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Small-World Play

May 19, 2015

Why it’s Important

One of the most valuable tools that will benefit a child and ease their transition into school is a well-developed vocabulary.  A child who has access to rich and diverse language from a young age is likely to have had a range of experiences that has instilled in them an understanding and knowledge of the world and crucially a means to express their developing ideas.


Small-world play is an ideal way in which to facilitate the extension of a child’s vocabulary.  Through storytelling and acting out scenarios children are able to cultivate their imaginations and to develop the language with which to express their imaginative ideas.

This kind of play offers children the chance to be in control, to create and manage an environment and to make things happen in the ways that they choose.  Their imaginary worlds also give them access to a safe context in which to explore their feelings and to try out different possibilities, as well as the chance to explore ideas and scenarios that are usually beyond their everyday experiences.


Small-World Resources


As an early childhood setting it is therefore important to have a range of small-world resources to support and facilitate this type of play.  When building up your small-world resources there are 2 main things to consider:

  1. The small-world inhabitants
  2. The small-world landscape

The Small-World Inhabitants

Below we have provided some ideas of possible small-world inhabitants to populate your resources.  It is important to choose durable items, this may involve a bit of investment but they will last through the hands of many children.

  • people
  • animals (pets, farm animals, zoo animals, wild animals, sea creatures, mini beasts)
  • dinosaurs
  • vehicles (cars, trucks, diggerstrains, tracks, planes)
  • fairies and other fantasy figures
  • aliens

The Small-World Landscape

The small-world landscapes are as important as its inhabitants in order to create worlds and environments which are rich and varied.  These landscapes can be developed using natural materials to give a genuine feel to the small-world scenarios.

  • doll’s houses and furniture
  • space
  • a lunar landscape
  • a garage
  • a train station
  • shops
  • castles and forts
  • farms
  • woodland
  • jungle
  • the beach
  • under the sea
  • the Arctic or Antarctic



The Role of the Adult

It is important that the small-world resources you choose will inspire and stimulate the children to play creatively with others or on their own.  However, the adult can also play a vital role in this type of play.  Being led by the children’s interests, the adult can help to set up the environment and assist the children in planning the activity, thinking about how they will interact together and what each person’s role should be.

Having an adult nearby throughout the activity can support the children’s play.  For example, if the scenario is one which is not related to everyday life, the adult can help the children to investigate new concepts and unfamiliar objects by asking questions designed to stimulate thinking and answering any of the children’s queries.

Small World Play



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