Exploring the Magic of a Minibeast Small World Sensory Bin and the Benefits of Small World Play

A sensory bin containing 6 segments each filled with resources to create small world habitats for insects and minibeasts

Laura @inspiremyplay

Founder of @inspiremyplay, Early Years teacher for 11 years and mummy to three gorgeous girls. I'm passionate about the benefits of play in early childhood.

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I will always love setting up a small world! Engaging in small world play is so important for children. Not only does it nurture their imagination, it also enables them to explore new materials, act out scenarios from real life, build language, practice social skills and gain an understanding of the world around them. In this blog post we showcase a mini beast small world set-up as just one example of many that you could do.

What is small world play and why is it important?

Small world play is when children use miniature items and toys to create scenes, act out scenarios, and navigate through stories of their own making. So why is small world play so important?

1. It Boosts Language Development: Small world play helps children to experiment with language. They try out new words, expressions and dialogue as they narrate their play, which aids their communication skills.

2. It Develops Cognitive Skills: When children engage in small world play, they are often solving problems, figuring out spatial awareness, and understanding cause and effect. Whether it's figuring out how to stack the blocks to make the tallest tower, or deciding the best way for their toy car to navigate through a busy city, they are developing essential cognitive skills without even realising it. 

3. It Encourages Creativity and Imagination: With the world at their fingertips, children are free to create scenarios that are only limited by their imagination. It might be a bustling city one day and a magical fairy garden the next. 

4. It Enhances Social and Emotional Skills: As children involve their toys in various roles and scenarios, they're essentially practising their social skills. They learn about cooperation, sharing, and empathy by putting their toys through these emotions and situations. It's like a rehearsal for real-world interactions! 

5. It Promotes Independent Play: Small world play is a fantastic way for children to entertain themselves. It encourages independence and self-confidence as they navigate their own stories and scenarios.

You can find out more about the benefits of small world play in my Resources for Play series which will help you to prioritise a few key resources that can be used in multiple set-ups and activities. I've also put together a range of options for resources and supplies to go specifically with the PlayTRAY based on different interests and themes.

Minibeast Small World set-up

This minibeast habitat play tray looks complicated but was actually very quick to set up using mainly things scavenged from the garden and a few staples I always have to hand (log slices, pebbles, artificial grass...). From the top clockwise we’ve got:

  • Pond - Water with a drop of food colouring and some pebbles and leaves cut to the shape of Lily pads.
  • Grass - A piece of artificial grass cut to the shape of a PlayTRAY section. Alternatively you could use a dried material dyed green or real grass.
  • Undergrowth - Dead leaves, pinecones and log slices (bought from Amazon). 
  • Hedge - green leaves.
  • Dirt/soil - chocolate cloud dough (but you could just use real soil).
  • Flower bed - real plant cuttings and some flowers from the garden. 

If it’s too much to make all these, choose just one section and make a whole tray of it - this will work especially well with little ones. Click here to see various insects and minibeasts that you could use.

I hope this little peek into the world of small world play has given you a new appreciation for the moments when your child is deeply engrossed in their miniature worlds. It's more than just play. It's a vital part of their growth, development and understanding of the world around them. 

So, the next time your child is off on a small world adventure, take a moment to watch and appreciate the magic unfolding. Who knows, you might even be invited to join in!

For more ideas like this one why not check out our dinosaur themed small world play post.