Our kids love sand and water, so we are always trying to come up with new and inventive ways to present it. Outside we have a huge sandbox and access to water but on these frigid days it’s nice to have an indoor alternative. Small world play is my favorite way to present this.
If you’re not familiar with Small World Play its very easy to set up. First, pick a theme, arctic animals, desert, Christmas, whatever you can think of. Then pick some elements as your base, usually mine is sand or water. Then add different trinkets to add to the experience, focus on what you want the children to learn and go from there. Small worlds can be as simple or complex as you like. However, don’t get too hung up on keeping it looking perfect. This is a sensory experience and children will treat it as such!
Today I set up an ice rink and ice skaters. The rink was made on a cookie sheet, and the skaters were made by putting figurines in an ice tray with water. Simple! We read Pearl’s New Skates by Holly Keller to go with this activity.
The kids loved playing with the ice ! They were alarmed when it started to melt, but that was a teachable moment. They also enjoyed freeing the figurines from the ice.
Here’s an example of a complex world I made for Thanksgiving.
Many of the kids enjoyed Thanksgiving world. They recreated different stories we told them about the pilgrims and the Native Americans. Then there were other children who had other plans. They buried the marbles and went on “treasure hunts”. That was OK too!
Here’s an example of a water based world used in the summer. It was Swamp themed! We were trying to steer a Ninja Turtles obsession into a learning experience!
Initially we used plain gelatin for rocks. The children quickly realized they could crush those. That ended up being a great idea because it gave the water a sludgy texture that the children loved!
You really can’t always foresee what will happen during small world play. Supervision is key, but let the children make their own decisions .