An Invitation to Independently Explore

June 9, 2014

An Invitation to Explore Independently

Joey from Made by Joey is with us today to share some great tips on encouraging independent explorations with your children.

In an age where more and more of children’s play is based on following instructions, it is important to provide your child with lots of opportunities to lead their own play with independent exploration.

One thing that I loved doing for my kids when they were between 3-9 years old was to put together collections of materials for them to explore on their own first thing in the morning*. I remember waking up to hearing the squeals of delight whenever they discovered that I had left out a collection for them to explore on their own. Part of the thrill stemmed from the surprise of discovering it first thing in the morning!

*only include items that your child can use safely without adult supervision.

Putting together an invitation to independently explore is as simple as going through your home collecting items that have a common theme.

An Invitation to Explore Independently

For example: for this little activity I paired up our wooden oranges, pears and apples from our play kitchen with the library book Orange Pear Apple Bear.


An Invitation to Explore Independently

- A collection of shells, driftwood and plants that we found on the beach was artistically arranged on this tray.

- A collection of smooth gemstones and an identification book for older children.


An Invitation to Explore Independently

The holidays are a great time to make up a basket of materials to be experimented with. The possibilities for playful learning are endless…


An Invitation to Explore Independently

This was one of my favorite collections to leave out! Simple raw wood pieces and some colorful sheets of felt turned into some beautiful creations!

The idea behind this concept is that there are absolutely no expectations of the child. They are left alone to freely touch the items, read the book, create some art, play a game, or make their own discoveries. Other items may be brought into the play by the child – it’s a completely unstructured, child-led learning experience.

After you have enjoyed the extra quiet time in the morning(!) be prepared to be impressed by what your child decided to do with the items all by themselves. Take notes… you may learn a thing or two!


Joey lives in Western Canada with her husband and two children. She enjoys coming up with new ways of using her creativity and sharing this inspiration with others. She blogs about her family’s creative lifestyle at madebyjoey.

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  1. sajida said on June 9, 2014 #

    WonderfuWonderful and colourful sensory tray I really enjoyed reading and am sure going to experiment with my kiddos so simple !

    • ~ joey ~ said on June 9, 2014 #

      It was easy for me to get carried away making up these activities but I found that the fewer and simpler the objects are, the more imagination is required by the kids, and the play is far more stimulating!

  2. Kristine @ Kristine's Kitchen said on June 9, 2014 #

    What a great idea! My 5-year-old daughter would love this!

    • ~ joey ~ said on June 9, 2014 #

      Yes she’s the perfect age for these kinds of surprise activities. Have fun!

  3. Jackie DeLozier said on June 9, 2014 #

    Please tell me about the colorful bead and stick activity at the beginning of this post. Thanks

    • ~ joey ~ said on June 9, 2014 #

      Being a big kid myself, I am immediately drawn to colour (especially rainbows) so I enjoy sorting most of our materials by colour in attractive containers. I was first introduced to an activity referred to as “Beautiful Things” at my children’s Preschool, so that is where this kit and the raw wood kit originated as well. The idea is to provide a coloured backdrop (paper or felt) for the child to independently arrange their own design. The child knows ahead of time that this activity is only temporary (no glue involved), which will be preserved by a photograph. Then the materials are sorted by the child and put away in the appropriate container. It’s a wonderful independent activity for children on so many levels!

  4. Claudia said on July 19, 2014 #

    Wonderful ideas. So simply and appealing. I am looking forward to sharing this with our team of K teachers and setting up an exploration station in my classroom in the fall! Thanks for the beautiful pictures too!

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