Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Small world play ideas

I wrote a little bit before on the value of Small World play (SWP) last August. SWP is imaginative play where children are provided with a small world for them to use as a canvas to transfer their thought, their ideas and their experiences.
If you check online, other bloggers have written a lot about the value of SWP (Twodaloo, The Imagination Tree, An Every Day Story) and posted many photographs to illustrate various  SWP. Often you will see that the objects used are open-ended such as wooden boxes, blocks, shells, stones, seeds, sand, fabric etc.. What I like about it is the fact that SWP provide children with a clearly defined private and enclosed space for them to explore the materials alone or with a peer. The children in our classroom are quite young and past experiences with homecorners had proven to be chaotic and disastrous as the children felt "lost" in the corner and ended up messing rather than playing or pretending. What I like even more is the fact that even though it looks like the children are "just playing", SWP teaches them so much. It lets them practice their language skills as well as cooperation with others. The sensory aspect of this play also engages them on so many other level as they smell, touch, and feel, allowing them to react in a physical manner.
At the moment, we have 2 main SWP trays available in our shelves, besides our sensory table ( see our post on our sensory table right here). And let me tell you that the children absolutely LOVE playing with them. They like the fact that they can play on their own and I often observe them as they chat to themselves, completely engrossed in their imaginative play and their creation. It is a very therapeutic play that calms spirits, arouses senses and calls to their creative side.
Here is our Dinosaur World:

This is a great sensory activity too as you can see, thanks to the rough and rugged aspect of the wooden sticks, the feeling of wood shavings 9used for the beddings of the animals or for "pretend" grass/hay", the pebbles smoothness, the sharpness of the shells, the "prickliness" (??) of the pine cone.. It is all working together and the children have already had so much fun with the dinosaurs.

And here is our Farm World:

Again, this tray appeals to the senses of the children. Little fingers  LOVE digging, scooping, and shovelling the orange grit. There are also the softness of the green felt and the bales of hay adding another dimension to the play.  verbal interaction and great imagination the farmer and his wife talk while tending to the animals. And today, there was even drama at the farm as the little pig was sick and they had to call a vet... I improvised and gave the child one of my wooden gnomes to stand as the vet! This is the beauty of SWP: it support the children's creative development as they enjoy and respond to familiar playthings and start to pretend, inventing stories which, sometimes, are based on their own life experiences (the little boy who asked for a vet lives on a farm and obviously reproduced what he has witnessed at home).

As our unit on Winter and related topics is still on going, I have also added the following 2 SWP trays:

Look at our Artic world tray!

I used some flat pieces of polystyrene packaging  and covered a small bowl with a sheet of polystyrene I found in the office, to create an iceberg. It does look realistic especially as I used a layer of bubble wrap at the bottom of our blue tray. It looks like water or ice. I placed silver and blue pearl necklaces too to create a "icy" atmosphere to the lot. And of course, our tray wouldn't be complete without the polar bear, the arctic wolf, the arctic hare and the penguins! I even found some polystyrene eggs and the children can pretend they are either penguin eggs or blocks of ice! I thought about adding real ice cubes but I realised it would destroy the polystyrene items very quickly. We have a tray with ice cubes for the children  to melt or pick at this month on our shelves anyway (following our science experiment with water and freezing temperatures). So they are definitely not missing on the sensorial learning in that department.

And here is our Hibernation tray:

A bear, a hedgehog and a frog.. A wooden cave, a nest with sticks and hay, brown felt for pretend mud.. There is so much more I could add but I am still looking for a bat, a snail and a ladybird that could fit in our tray.

I added a little book I made about hibernation with the picture of animals hibernating in winter (you can see it on the first 2 pictures of the hibernation tray).  This gets the children to think and exchange knowledge among themselves. It always helps them to add details to their stories.

What I loved today was this little girl who pretended the animals were talking to her. We have been reading a new book called " A winter's tale" at circle time. She explained the animals on the tray how she kept warm in winter. What a great re-enactment of our story! I was so proud!

A Warm Winter Tail is a cozy nature book about how animals adapt to winter weather. But it is told from the perspective of baby and mama animals . It's absolutely brilliant to get the children to think about what we, humans, do to keep warm.

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