Provocations: A Guide

Play Provocations for Beginners

Step 1: Decide what time of day is ideal for putting them in place.

Morning drop-off time can be the perfect time to test out new ideas for play provocations because you want to have engaging activities for your children to dive into, but that don't require your full attention for facilitation. But play provocations can happen whenever your children have free play time and can happen multiple times throughout the day.

Step 2: Brainstorm materials and toys that you know your children have been interested in recently.

Beginning with what you know your children are interested in is the foundation for all quality planning. Once you establish the things you know you want to put out for play, think about what other materials you can add to make it more interesting, creative, or open-ended? Sometimes a point of frustration can be the perfect source of inspiration. For example, if you think to yourself, "They always want to roll the cars off the table onto the floor," you might have the beginning idea of a really inviting play provocation involving cars, blocks, ramps, chairs, and a soft surface for landing.

Step 3: Gather your materials and set up.

Play provocations can be set up on top of a table, under a table, on the floor, on the wall, outside... pretty much anywhere. If this is the first time you're setting up a play provocation you might have a child ask, "What are we supposed to do here?" You can respond however you want, but a good answer could be, "It's up to you. What do you want to do with these materials?" The point is that there is no one way to play with the materials you set out.

Step 4: Observe when you can.

Pay attention to how kids are using the materials you set out. Are they using them how you predicted? Or are they doing something totally different with them? What would you change for next time?

Step 5: Repeat!

Repeat the play provocations your children really love and make changes over time. It will be very apparent if you need to make changes or updates to the play provocations you've put out-- you'll see kids using materials in inappropriate ways, or kids not focused on a particular activity. Pay attention for those signs and adapt accordingly.