Small world play is an excellent tool in the development of well-rounded children. They act out stories they’ve read (or had read to them), they act out social situations and practice handling emotions, they make up their own stories and exercise their creative muscle.
Having an outdoor small world play area just adds to the benefits. The sensory experience of real plants and dirt, the fresh air and sun on their skin. No doubt about it an outdoor small world play area, or “fairy garden,” is a childhood must-have.
We used all materials that we had on hand for our small world area.
The barrel planter that we made our literacy inspired fairy garden last year. The old tires that were storage for our outdoor toys last summer. The dirt that we dug up when we installed our in-ground trampoline.
We first arranged the barrel and tires, then filled them all with dirt. We could have easily left it all as dirt, or spread some grass seed out in the dirt, but LittleMan expressed a preference for flowers so we planted a few of those instead.
Then we gathered some large rocks from around the yard. We painted the rocks a mint green and added black roofs, windows, doors using paints that we had left over from previous projects.
We lined up the rocks to make a little neighborhood.
Nearby we put a bin of plastic toy animals, hot wheels cars, and action figures. We didn’t buy any new toys for the area, but rather re-purposed dozens of old toys that we’re collected throughout our children’s lives. Taking old, forgotten toys outside is an easy way to breathe new life into them. We also kept on hand the wooden roads we made last year for our hot wheels cars.
I printed out some sun and cloud clip art images on cardstock, cut them out, laminated them, and duct taped them to clothespins.
These little sky-line images can then be hung from a clothesline tied between two trees, just above the small world play area. So far these have been very popular and an excellent way to encourage the younger children to practice their fine motor skills. I may in the future be adding some airpane and bird clip art images to the mix.
All together there are many ways this area can be played with, and over the course of this past month I have seen as many as 7 children working together to build farms, zoos, and tiny towns.
If you’re looking for something a little bit smaller, or maybe a little more indoor friendly, check out our DIY small world play area from an Ikea Expedit.