Are you looking for educational activities to ENTERTAIN and ENGAGE your preschooler this summer? Consider combining SENSORY PLAY with SMALL WORLD PLAY. This is a simple and inexpensive option that offers hours of fun as well as numerous developmental benefits for your child.
SENSORY PLAY typically involves giving a child a sensory material, either on a tray or in a bin, to explore, along with tools for cutting, rolling, scooping, pouring, measuring sifting, etc. While this type of sensory play is worthwhile and engaging on its own, a new level of play, interest, and learning can be achieved by combining it with small world play!!
SMALL WORLD PLAY involves setting up a miniature life scene or environment for a child to play with. The goal of small world play is to encourage children to use their imaginations, to be creative, to act out ideas and/or to reenact stories they have heard.
SETTING UP SMALL WORLD SENSORY PLAY for your child is EASY! First, decide on a theme that is of interest to your child and read a few books together for inspiration! Look for materials/toys you already have in your house/yard that can be combined with a sensory material to set the scene. If you have a sand or water table these work great for small world sensory play. If needed, make a quick trip to the store to pick up any items that you need or ask a friend/neighbor to borrow. If playing inside make sure to place a small tarp or sheet underneath your small world sensory bin to contain any mess OR consider setting up the scene outside! Before playing, set clear rules for your child about keeping the sensory material(s) in the designated area. Make sure everything you have selected is safe and doesn’t pose a choking hazard. Now you are ready to PLAY! Sometimes younger children may need you to model how to play with the scene. Older children will most likely have ideas of their own and will want to add items to the scene to make it even more elaborate. Caregivers should encourage this creativity and try not to direct or control the child’s play as long as it is safe and non-destructive.
Leave the small world out for a few days so that children can revisit it and find ways to extend their play. You will be amazed at all the wonderful creativity you observe. Be proud of the Small World Sensory Scene you have created and know that your child is learning while having fun!!! We hope you will try out a few of our favorite ideas for SMALL WORLD SENSORY PLAY!
Bird Small World with Play Dough or Moss
Suggested supply list: orange or brown play-dough, bags of moss or straw, brown confetti paper, small sticks, pine needles, leaves from your yard, small bird figurines or stuffed animals, small bowls, fake worms or bugs to feed the birds, plastic eggs, books about birds/nest building
Garden/Bugs Small World with Play dough OR Potting Soil
Suggested supply list: brown or orange play-dough, assorted fake flowers (stems cut to make flowers shorter), assorted flower pots, fake insects, playdough tools (rollers, scissors, plastic knives), books about gardening/flowers/bugs, container of potting soil with shovels, fake insects, and watering pails.
Construction Site Small World Play with Sand!
Suggested supply list: a container of sand, construction vehicles, construction worker figures, rocks, sticks, blocks, planks, wood pieces, books about construction vehicles/workers/sites
Construction Worker Small World Play with Play dough!
Suggested supply list: play-dough, construction tools (hammer, saw, screw driver, etc.), golf tees (for nails), books about construction workers/tools/building
Ocean Small World Play with Water & Fish Rocks!
Suggested supply list: A container of water, fish rocks, ocean animals, fake aquarium plants, measuring cups, and pails, books about the ocean/beach/ocean animals
Seashell Small World Play with Water and/or Sand!
Suggested supply list: A container of water and/or sand, assorted seashells, rocks, measuring cups, pails, shovels, books about the beach/animals that live in shells