By Cheyenne @growing.up.ginger
You may have seen the term “ITP” and wondered, “What does ‘ITP’ mean?” Or perhaps you are familiar with the play based world and you know immediately what those three letters stand for. Today I’m going to give you the low down on an ITP.
ITP, for those of you who haven’t seen the term before, means Invitation to Play. Invitations to play come from another childhood educational approach. You have most likely heard of the Montessori method or the Steiner Waldorf educational approach for children. The approach that introduces the ITP is the Reggio Emilia approach.
A few things about the Reggio Emilia Approach:
- It is founded on the bases that learning should be child-led. Children are by nature curious and creative beings. They can and will create opportunities for learning.
- We as parents are “co-learners” to our children. We don’t lead the learning process. Our job is to listen and observe alongside of the child.
- The 100 languages of children is a huge part of this method. This delves into the endless ways children express themselves. All of which are seen as invaluable resources for children to learn.
- Your environment is another primary resource for this method. The child’s environment reflects the “ideas, ethics, attitudes and culture of the people who live in it.” This environment inspires and invites the children in. Your space need not be perfectly cultivated or huge, just a reflection of you and your family.
- Lastly, this method involves documentation. Not in the perfect cultivation we often see online, but rather seek out documentation of how a child arrives at a thought, idea, or concept.
So, now with the background of the approach, we can look deeper into what exactly an Invitation to play is and how we cultivate a “good” ITP.
An ITP provides children with the materials they need to get creative. Often these materials will be open ended, meaning they can serve many different functions or purposes. The original idea is to provide the child with these materials, but allow the child the space and freedom to build, create, and imagine. Many invitation to play set ups now often involve the parent or caregiver setting up an elaborate scene for the child to play with. While this can provide inspiration for future play and is often great for a young child, it is more of a small world play set up and less of an ITP.
Your ITP need not be elaborate. Once your child reaches an age that they can create and build and lead the process while you “co-learn” alongside them, you can set up a successful ITP. Your job here is easy. No more elaborate play set ups! Grab a few trays or baskets and perhaps set up a small rainbow stack with semis, fill a basket with loose parts, stones, dried flowers, or nature parts. Set this on a shelf or table and wait for your little one to engage. Maybe they will build and decorate a cake? Discover how they play, create and imagine. Ask them how they come to certain conclusions. You might be surprised at some of their responses!
A comment I hear often is, I don’t have the resources to set up a “good” ITP. Let’s be honest, there really is no scale of good to bad when it comes to an invitation to play. If you’re child sits, plays, and discovers for 5 minutes or 5 hours it is definitely a “good” ITP. The point is that it engages them, if only for a minute. There will always be variables that change how long a child will be engaged, so do not despair if it only engages for a few minutes. Also on the subject of resources, resources can be anything. Rocks from the garden, cardboard boxes, water marbles, animal figures all of these can be resources. There is no limit on what you can use.
Here’s a rundown of my most recent ITP, what we used and how we set it up!
- Make Mud playdough sand
- Homemade blue sensory rice
- CollectA Marine tube
- Nature parts or other loose parts
Place all of these in individual trays or containers on a table or perhaps a tray, I like using our tuff tray as it provides lots of space to get creative. Sit down with your child and see what inspires them. As you can see from my list, I’ve provided them with the tools to build an ocean or beach scene, But what will actually happen when they get creative?
A little bit about the author
"Hi! I’m Cheyenne, I’m a homeschooling mama of 4 sweet boys (ages 18months to 8 years) and expecting a baby girl in 2022. I’m originally from the US, but moved to Sydney in 2013 and now live in rural Victoria near where my husband grew up. As a family, we spend most of our time homeschooling and learning through play. When we aren’t doing those things, we are reading, cooking, sewing, and adventuring. I’m also a lover and connoisseur of coffee, wine and delicious food. I love exploring the benefits of play, and encouraging children to get creative and use their imaginations and I hope I can share that with you all!"