Small World Play: Must Have Toys Series (Part 2)

In the first part of this series we discussed all of the must have toys to encourage dramatic play.  You can find that post here.

In this post, I will tell you the must have toys for small world play.

What is small world play?

Small world play is a type of pretend play.  Both small world play and dramatic play require children to use their imaginations.  In dramatic play, the children act out their story THEMSELVES.  We know that young children are very concrete thinkers.  Often, children are more adept at dramatic play because they can be one of the characters in the story.  During small world play, children must assign a role to a small toy or object.  This is the beginning of abstract thinking. Think about it.  Abstract thinking makes up so many of the academic tasks.  We assign sounds to letters.  We assign values to numerals. It is all abstract.  Small world play provides children a chance to practice abstract thinking, which strengthens pre-reading skills. 

Here is an example of the differences between dramatic play and small world play: 
While playing house...

Okay, now that we know what small world play are what I think are the must have toys:

Animal figures

We have been blessed.  My mom has a great eye when she is at thrift stores and auctions.  She has provided my children with many of their animals.  We have also received some really great ocean animals from friends. 

These figures can sometimes be pricey depending on the size and the brand. The panda and the hippo in the photo above are Schleich brand.  They are by far heavier and better quality than some of our other animals, but it is hard to justify spending the money.  I love buying the Toob brand of small figures.  We have a bird set, forest animal set, and dragon set.  These are much smaller than the big Schleich panda and hippo, but we love them.

We also have animals that do not have a brand written on them (remember, my mom is amazing and finds these treasures).  Many stores have several affordable options for large plastic animal figures.  My only caution would be to make sure they do not have openings where water or sensory materials will get trapped (think open mouths). 

When collecting animals, think of where the animals live.  You can categorize them by ocean, forest, pet, zoo, artic, and farm animals (I'm sure I'm forgetting a category).


Once again my mom is amazing, she has supplied us with lots of cool dinosaur finds!  I think all children are drawn towards playing with dinosaurs.  You can have small and large dinosaurs in your collection.

Dollhouse people 

We still have my oldest daughter's Fisher Price Loving Family dollhouse.  It is actually in storage, and I'm excited to get it back out for Quinlan.  I believe Kinsley was 2 when she got it for Christmas.  We still have many of the dolls and furniture that go with the house.  

You do not NEED a dollhouse, but I would strongly encourage you to buy some sort of people.  I like these because you can bend their legs and make them sit.  These dolls can be used in dollhouse play or even with your building blocks.  Check back to see my recommendation for construction play toys.

If your child is really enjoying dollhouse play and you want to add to his/her collection, animal characters can also be fun.  We have a mixture of Woodzees and Calico Critters.  I just think they are cute!  Look at this post for ideas on how to extend doll house play for all ages.

Remember the post on loose parts

Loose parts and small world play go hand in hand.  You can add all types of loose parts into your small world play bin.  This helps extend children's play.

Here is a caution.  Do not feel like you have to purchase all of your child's favorite character figurines.  

I'm talking to myself here, too, so don't worry.  But just because they have a plastic Simba doesn't mean you have to have it to play the Lion King.  You can use your lion from your animal stash.  If your child loves Puppy Pals but you don't have the figures, ask your child what you could use instead.  Their imagination just might surprise you!

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