One well-known element of Reggio inspired classrooms is “invitations”. In the preschool context, these invitations are the teachers’ way of providing a loose framework and inspiration for student-led exploration and learning with a group of materials. As the name implies, the presentation of the materials “invites” the children to explore. In the setting of the Art Studio/Atelier, the invitation inspires children to explore art materials, build their confidence with using different tools and media, and discover new interests and ways to use materials.
In our time away from school, I thought I would share some ideas for preparing art invitations in the home.
How are art invitations different than art projects? An art/craft project usually has an end product in mind. You may show the end product to the child so they know how to create it, or follow step by step instructions. Invitations are about the process (not the end product), exploring materials, and enjoyment of creation. The end product might look different than expected, or there might not even be a finished product. While a craft project at home probably requires hands-on parent guidance throughout, hopefully after thoughtfully setting up an invitation at home, the parents can go hands-off and allow the children to explore and create independently.
What do I need to buy to prepare for creating art invitations? Nothing! You can rummage though old art supplies, bring in natural items from your yard, or raid the junk drawer or recycling bin. If you do want to do any shopping, try to look for supplies that could work for multiple projects. Make sure you have kid-friendly scissors, glue sticks, glue bottles, tape, and some coloring supplies on hand.
Where should I set up an art invitation? Think about how your child works, how your home is set up, and what the materials will be. If the materials have potential to get messy, I like setting up invitations outside, or in the bathtub, where clean up is easy. You can use (and reuse) a plastic tablecloth to protect a table and designate the approved work space. If your child needs lots of check-ins or reassurance, try setting up at the kitchen counter, or a small desk by your big desk, where they can work while you work nearby.
Why art invitations?
• Open-ended art time allows children to express their own ideas and interests.
• They help children see materials in a new way, and build knowledge of materials through exploration and experimentation.
• Children build confidence and feel successful.
• Working with materials in different ways develops fine motor skills.
• Children develop cognitive skills by problem solving, comparing and contrasting, predicting and planning as they work.
• They encourage independent creative time.
• Working without an end product to “accomplish” can be more relaxing for children.
• Curating and narrowing down the supplies available to the child helps to avoid overwhelm.
• They can be fun to brainstorm and put together!
This sounds like a lots of work, is it worth it? Invitations can be as simple or as complex as your energy or schedule allows. Some kids will dive right in and explore, others might be more hesitant or dependent on parents at first. And sometimes, the kids just aren’t that interested in the invitation you present (this even happens to us at Preucil sometimes!) It’s just another way to think about a preschool activity while away from preschool - another tool for your tool belt.
I’ll offer some specific ideas and more tips this week. If you have any questions, please contact me at email@example.com.
Branches + Chalk + Water
Art Studio teacher