{Guest Post} Small World Play 101 - Benefits & Implementation

Today I'm so pleased to welcome Krystal, a former teacher, now a mum of three and owner of Sweet Elephants (*affiliate link). She has some unique, beautiful and educational products for kids and babies on offer - and has compiled some brilliant small world play ideas to share today.

Welcome Krystal.

Small world play is an enticing theme-based miniature invitation to play usually involving some loose parts, figurines and sensory materials. It is a creative space that whisks children away on magical journeys and endless adventures; limited only to their imaginations. Whether kids are retelling or inventing their own stories at the farm, sea or forest, these little areas are diamonds when it comes to educational value and we know you (and your kids) will simply love them. Where do I start? You ask. Never fear, we are here to guide you through the who, how and whys.

Benefits of small world play

Small worlds are fabulous hands-on, learning experiences for children to safely explore their world
and relationships. They are not only great for the imagination, engaging and fun but offer several
benefits too:

Practical Life Skills

Fine motor development is refined as children grasp and manoeuver toys and perform tasks such as pouring, dumping, digging and cleaning.  Improvement of these skills is important as they are also required for everyday activities such as pouring a glass of milk.

Crane - shop here

Language Development

As children go about their play there is either an organised internal or external dialogue occurring as they create voices for the characters or narrate the story.  Kids can experiment with parts of language such as new adjectives, prepositions and tone.

Emotional Development

Since small world play creates a scenario in which kids get to play and have control over, it can help children to make meaning and express their feelings about events that could have happened in the past or something that may be occurring in the present. Feeling safe and welcome allows them to work through emotions and explore different outcomes at their own pace.

Frogs - shop here

Problem Solving

Resources come in various sizes. So when faced with a situation such as a bear being too big to fit in its cave, kids are challenged to adapt and find solutions to problems all whilst governing their emotions.

Independent and Social Play

The flexibility of small world environments allows it to be used for individual play or in small groups. Being able to enjoy play with peers creates a way for them to communicate, share, and learn new things together.


Adding an element of sensory play may help children to relax.

Cause and Effect

Small world play can expose kids to actions having reactions.  For instance, a horse figurine which is galloping across the grass may be an easy action however once the horse reaches the water made of
non-toxic gel it may quickly become stuck.

How to create a small world scene and what should be considered?

Small world play is great for children from approximately the age of 2 as they begin to participate in
pretend play.  If you’re feeling a little lost, don’t worry we can walk you through the steps of engaging your children in small world play.

  • Decide what theme the small world will have-we suggest using your child’s interests as inspiration.  
  • Think about the age of the child as this will impact the materials you will need.  For younger 
  • children consider that they may place objects in their mouth so avoid small and toxic items.  
  • Simple is better. 1 or 2 toys is enough.   
  • Gather materials for the scene.  Try and add an element of sensory play.  For instance, sand for the beach, instant snow for Antarctica, slime for a swamp, rice for a grassy field. 

  • Introduce the small world to your child.  For smaller children or kids who haven’t seen this type of play before you will need to model the language required. 
  • Allow your child to freely explore and create (being mindful of safe play). 
  • Avoid rotating the small worlds too soon.  Simply adding or exchanging 1 component can bring about a whole range of new adventures. 
  • Older children love to design their own small world settings. Have faith in them. You will be blown away by what they can create! 

What materials will you require?

The items listed below are only a guide.  It is great to have some sort of sensory base to fill the tray
to make setting up more enjoyable and less time consuming.

Wooden Rainbow - shop here

  • A range of trays (plastic, tin, wooden) or unused litter trays work well too! Search your local discount stores for great, cheap versions. 
  • A variety of sensory items such as rice, pasta, non-toxic water beads, clay, stones, flour, shaving cream, water, fake snow, slime, Kinetic Sand, material and beans to create the base of your scene. 
  • Several small items and miniature replicas such as mammal skulls, animals, dolls/characters, plastic and wooden trees/plants, trucks, buildings, shells, fruit and vegetables, fences and rocks to decorate your world.
  • A selection of books based on the theme for curiosity, inspiration or retell. 

What small play ideas do you have?


Here are a few of my previous small worlds...

Thank you so much Krystal for taking the time to put this guest post together and for your stunning photographs! These ideas are brilliant and I can't wait to try some of them for myself with Miss M.

Lauren xx

PS If you're a small biz and you'd like to write a guest post to be featured, including links to your store and your products being featured, please get in touch at teachertypes@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you!


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