It’s no secret we are pretty big fans of small world play in our house. One look at my Instagram page and you’ll see a number of different “mini worlds”. They fuel mamas need for creativity and they meet the boys needs to play, make a mess and learn 🙂
Whether its styled more as a sensory tray set up, or a more structured mini world, I always try to tie in a little story or learning to it, and you would be surprised by how much knowledge kids absorb while “playing”. We have done a number of themes over the years including Pirates, The lifecycle of a frog, farmyard play with chocolate mud, swamp life, the Artic, and Dinosaur land .
Small world play allows children to act out scenarios (scenes from real life, stories they have heard and/or from their imagination) in a “mini world” created with small figures and objects from around the house. I’ve seen my kids start slowly first we learn about the “theme”, and then I stand back and give them space to play. Once they tucked into this Aussie Outback for example, they soon became “adventurers” and “zoo keepers”, they played for about an our and eventually the playdough “Uluru” rock was cut up and became “lion food”. They are the ideal platform for nurturing children’s imagination from a young age. This play provides them with an opportunity to explore new materials, act out scenarios from real life and gain an understanding of the world. Small world play is often used in play therapy as well by providing children with opportunities to re-enact certain experiences, you are helping then to reflect on feelings and events in life, in a safe “world”.
So how do you start?
Choose your theme – I often will base a theme on the time of year or an important event, or if I have recently bought a really cool figurine set 🙂 next decide on your base layer – whether its artificial grass, felt, rice, gloop or sand start by “laying the foundation”.
Select Accent Features – bits and bobs from around the house or garden that could tie into your theme.
Add your characters – lastly add in your “main act”, your characters or figurines. I then call in the kids and before I “let them loose” I explain what the “world” is, and all the different characters. I’ll often sit with them for about 5 minutes to describe or explain anything, and then its free reign 🙂
For the Aussie outback; I first made up some easy cloud dough and added in a bit of cinnamon to make it brown. I then coloured some sand with red food colouring and made up some orange playdough to form the Uluru (Ayers Rock). Some grass bits, leaves and rocks were found in the garden and I scattered around some brown lentils to add a little more interest.
It really is that simple! My youngest son has designed his own one to do next weekend, and its going to involve lots of slime and jello so have a look out on my stories on Sunday for a gloopy mess 🙂 Until then, happy playing !