Small world play outdoors: Learning benefits

29 May 2020 | Expert Advice & Opinions

Small world play outdoors has many benefits to learning in early childhood and allows for extensive language development, confidence, and collaboration. Small world play just captures our imagination and enthrals us. A space where simply anything is possible, and you can make it happen: whether it be jumping as high as the moon, talking animals, or overcoming that infamous baddie. As far as small world is concerned… if you can think it, you can do it! Suitable for all ages, small world play provides the perfect opportunity to explore language development from sounds all the way up to conversation. With different characters to be, and the various voices which may accompany them, small world play provides us adults a window into the child’s world.

There are no limits to what you can provide within small world scenes.

You could use:

  • Small world people, animals, dinosaurs, creatures
  • Furniture and transport
  • Habitats (including desert, ocean, road, towns, farms, places of work)
  • Structures (homes, buildings, boxes etc)
  • Loose and natural parts (sticks, leaves, shells, bricks)
  • Books, photos and research

Learning opportunities

There are endless learning opportunities within small world play, here are just a few:

 The freedom to be who you want to be: whether the small world play be based around people, animals, or mythical creatures it’s up to the individual to set their characters personality and moral compass, allowing the storyteller in us all to come out

  • The development of language: from simple descriptive words to complex narratives, small world has such potential. As adults it provides the opportunity to scaffold the acquisition of new vocabulary and sentence structure, whilst providing children the opportunity to use these new words in the correct context. Children can simply interact with each other and adults freely, whilst the breadth of resources provides the perfect prompt for new and interesting vocabulary
  • Confidence: for many, large group experiences may be a little overwhelming, however small world experiences create a lovely atmosphere to engage in interaction with children. The balance of power shifts towards the child and you may see their personality come alive, in comparison to an adult led group time
  • Collaboration: small world play provides the opportunity for children to collaborate with each other, and with adults in a pressure-free environment where they are equal partners in play
  • Enhanced knowledge of the world around us: small world play can replicate our known and unknown surroundings and allows for the consolidation of knowledge we have gathered through our understanding, research and observations. What a perfect way to bring it all together
  • It’s the beginning of something much bigger! Small world play provides the perfect starting point, you can adapt it to the children’s interests and your interactions can really support their knowledge and language

Something to consider…

Small world experiences provide the perfect opportunity to bring together and solidify our children’s knowledge from all around our environments. Small world play is an area which requires upkeep to maintain how it inspires our play.

The key is in the interactions: how children interact with the resources and space, how the adults interact with the children and how the children interact with each other.

By Nicola Cargill and Kaysha Coales from Little Learners Childcare.



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