[FREE PRINTABLES]: Entertain the Kids Until Dinner with Invitations to Create

I have a 50-50 strike rate when it comes to dinner preparation. Fifty percent of the time I manage to get a nutritious and delicious dinner on the table.The other fifty percent of the time, I end up with an over-cooked meal. This usually occurs because I’ve rushed through the door after school and attempted to throw together a meal while bored children tantrum around me.

I’ve slowly come to realise that if the kids are entertained, my chances of burning dinner are seriously minimised and my stress levels remain in the happy zone. (I’m slightly embarrassed by how long it has taken me to realise this. Was everybody aware of this but me?)


Invitations to Build and Create

Have you ever heard of an Invitation to Create? Or an Invitation to Build? These concepts are going to become your new best friends. Invitations to Create or Build are when different materials are arranged in an inviting way to encourage and provoke children to create or build something.

9 printable prompts for invitations to play

To give children direction and purpose (thus allowing you to cook dinner in peace,) I’ve created 9 Invitation Prompt Cards that you can print out for the kids to use in a creating or building situation. Just click here to download them and print them out.

Invitation Challenge Cards

Cut these out and store in a ziplock bag. (Every teacher will tell you that ziplock bags were the greatest storage invention. Ever.) Children then select a card and create or build something to meet the prompt. So you might invite your child to make something for a birthday, or for Grandma, or for the backyard.

Invitation to Create

If I was a super-organised type, I’d have this Invitation to Create set up and ready for when we walked through the door in the afternoon. Truth be told, I’m not that organised so I keep all my materials in two tubs in the pantry and quickly chuck things in a tray whilst trying to locate the potato peeler.

Invitation to Create

The idea is to limit the number of materials and to leave the task as open-ended as possible. By limiting materials you are not only encouraging imagination but making clean-up easier. You may also choose to lay the Invitation inside a tray or on a placemat to create a clearly-defined workspace for your child (again making clean-up easier.)

Purists will tell you that materials should be artfully arranged to encourage ideas and creativity, but there are no Judgy McJudgersons here, so you just present those materials however you like (just don’t forget about the potatoes in the oven!)

Invitation to Build

Invitations to Build differ slightly from Invitations to Create as they aim to engineer solutions to meet a need. So you may present an Invitation to Build with a prompt card and discuss with your child a problem that needs to be solved for the prompt.

Invitation to Build

Perhaps a toy needs a new shelf to be housed on? Perhaps a catapult needs to be built to get the toy from one side of the room to the toy basket? The idea is for adults to provide ideas or suggestions, but for the child to lead the process.

In our Invitation to Create tub, you’ll find a variety of arts and crafts supplies. 

Invitation to Create Materials

In our Invitation to Build tub, you’ll find a random variety of recyclables and household items.

Invitations to Build material

It took me about 30 minutes of wandering around the house and gathering bits and pieces to set up these tubs.

So the set-up does take a little bit of time but if you replenish as you go, it’s easy to maintain these tubs.

Invitation to Build Tub

Storing materials in ziplock bags, plastic containers, pencil cases and old shoeboxes makes it easy to locate things within your tubs.

If you’d like labels for your Invitations to Build and Create tubs, you can print these tub labels. (These labels help create the illusion of Martha-Stewart-level organisation. Only you and I will know different.)

Dinner is simmering away, the kids are engaged and occupied. Time to pour yourself a drink.

More ways to keep the kids engaged:

Images: Shannon Wong-Niciz