideas she has come up with; we can’t wait to try them ourselves!


I’m sure we all have memories of finding something buried in our mothers dresser and spending hours creating magical worlds with the found objects. These objects were never anything particularly special but always evoked a sense of curiosity. My magical moment was the day I discovered my mother’s button collection buried in one of her drawers; the pure joy I experienced as I opened a box revealing circular morsels of delight was profound. It was certainly my invitation to play, albeit a sneaky little one!

As winter draws in and we find ourselves spending more time inside, rather than those sneaky finds, we can create ‘Invitations to Play’ for our children using everyday things you might already have somewhere buried in one of those drawers yourself…


What is an Invitation to Play?

To put it simply, an invitation to play it is a set of arranged materials that captures your children’s curiosity, challenges and tempts them to examine, make and play. The way you select what you arrange will be based on your child’s age and what they are interested in.

I have added a few set-up suggestions with an art making focus; these are the starting point and as exciting as this is, we can never predict the endpoint; that is one of the beauties of children’s art making and play. There might not even be an endpoint, but rather a process of questioning and exploration; this is good too. If you want to explore the Invitations to Play you set up, then sure enough your children will dive in and absorb themselves for hours, perfect for a wintery afternoon of making.

Remember this isn’t a step-by-step guide; it is more of a suggestion of how to allow your children to explore their creative urges. Feel free to use any materials that you feel might pique your children’s interest.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Bubble wrap and paint – children love popping the bubble wrap with paint on and best of all it can be folded, paint squished and colours merged.

1. Bubblewrap, paint

Cardboard, pens, stickers and tape encourage sculpture making with endless open-ended possibilities.

2. Cardboard, tape, stickers, pens

Post-it-notes are an excellent open-ended resource, they can be written on, used to make shapes with and they stick anywhere.

3. Post-it-notes, pens, masking tape

Cotton buds are excellent for developing fine motor skills and creating spots. Painting on tin foil enables a different sensory experience with fun effects. The best thing is that it also covers the table and can be lifted off with no paint residue.

4. Tinfoil, cotton buds, paint

5. Cork boards can be found in discount stores, watch your children create wonderful patterns with coloured pins. Again this is a brilliant way to develop those fine motor skills (just check your child is aware of safety when using these).

5. Cork boards, pins

Threading buttons has to be a favourite. If you incorporate wire and plasticine, mini models can be constructed as the plasticine secures wire to the table.

6. Wire, buttons, plasticine

Thanks so much, Natalie! We can’t wait to see you at The ShopUp next month! x


Comments (1)

November 9, 2015

I LIVE for bubble wrap and post it notes! Am I invited to play too? 😉 Seriously, these ideas appeal to non-crafty mamas like me who still want to encourage their kids’ creativity, and it’s great that you can find these tools almost anywhere around the house. Thanks for the post, looking forward to The ShopUp 🙂

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