The number one most played with toy of all time in our house are our small figurines. We have collected many different sets over the years. They are stored in their own separate plastic tubs so when J wants to use a particular set, they are easy to find. Creating small worlds for these figurines to have all sorts of adventures in is something I really enjoy doing. I love planning it out, gathering the bits and pieces, and then putting it all together. And J has really loved playing with them. But playing with small worlds isn’t just fun, they provide endless opportunities for learning about animals in different habitats and are a great sensory experience too.
The cover picture for this post was a small world we set up using real objects collected on morning walks on the beach near our house.
I think the first small world I ever made was the ocean. J loved playing with water (as most kids do I think)! To get started you need a large, shallow plastic tub. You don’t want the child to have to lean over the side to reach the bottom. The one in the picture above is about 15 – 20 cms deep. Into the tub went some small and large blue rocks, artificial aquarium plants, assorted shells, and a pack of different sea creatures. We really like the the Toobs by Safari. J was two years and three months in this picture.
Our arctic critters had an awesome time in this ‘snow’. I sprayed some shaving cream onto a tray and then put it in the freezer for an hour or so. The temperature and texture of the shaving cream feels fantastic (I had to have a play too)! After a while it melts and turns to liquid but it’s good, messy, fun!
Dinosaurs have been one of J’s favourite interests since she was very little. This habitat is made from sand, large pebbles, sticks, and some artificial plants that I bought on sale as decorations in pots and then pulled to pieces. Using sand made it possible to create a pond in the middle of the tub which made it all the more inviting to play with.
This was a smaller tub that I set up for our Australian animals (using a cheap kitty litter tray). It’s got grass, sticks, gum leaves, white beans, and polenta. The water hole has some blue and clear glass pebbles at the bottom. The half-log is an aquarium decoration that I got from a ‘dollar-store’. J didn’t really talk until she was about two and a half which is about the time we made this tub. I have a video of her telling me the names of all the animals which is super-cute!
Another one of J’s long-running interests is space. In this tub is rice that I coloured black with food colouring, some glow in the dark stars and pebbles, and a set of space toys. We use coloured rice in all sorts of ways: to hide letters, numbers, or toy bugs; for play with construction toys; with mini pots and toy flowers; as fairy-lands; or in the paddling pool outside with lots of different containers for pouring.
This small world is outside in the garden. I collected some large rocks and some moss, artificial flowers which I spiked into the ground, and the mushrooms ornaments. J played with her butterflies and fairies here. We love making fairy gardens in pots or in parts of the garden. At the moment we’ve got a spooky garden in a pot (with ghosts, pumpkins, and grave stones).
I’m not sure you could really call this one a ‘small world’ but I’ve included it because it was played with a lot and I love how the trees are reflected in the mirror. The mirror was second-hand (it used to be a cabinet door) and my Dad cut the wood rounds. The terracotta dish has some water in it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed a tour through the small worlds we’ve made and are inspired to make some of your own!