Santa’s Village: Small World Play

Small world play is acting out scenarios (scenes from real life, stories and/or imagination) in a miniature play scene, created with small figures and objects.Small worlds are often set up in a certain theme (construction area, pirates at sea, ducks in a pond) that are relevant and meaningful to the child at the time and they usually include a sensory element (water, sand, dry pasta, leaves, …) which adds more layers to the play.


As with any kind of play, there are numerous ways in which small world play supports your child in it’s development. By providing children with opportunities to re-enact certain experiences, you are helping then to reflect on feelings and events in life in a safe way. While engaged in small world play, children can explore and experiment with different emotions and act out these scenes in their play.


Small world play invites children to be creative, and boosts confidence when children are able to experiment with different (both new and familiar) materials and build something they think is awesome. It is also an excellent way to practice social skills (when for instance building a small world on a play date) where children can connect with each other and learn to take turns, listen to someone else’s ideas, compromise and so on.


There are always many problems to solve in small worlds (“Not all the dinosaurs fit in my cave!”) and children learn how to work through these by reasoning and experimenting. Small world play helps to develop numeracy by giving lots of opportunities for grouping or sorting items and counting them (“How may small dinosaurs do you have? How many do go in your cave?” “Now, how many are left?”) Small world play is great for building language because it allows children to practice their language in a meaningful context. While playing, children are vocalising and learning about nouns, verbs, adjectives and prepositions and so on (“parking the red truck next to the yellow tractor”).


Through small world play children get to learn about cause and effect while experimenting and manipulating different items (“letting a car go down a slope will make it go faster”). Children also get the chance to explore certain ideas in the world, like how a hospital would operate differently from a police station or a school and why. Children as young as 2 years old can engage in (simple) small world play and start telling their own stories.


As part of our Christmas week, we constructed our very own version of Santa’s Village! Students used a variety of sensory materials to accomplish this. The figures utilized were one Santa and three elves made out of blocks. There were also polar bears and even a narwal that landed themselves in our village! In addition to this, we constructed log cabins out of Lincoln Logs and made it snow with flour!


Bodies are water were created with blue glitter, and students delighted in making their figures and animals go swimming! Lastly, students decorated the landscape with toy candy canes and icicles.


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