When children create their own small world they are inventing smaller versions of the world they see around them. This interaction allows children to act out and express situations from their experiences and understand the big world better. Perhaps something interesting to try during these strange times of lockdown .
In small world play, characters have voices, animals make noises, and there are many situations that arise and problems that need solving. It is fascinating to see how children immerse in this world which is very real for them.
I invite you to try it with your kids at home. It is simple, it works well with objects that you have around, it has the power to take children into a deep play space, which is where learning happens best, and it can last for hours or even days.
What is small world play about?
It is about creating scenarios or different environments with little figures, fairies, animals, you name it. It also includes different objects, houses, pots, trains and buses, and other materials to create their environment and inspire imaginative play opportunities. Use cardboard to draw little figures and cut them out or use wooden pegs and draw faces on them if you don’t have any at home. Let your imagination go wild!
Let your child think about and choose the environment. Is his/her little world going to be at the beach? Will it be a forest or a jungle? Or perhaps an ice wonderland. Choose materials and add some sensory ones to help create this place. Sand or uncooked rice for the beach, containers with water, leaves and plants for the jungle, or ice blocks and water for an icy environment or playdoh to create your own grass. Think about what these little people, animals or fairies will need and build them houses, umbrellas, transport, food and see what happens! Before you realise it, your child might have created a whole small world of it's own.
Find a good space to set up your world. It might be worthwhile to look for a space where this can be left for a couple of days as children might want to come back to it later. Putting it together is as fun as playing with it. Give your child space as this is their own parallel world and it is very empoweing for them to engage with their own rules. If your child needs extra encouragement to engage with it, ask questions abut the world they are creating. What's happening, what are they doing? how are they feeling? what do they like? where are they going? This can help to spark their imaginations and get them to start flying!
In this small world, there was a village in a forest and all the people were invited to a big dinner party, the train (a huge saussage seed) was going to take the people to the party but they couldn't manage to all fit in! So, many ideas came up about how to expand the train, make several trips etc. Cooking for the dinner party was also super important, as finding the right ingredients and spices for the soup from things around. We used these wooden figures that we often use at forest school. Let me know if you want to get some of these.
As you see, play is driven by imagination and created by the child, and this is key for childhood development. Also very empowering for them is to create their own small world with their own rules. Simbolic play usually arise too, like using the saussage seed as a train, or a leaf tied to a string as an aeroplane etc. There are millions of possiblities.
I hope your children have lots of fun playing with their own small worlds and that this helps them to understand a bit better their big world!