There is A Thing that early childhood educators know about, called an Invitation To Play.

If you don’t already know what that is, I wonder what you’re imagining. An enticingly heavy, embossed card through the letterbox? A verbose request in swirling calligraphy? A formal – perhaps awkward – conversation? Or a request to attend, from an eyebrow-wide, open, smiling face?

Actually, an invitation to play involves no words, either spoken or written. (Or typed, or embossed.) It is a scene. A site for invention and exploration. It is the setting-up of objects and materials, the curation of another person’s future actions – a creation of desire!

I discovered Invitation To Play before I knew its name, watching my young son’s behaviour – at ease in his home, primed for a day at nursery, out and about in brand new places. In thrall to his mind and infant curiosity, I was accustomed to exploring his reactions to objects both familiar and exotic. I noticed that his activities expressed different rhythms of repetition and renewal. I suppose that when watching with love, we always do witness the direction of attention in those we adore: I found that I could learn more about his mind by interacting, myself, in his world. Stepping with care into play.

In his absence I would take huge pleasure in visiting the play areas of his home (our home), and setting up a new object – a book, or three bendy pipe cleaners, or a wooden spoon alongside a tin pot. Laying them out, just so: calibrating my knowledge of his mind and the possibilities inherent in those objects.

This is the Invitation To Play.

There is nothing more rewarding and affirming than standing silently aside and watching the invitation work its magic.

So much of HE teaching is lecturing. So much lecturing is telling. Telling is no fun! Discovery is better.