Setting up small world invitations to play (which of course leads to learning) can be a simple way to ‘prompt’ children to play in different ways with different materials. It can offer children the opportunity to direct their own play, follow their interests, learn more about the world around them, express themselves creatively and use their imagination to extend upon the initial invitation.
Many educators tell me they find setting up small world invitations frustrating because they don’t have the fancy materials, don't feel like they are creative or don't know where to start because they see so many 'perfect' small worlds on Instagram or Pinterest!
We all have those moments of uncertainty but when you find yourself there... try to remember that the prerequisite for an engaging small world invitation to play that children will love isn't that it just looks good on Instagram...it's setup to pique a child's curiosity and draw them in to investigate, create, rearrange and experiment. If it looks pretty that's just a visual sensory bonus...not a necessity!
The key to setting up invitations to play that engage (not just look pretty) is not a big resource budget, always using new materials or spending days getting it ‘just right’ and then freaking out when the children actually touch it and ‘mess it up’….in reality it is about being intentional in your teaching but keeping it simple, hands on, child led and above all FUN!
In my Empowered Educator Community on Facebook we have many hard working members who share their invitations and playful moments with us in our weekly share section and each month here on The Empowered Educator website we feature a collection of some of the wonderful ideas that have inspired us in the community – and I hope by sharing they also inspire you to perhaps try something different with your own small world invitations to play or perhaps begin using them in your learning environment for the first time.
Enjoy the inspiration below and thank you to all of our talented community members for sharing their work with us inside our community!
Educator Shaun upcycled used coffee grounds to make 'dirt' for this animal small world play.
Linda, an Educator from our Facebook Group made this 'We're Going a Bear Hunt' small world invitation to play. The 'mud' was made from cornflour, chocolate powder and water and the snow was tapioca pearls. You might like to extend on this activity with our Goopy Bear Hunt.
Get creative with the materials you use to create your small world - Rebecca used a simple cutlery tray for this fun construction zone invitation designed to ignite imaginary play.
Empowered Ed Facebook group member Tracey made this cosy road and carpark small world invitation to play in a cupboard - genius idea!
Why not add a mirror to you small world play? It can add depth dimension with patterns, reflection and more - just like this fishing themed one shared by Kylie in our Facebook group.
Small world invitations to play certainly don't have to only be setup inside - Jamie from our group shared this garden small world, a perfect canvas to invite dinosaur play...or whatever the children decide those figures are! What could you put in your garden to make an interesting yet simple small world?
Shae introduced a great storybook themed setup based on a story many of us have probably read numerous times - The Very Cranky Bear. This small world gives children the opportunity to tell their own version of a favourite story using the props or perhaps prompt them to imagine and create something entirely different!
How good is Bluey! I bet there are children in your care that love Bluey as much as I do and I couldn't resist sharing this engaging Bluey small world shared by Helen in our Facebook group (the figurines are at most departments stores).
What stories or characters are your children interested in at the moment? Perhaps they could help you to set up their own small world bringing in their favourite characters and props from home to extend on their current interest.
Make sure you pin this one to save for Australia Day - what a simple but inviting Australian and native animal themed small world for all ages to enjoy in different ways shared by Empowered Ed member Frosyni.
Educator Kerry shared her under the sea small world invitation to play with us too - I love the addition of the sensory bag of 'water' in the middle for little fingers to squish, push and investigate!
Feeling inspired now to set up your own small world invitations to play incorporating simple materials? Take a photo of your play and share with other educators in our Empowered Educator Free Facebook Community - we love to see your wonderful work!
A Little About Me
Jodie Clarke is an early childhood professional supporting educators who want and need to stay passionate about the work they do! She has 30 years hands-on experience in the early childhood and human services sectors across many different roles.
Jodie is mum to 3 in Australia and has already helped thousands of educators with their work through her popular blog posts, activity ideas, online training and e-books.