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Posted by Casey

I am such a fan of simple play that ignites the senses! One of my favourite ways to do this is through small world trays! They are SO incredibly easy to set up using things you probably already have in your cupboard so they needn’t be expensive either! Today I’d like to share some tips with you on how to get started with small world play! How to get started with small world play | Sensory small world tubs for babies, toddlers and preschoolers | Imaginative play, creative thinking skills | Play ideas, tot school, learning through play |

There are really only three main components to a sensory small world  – the base, the figurines and the loose parts. Then all you need is something to set it up on or in! You could use a small world table or any old container really! Lately we’ve been loving the Kmart Metal Tray for our small worlds!

Let’s get stuck into the details so that you can create your very own small world tray in no time!

The Base

This is my favourite part – the sensory element of the small world! There are so many wonderful materials you could use as your base such as:

  • Coloured water dyed with just a drop or two of food dye
  • Kinetic sand or sand from the sandpit
  • Small garden pebbles
  • Dirt from the garden
  • Dyed rice (click here to read instructions)
  • Play dough in various colours
  • Cloud dough (click here for the recipe)
  • Split peas or corn
  • Black beans
  • Oobleck
How to get started with small world play | Sensory small world tubs for babies, toddlers and preschoolers | Imaginative play, creative thinking skills | Play ideas, tot school, learning through play |
Dyed brown rice and yellow split corn made this African Small World very enticing!

The Animals or Figurines

Next you add your animals or figurines! We buy pretty much all of our animal figurines from Mini Zoo! They are so realistic and will last a lifetime of play for each of our three children. They are definitely worth the investment! Some of our favourite figurines for play include:

  • Schleich or CollectA animals – We have a set of farm, jungle, ocean, dinosaur and wild animals!
  • Wild Republic polybags – These ones are still large enough for little hands while still being realistic. We love our Aquatic Animals and Insect sets!
  • Safari brand Toobs – These smaller sets of animals are perfect for small worlds on a smaller scale. They’re also great for adding to a kit to take out and about too!
  • CollectA Minis – We recently got our first few sets of Minis and they are gorgeous! They are smaller versions of the very realistic larger animals!
  • Construction Vehicles
  • Fairy figurines
  • Peg dolls and little people – We love the little Hape brand people from The Creative Toy Shop.
How to get started with small world play | Sensory small world tubs for babies, toddlers and preschoolers | Imaginative play, creative thinking skills | Play ideas, tot school, learning through play |
My little learners loved this Construction Small World! The small pebbles were such a hit!

The Loose Parts + Extras

The final step is adding your loose parts, plants or any other little extras. But keep in mind, this totally isn’t necessary! Often the sensory element and figurines are enough to invite lots of engaged play!

Natural Loose Parts – Collect things from nature that you can use in your small worlds. Shells from the beach or twigs and pebbles from the park make wonderful additions to your small worlds. You can also get gorgeous wooden pieces from Mini Minds Australia and Made With Altitude that add such a gorgeous natural touch to your tubs!

Fake Plants – We have quite the collection of fake plants for our small worlds. We find them at dollar shops, Ikea and our local Aquarium!

How to get started with small world play | Sensory small world tubs for babies, toddlers and preschoolers | Imaginative play, creative thinking skills | Play ideas, tot school, learning through play |
Our lizard small world was made up from natural treasures we collected at the park the day before! I added them to a tub of brown dyed rice with our CollectA lizards and our Mini Minds Australia natural wood slices.

I hope these tips get you excited to get started with small world play!

About the author

Casey is an early years teacher turned stay at home mum to three little learners aged 6 and under. She is passionate about supporting parents that want to use play as a vehicle to bond with their little learners and create magical memories of childhood! You can follow Casey on Instagram right here.


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