12 Simple and Creative Small World Play Ideas

12 Simple and Creative Small World Play Ideas

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Oh small world play. How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways.

I love small world play set-ups because:

  • they encourage imaginative, open-ended play
  • small world play is child-led
  • they are an excellent way for children to explore and experiment with different materials
  • small world play pairs beautifully with sensory play
  • children are able to process real life scenarios by reenacting them via small worlds
  • the opportunities to use and develop vocabulary are plentiful

Never set up small world play before?

Never fear! It is simple! Small worlds lend themselves to all themes, materials, and situations.
There is no right or wrong way to set up small world play. If you’d like to read more, Ann from Little Worlds Big Adventures is the Queen of small world play.

I generally start with a theme. It is usually inspired by a book.
We then collect materials from around the house. It’s fun to make this a collaborative effort with your little ones, giving them ownership of the process.
Then we set up our materials. Where you do this can vary. It might be in a plastic tub. In a sand play table. In a shoe box.
The most important (and best) step is saved for last. PLAY!

Need some ideas?

Thank you to Oskar’s Wooden Ark for gifting us a set of Grimm’s 12 Rainbow Friends

Farmyard small world

Farm small world

We set this small world up in our sand play table after being inspired by this book. We used two baskets to act as “fields.”
Farm-related toys were collected and our Grimm’s 12 Rainbow Friends from Oskar’s Wooden Ark were the “farmers.”
The children used plastic lids to symbolise seeds being planted.
We also used some coloured rice and popcorn kernels to add a sensory element to this small world.

A birthday small world

Birthday small world

Our small worlds often incorporate ways to reuse and recycle our art projects.
Birthdays and birthday parties are discussed here about eleventy billion times a day. So we channeled this energy into a small world and made the bunting from leftover watercolour paper. We used play dough for the cake. I love how small world play allows you to create a multi-step process that incorporates so many benefits- fine motor skills, creative arts…. you’re only limited by your imagination.

The thing I love most about this small world is that it was set within a box. So once play was finished, you simply shut the box and pack away and storage is simple!

Small world play involving kids' artwork and wooden dolls.

Neighbourhood small play

Another example of artworks being used in small world play.
What should be a 5 minute walk to the park takes us about 56 minutes as my kids insist on stopping at every.single.letterbox and having an in-depth discussion about the house number. Hello learning in context!
So we collaged some houses and simply stuck them onto a sheet of cardboard to create this small world that encouraged number recognition.
Our Grimm’s 12 Rainbow Friends from Oskar’s Wooden Ark walked around the neighbourhood, visiting different homes. It was so sweet hearing the stories that emerged about different houses and neighbours.

More ideas!

Create a small world for dinosaur-lovers

A railway small world contained within a suitcase

Or be inspired by The Craft Train and use a suitcase for another dinosaur alternative

Make a portable felt landscape in a DVD case

A fairy garden small world like this one from The Craft Train has been on my To-Do list for ages!
This fairy small world from the Make It Your Own family includes toadstools made from recyclables

Create a fish pond and gorgeous rock fish

My children would adore this stone quarry small world from Little Worlds, Big Adventures

This small world idea from Make It Your Own is so clever in the way it allows children to create trees that change with the season

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Small world play encourages imaginative, child-led, open-ended play. Small worlds lend themselves to all themes, materials, and situations. Here are 12 of our favourite simple and creative small world play ideas. #imaginativeplay #smallworldplay #playmatters