I've been wanting to do another 'invitation to explore' for a while, and as we had nothing planned for today, and it is a pretty murky day, I thought it was a great opportunity. I was going to set it up last night but ran out of steam, so I did it this morning while the boys were occupied in the front room (I wanted to get it all set up before they found it just so I could get a photo - usually they get stuck in before I have the chance!)
The boys were recently given a magnet kit, so that formed the basis of the Invitation: ring magnets with a pole; horseshoe magnet; ladybird magnets on a thin plastic tray; bar magnets with plastic cars that snap on to them... and then I added other bits to it: a tray of random bits - some magnetic and some not; box of paperclips; magnetic board and letters; plastic box with metal shavings in, a few other magnets. Actually the box containing shavings came as part of a book on magnets, but I deliberately did not display the book as I wanted the boys to be free to come up with their own ideas. Similarly, the Primary Magnet Kit came with some very nice looking simple project cards - I reckon we will definitely use them another time, but this time I wanted them to be able to put their naturally enquiring minds to good use, without limiting the opportunities by giving directions. I want to encourage them to come up with their own questions, not just follow the experiments that they are told they should do.
Sure enough, they had only been exploring for a couple of minutes when Youngest got inventive and started gently swinging the magnetic pole around to pick up things on the table - like a little scrap yard magnet. That wasn't in the book or on the cards - and I with my years of conventional training hadn't thought of doing that either. Just that little action there made me happy! Then he appeared in the lounge and started trying everything on the shelves to see if they were magnetic. Fortunately the gerbils that Middle was given for his birthday are not magnetic, as I with my limited imagination had not foreseen that Youngest would want to find out. We did very quickly have a chat about live animals not being part of any of our experiments!
All the boys were interested and had a good explore, which was lovely. Middle really enjoyed the ladybirds - getting them to travel around the maze, and enjoyed playing with the magnetic pole on a string - as they all did... cue a quick revision of the sharing rules! Eldest also had fun with seeing how many paperclips he could stick together with one magnet, as well as explaining 'north and south' to his brothers and making a 'repelling magnet gun'. At one point Mummy was invited to join in, and we played "attract or repel" with the ring magnets (Youngest had already told me that the magnets either stick or push each other away if they are a certain way around, so I simply and naturally added 'attract' and 'repel' to his vocabulary while we were playing).
I just love these Invitations to Play. Most of the Reggio-type invitations that I have found online are aimed at pre-schoolers, but I love the concept and the few that we have done have gone down really well, so I will keep trying to find ways to apply it to older children too.