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Why You Should Encourage "Small World Play" In Your Toddler

What is "Small World Play"?

Encouraging self-expression, confidence and exploration, Small World Play is another wonderful tool using figures and resources to play and tell stories in miniature form.

The benefits of Small World Play are many and every parent should think about including a safe area somewhere in the home or outdoors that allows their child to engage in learning and imitating the world around them and to work out confusing or new things.

Great for toddlers, they will normally become engrossed in their own world, acting out real-life or imaginary events with a constant narrative. Intellectually, emotionally, physically and socially they are inspired to develop awareness of themselves and others, improve coordination, reflect on their own roles in society, sharing, showing respect and communicating their interests as they build vocabulary and unlock their own creativity.

girl with doll house

The best examples of Small World toys are doll houses, play farms, paper figures, or homemade settings such as a shoe box or a space under a table. There are no rules and nothing special is needed. A flowerbed makes a great jungle for toy tigers and other animals, and sandpits work well as a miniature desert or underwater seabed. As many sensory materials as possible can be included, everything from feel to smell and sound.

  • Wooden blocks are open-ended and can become anything from a factory to a palace - our Knock-a-Block is great for this!
  • Fabrics are also a wonderful resource – blue for the sky or a river, green for lawns and red for fire, etc.
  • Little toy vehicles for getting around, doll house furniture, and puppets all help to create meaningful and familiar contexts.
  • An old camera or an inexpensive new one can provide your child with a fabulous opportunity to learn perspective, framing and perhaps a budding new hobby!

Support your child’s unique interests and provide themed resource inspiration. For example, egg boxes, tinfoil, and coloured salt ‘moon dust’ for a Moon Escape scene, or rice, pebbles, twigs, and materials for a volcano for a Dinosaur World. Sand, water, rocks and toy sea creatures will inspire Rock Pool playtime.

Always use resources that encourage dialogue and a recreation of everyday life as this gives you, the parent, good insight into what your child understands about power dynamics, gender, personal interests, cause and effect, problem solving, etc.

Small World Play should happen naturally with children, and whether they are playing with a sophisticated doll house, a fancy train set, or simply left alone outdoors, they will intuitively make up stories and scenarios.

“Children develop at their own rates and in their own ways.”

Just let them have the time and space to thrive and remember to allow them to guide and instigate their own playtime.

wooden toys

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