top of page

What's the difference between a Provocation and an Invitation?

Words have power. That's why sometimes they can be confusing. You may have heard about provocations and invitations in the early childhood world. But what is the difference? You will find a variety of opinions on this topic but I wanted to share with you my ideas about them.

A provocation is an open-ended activity where the educator has no specific intent or outcome for the child playing with and exploring it. It is a prompt that you will see where it goes. It is a question "I wonder what they will do with this?" instead of a direction. A provocation lets you test your ideas and theories. If, for example, you think the children are interested in making patterns you may set up a provocation with muffin tins and coloured tokens and watch to see what they do. No direct instruction.

On the other-hand an invitation is just that - an invitation to do something specific. Have I set out board games on the tables? I am inviting you to play board games. Have I set out a prompt that I want you to follow? Then that is an invitation. When I have a specific activity I want you to do then I am inviting you to try my activity.

Both are wonderful open ended tools that an educator can use. It opens the door for the children to explore in their own way what you have put out for them. Look at the photos below. Can you spot the difference between these similar activities?

Hint: The provocations have no intent and the invitations have a ready made idea.

The leaves and water are open ended with no plan. The nature matching has an idea behind it that I wanted the children to try.

The tissue paper provocation had no instructions and was so wonderful how the children explored the materials and made anything they wished. The design a cookie invitation was what one could call "guided open-ended" as they made the cookie as they wished but they were led to have the idea to make the cookie.

This one may be a little harder to see but look closely - the calculators have no intent behind them. The children could use and manipulate them however they wanted. The dice and cards have an intent. I am inviting you to play this game with me. We may play in different ways but I have led you to the game.

The stones and gems provocation could be used in so many ways and the children were not given instructions. They explored as they imagined. The make a pizza invitation had a direction and a purpose even though they made the pizza however they wanted.

In this final example the provocation simply puts out materials that the children can explore. The invitation photo clearly shows a self-portrait prompt and is an invitation to draw yourself. The children were not told how to draw themselves but it is still an invitation because there was an idea to it.

Provocations and Invitations are so much fun! I love coming up with ideas to explore with the children. Next time you come up with an idea ask yourself, "Is this a provocation or an invitation?" It may help you broaden your ideas when you look at what your intent in the activity is.

Have fun and remember - there is no one way to do anything! Get creative!

Want to reference this article? Please use:

Landals Hill, R. A. (2022, January 21). What's the difference between a Provocation and an Invitation? [web log]. Retrieved January 21, 2022, from

The images are subject to copyright. Please seek permission before using. Thank You

bottom of page