The Benefits of Small World Play

“Everything you can imagine is real”
–  Pablo Picasso

Does small world play benefit children? Small world play refers to imaginative play with ‘small’ toys, encouraging children to use their imaginations and create both everyday and fantasy worlds in familiar surroundings.

It involves processes including active learning and imitation, and allows children to communicate knowledge about life and the world around them in a safe, contained environment.

Whether it’s acting out a well-known home scene, or fighting a dragon in a fantasy world; small world play enables children to develop socially, physically and intellectually.

But how?

Social Development

Small world play isn’t limited to groups, children can, and are often encouraged to play by themselves too.

When children do play together, small world play encourages children to share, communicate with each other, and devise roles between themselves. For example, who can remember arguing over Princess dolls? Resolving issues develops an awareness of feelings and allows children to learn about consequences of actions. Above all it teaches children to respect each other and whatever ideas are shared.

Emotional Development

One of the most beneficial aspects of small world play is its ability to help children emotionally. On a basic level, collaborative small world play allows children to become aware of other’s emotions, but it can also help children get to grips with how they are feeling themselves. Any worries or concerns can often be bought up through the safety of the character a child has created; a policeman, a fairy or even an animal.

The ability to create stories using small world play resources allows children to express themselves, and helps early years practitioners and parents gain an insight into how their child is thinking, feeling and developing.

Physical Development

You may not think small world play benefits a child’s physical development, but it does! Small world play has tangible, physical benefits too. Playing with a small character, vehicle or environment helps to develop children’s motor skills and coordination, not to mention their spatial awareness.

Intellectual Development

Finally, small world play is a great learning resource. Not only can it teach kids about rules and life within their own community, it can also broaden their knowledge to distant places, cultures and societies.

For example, road mats can help teach kids about road safety and small world vehicles, the rules of the road. Small world environments such as hospitals, police stations and fire stations can all help children define roles within their own communities and learn about concepts needed for adult life.

Children can even develop their mathematical skills! Concepts such as size, patterns, positions and sorting are all explored in a fun and engaging way.

In terms of language development, small world toys provide a physical representation that children can relate new words to. This imitation process is not just copying, it involves children learning and experimenting with what they are hearing and seeing.

… time to create your own small world!

What small world play teaching ideas do you have?

Let us know what worlds you’ve created and places you’ve been on Facebook and Twitter.

Make sure you provide small world play opportunities in your early years or home setting! Explore our fantastic range of small world play resources below and start creating worlds today.

link to small world play resources

Learning Through Play in the Early Years, a Resource Book Early Years Interboard Panel

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