A TMNT Invitation to Play

I hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween! If you follow us on Facebook then you may already know that our family went as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles this year.
A TMNT Halloween and Invitation to Play from Suzy Homeschooler (11)
We actually didn’t get any pictures while trick-or-treating so Marmaduke suggested we dress up again the next day for an “epic battle” (his words) and it was so much fun! No decent pictures of all four of us together (the self timer can be so tricky with two little ones) so I compiled a collage of the battle to share.

We don’t want to be downers on Halloween, but we do want to encourage our children to use moderation with all that refined sugar so we came up with a system LittleMan’s first Halloween which we still use today: Switch Witch.
Every year we buy a special toy ahead of time and the children are so excited to get the toy, they happily trade most, if not all, of their candy for it. The candy goes in a tall cabinet in the kitchen, and they are welcome to have a piece or two every week until it is gone.

This year SunnyGirl traded her candy for a large bouncy ball, and LittleMan traded his candy for a TMNT set that includes a board book, playmat, and tiny character figurines. LittleMan *LOVED* it!
A TMNT Halloween and Invitation to Play from Suzy Homeschooler (1)

I realize that normally I just show you how an activity has been set up and a snippet of how it is played with but today I want to give you all a larger look at what a simple invitation to play can turn into, if given the time.

We often do invitations to play in our home, but the idea for this specific activity was inspired by Nothing If Not Intentional’s post about play ideas to match Halloween costumes. After LittleMan went to bed on Halloween night, I snuck in his room and grabbed the figurines to set up the little invitation to play for him to find in the morning.
A TMNT Halloween and Invitation to Play from Suzy Homeschooler (2)
I set the back drop for his play with some black foam board we had on hand.
A TMNT Halloween and Invitation to Play from Suzy Homeschooler (3)
I wanted to keep it simple. My plan was just some beans and playdough to accompany the figures.
A TMNT Halloween and Invitation to Play from Suzy Homeschooler (4)
In the end I did offer two colors of beans, two colors of playdough, spoons, and several empty silicone cups.
A TMNT Halloween and Invitation to Play from Suzy Homeschooler (5)
Sidenote for those who may be interested in purchasing this set, the book and the play mat are incredibly lacking. The book is essentially explaining who each character is, one figurine is talked about per page. The playmat is more of a board game and, despite LittleMan’s love of board games, he hasn’t shown any interest in playing with it. The figurines really are the star of the show. Most of them are wonderfully detailed and have sturdy construction, however of the 12 figurines there are 4 that are unable to stand upright on their own. All in all, I would recommend it, just be aware that your foot soldiers will be less threatening when they can only lean against other things for support, lol.

LittleMan really made the most of this set up, coming back to it throughout the day and eventually taking the figurines into bath and to bed.
A TMNT Halloween and Invitation to Play from Suzy Homeschooler (6)
He started out by spooning the beans onto the playdough, then mixing them together with his hands. He called this “turtle soup.”
A TMNT Halloween and Invitation to Play from Suzy Homeschooler (8)
Making the turtle soup kept him playing contently for no less than 40 minutes after breakfast.
A TMNT Halloween and Invitation to Play from Suzy Homeschooler (9)
Eventually LittleMan added an old shape-sorter castle (upside down) as the “turtle lair.”
A TMNT Halloween and Invitation to Play from Suzy Homeschooler (7)
While the turtles hung around inside the lair, the bad guys were banished to the silicone cup “caves.”

At one point LittleMan was playing outside with his Daddy so SunnyGirl took the opportunity to spend 20 minutes alone spooning the beans back and forth between bowls.

After a few battles we put our shoes on and headed out to run errands for the day. LittleMan had been saving his allowance and was very excited he finally had enough money to buy himeself the Safari LTD Sharks TOOB. When we got back to the house after all of our errands, LittleMan went back to his play.
A TMNT Halloween and Invitation to Play from Suzy Homeschooler (10)
This time the turtles were on top of a “grand ship” and the bad guys were on top of a “little boat” (aka ice cube tray he borrowed from his sister’s tot school trays). The waters were shark invested so Shredder told the gang to hide under the silicone cups for safety.
At this point in his play, the playdough and beans became parts of the boat and food/fish for the crew/sharks to eat. As I said above, the castle and all of the figurines eventually were taken into the bathtub and then to bed with LittleMan.

So you see, the 5 minutes I took to lay out some beans and playdough with his figurines the night before resulted in a variety of play which lasted throughout the entire day. With very little effort on my part LittleMan practiced several hours worth of independent play, storytelling, resourcefulness, creativity, and fun.
Would all of this have still happened if I hadn’t set out an invitation to play? Perhaps. But none of this learning through play could have been accomplished if LittleMan wasn’t left alone long enough to self-direct his play.

Have you witnessed learning through play recently? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

**EDITTED TO ADD**
We are going on day two with this same invitation to play. LittleMan woke up, saw that the items had been cleaned up during the night, and promptly asked for them back. He has spent the last hour creating a birthday party for the ninja turtles complete with playdough and bean birthday cake topped by spoon candles.

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