Small World Play

Small world play is imagining and acting out stories with miniature scenes (either from real life or imagined) in a mini play scene created with small figures, toys and household or found objects.

Picture a little farm scene with some farm animal figures and a few toys or objects to set a farm scene like grass, fences and food for the animals to eat. A green silk could be the grass, some sticks glued together could be a fence and some lentils from the kitchen could be the animal feed. When your child acts out farm scenes with all this, that is small world play!

How Does it Benefit Your Child?

Small world play is super fun and comes very naturally to most kiddos. Here are some of the skills that small world play develops:

Creativity: Anytime your child is imagining or playing make believe, they are flexing their creativity muscles. Being creative does more than just build artistic skills (although it does that too!). It means being a better problem solver since they can come up with multiple solutions or see things in new and different ways. Building creativity encourages confidence and satisfaction.

Vocabulary and language skills: Imaginative play builds language skills as kids come up with how to express their ideas. It also gives them a fun place to try out words or language patterns they’ve heard out in the real world.

Problem solving and critical thinking: Kids engaged in small world play need to solve problems as they come up. If all the animal figures can’t fit in the animal enclosure the child has built, what will they do? Maybe build a second enclosure? Or expand the first? Or stack the animals on top of each other to fit them all in? However your child solves this problem, they will have built important skills for solving problems and thinking critically.

Fine Motor Skills and Dexterity: Moving figures around a scene and setting up scenarios will have your kiddos using their hands and fingers in lots of ways, increasing their competence and confidence with other fine motor skill tasks.

What Toys Are Useful For Small World Play?: There are tonnes of great objects to include in your child’s toy box for small world play, from toys to things found in nature. Let’s run through our favourite toys as well as our favourite free or low cost resources.


These gorgeous toys are made in Spain and have rich, captivating colours. Durable, imaginative and full of beauty, these are some of our favourite toys. Trees and green cones make an instant forest scene, honeycombs and mushrooms are delicious food for small figures, purple or rainbow eggs can be used either as food or as the eggs of animals and dinosaurs, flowers make for a beautiful meadow and so on. And their wooden coins can be used to make paths for figures to follow or geographical features like rivers.

Rainbows & Stackers

Wooden rainbows & stackers are ideal tools for small world play because the pieces can be used for several different things. Rainbow arches can be turned into animal enclosures, bridges, tunnels and slides for example. Adding some complimentary building tools like semi circles or building boards can add even more small world play options to the large rainbows.

And a cave stacker’s arches can be stacked in numerous ways to become a series of mountains or hills and so on. A wave stacker’s pieces can be stacked to resemble an ocean, of course, but also slides for animals or small figures and whatever else kiddos can imagine. All stackers have multiple uses - your kiddo will find all kinds of things to do with each piece.


Maileg makes the most adorable little mice, furniture and accessories that kids completely adore. Maileg believes in making toys that kids love creating stories with, and it shows. Dreamy and whimsical, Maileg is one of our favourite companies ever.

Play Figures

Play figures are an essential for small world play. They’re a direct path to awesomely creative, open ended play. Our animal figures at our house have been on countless adventures with our son and they’re the MVPs of our at home toy box.

Sarah's Silks

Sarah’s Silks have an impossibly long list of potential uses (read more about them HERE). We especially love the Earth Silks for small world play since they mimic natural elements, and they come in three sizes (regulargiant, and mini).

Use an ocean (or any blue) silk to be a river, a pond, a swimming pool, or the ocean. Use the desert silk to be a desert or a sandy beach. Use the forest silk to be forest ground cover or grasslands for farm animals to graze on. Silks also make perfect canopies for block structures making a dreamy home for some lucky play figures.