Here’s a super fun sensory play activity for preschoolers- Winter Wonderland Small World! It’s easy to set up and inspires all kinds of imaginative play!
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*This post was originally published on January 11, 2014 and has since been updated.
This week I’ll be collaborating with five other amazing kid bloggers in our newest series- Winter Play Days. Over the next week we’ll each be sharing three creative ways to encourage play centered around the winter season for a total of 18 winter play ideas!
This year I’ve become a huge fan of small world play. It’s such a fun way to encourage imaginative play for a wide range of ages. And having both a 2 year old and a 5 year old, that’s a huge plus for me!
Disclosure: This small world DOES contain small parts that could pose a choking risk to small children. Please use materials suitable for your children and never leave children unattended. (This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.)
Winter Wonderland Small World
Our latest small world, Winter Wonderland, is full of all kinds of sensory materials and loose parts- perfect for stimulating imagination, and it’s super easy to set up! (This small world is simply meant to inspire you. Please don’t feel like it needs to be set up exactly like this one. Take what you like from it and add your own spin!)
Setting Up Our Winter Wonderland Small World
I started by finding an area in our home that’s easily accessible to both kids, as well as easy to clean up. For us, that was on our kids’ table (similar to this one) right in our kitchen. It’s the perfect height for both kids and is on a hard surface for easy cleaning.
I thought it would be fun to create a backdrop for the play area so I created a snowy background scene. I used the back of some already drawn on easel paper to cut out clouds and used a needle to thread some cotton balls on clear beading thread to make our snow.
Then I grabbed a large wooden tray and filled it with salt (one of our favorite sensory materials). I added some clear gems (which the kids later told me was an icy pond) and some of our favorite wooden animals.
I created a few trees by placing some homemade play dough on top of some cylinder shaped wooden blocks from our block set (similar to this one). And I couldn’t resist sprinkling a little fake snow over the top of them!
I had found some flat styrofoam circles and styrofoam balls at our local dollar store which I included along with some flat toothpicks. (I wouldn’t recommend using the round toothpicks with pointy ends with the styrofoam. You’ll definitely end up with some poked fingers.) I attached a few of the foam balls to a flat circle using a toothpick and then scattered the rest of the toothpicks around in the snow.
Playing with Our Winter Wonderland Small World
Once the kids got up from rest time, I invited them to play with the small world! They first inspected the salt in the tray. Theo spent a lot of time running his fingers through the salt, while Lucy used a toothpick to draw in the salt.
The kids quickly moved on to poking the toothpicks into the styrofoam. They created snowmen and all kinds of structures!
Even my 2 year old enjoyed building with the toothpicks and styrofoam!
The kids enjoyed covering the trees with ‘snow’, poking holes in the play dough, and building little dens for the animals.
And of course they were attracted to the wall decor. Theo’s favorite part was blowing the cotton balls to make a snowstorm…
… while Lucy made the snow fall below!
Lucy also decided the clouds needed a few more details.
Theo did too!
I loved that the kids actually drew on the clouds. It’s something I didn’t even think of myself, but what a great addition to the small world play!
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