When setting up little worlds I love to use a variety of materials. I like to mix the ‘set toys’ (like Playmobil, Schleich, and so on) with random items to give our small world play scenes that bit more oomph.
Now, the thing is that my random items are not all that random. I have a habit of collecting ‘cute little thingies I might use some day’. And I’m more than happy to share my go-to places for finding those small world play treasures!
The BEST places to find small world play treasures!
1. Fair Trade
My absolute favourite by far. What I love about Fair Trade shops is that their items are beyond gorgeous (I swear I would buy everything in the shop if I could) and handmade by real people like you and me. It makes me happy to know I paid a fair price and supported a local little business in some far away beautiful country.
So every time we pass our local Fair Trade shop, we go in. My little girl loves to spend ages looking at all those adorable little trinkets and carefully inspecting everything in the children’s section. We often end up talking about where a certain thing is made and how that sometimes shows in the way it looks. It’s great fun and an excellent opportunity to explore other cultures in some small way.
We use quite a few of Fair Trade items in our small world play scenes. The little animals are always a hit as are the worry dolls (who in our house always have to be everyone’s babies!) And if you’re looking for some treasure chests: look no further, there’s a whole collection of them!
2. Second Hand Shops
I know for a fact that I’m not the only second hand shop addict out there (raise your hands!) Second hand shops, thrift stores, opshops or however they are named in your corner of the world, are my greatest discovery of the past 5 years. It might take some time to get used to ‘the experience’ and to find opshops you’ll find worth visiting, but boy oh boy chances are you’ll be a convert soon if you aren’t already.
I always find some kind of treasure to use in our small world play scenes while browsing second hand shops. I’m usually on the lookout for doilies which look too cute as rugs for doll houses. Occasionally I’ll find some small wooden animals, handmade if I’m lucky. There’s often quite a collection of china, I love using their little cups and bowls as drinking troughs or to hold small treasures. And there’s always that little something that catches my eye and inspires new ideas in me. Let your imagination guide you in seeing the endless possibilities and experience the joy of recycling!
Here are our latest discoveries:
3. Craft Shops
No surprises here. Craft shops are packed with things you’ll buy end never use. I have decided to avoid the scrap-booking aisle out of fear one day I’ll fill up my trolley and spend the second half of my life making a record of the first half! But if you manage to stay focussed, you’ll find endless small world play inspiration. Big winners are beads, sequins, buttons, yarn and (of course) glitter. Again, the possibilities are endless!
A great (cheaper) alternative for craft shops are ‘$2 shops’, where a few coins can go a long way in getting some creative supplies. And because they usually stock such a variety of items, I occasionally find some random little treasures like the shiny fish tank stones we use to mimic water or ice.
Of course there is no alternative for the real thing. Going outside with a basket discovering and gathering nature’s treasures is possibly one of the greatest activities you can do with kids. There’s something invigorating about going out into nature and hear the rustling of the leaves or the breaking of the waves. Our children love running around barefoot on the beach, splashing into the waves and making their way up and down little pathways in the forest, looking for that stream we’ve been hearing for ages. My little girl always, ALWAYS, has a collection of some sort she wants to take home and will often continue to play with her treasures at home.
The flowers and leaves we find in our neighbourhood inevitably go into the fairy soup. The shells and rocks we find at the beach will find a place on small rugged coastlines for our little sea animals. And sticks and branches sometimes get used constructing forts in the sandpit.
I do realise we are extremely blessed being surrounded by the beauty of nature all the time here in New Zealand! I hope that wherever you live, you can find an outside area fairly nearby whether it’s a river, forest, park, beach, nature reserve or backyard.
Noa’s recent treasure basket adventure:
I hope you have some new ideas for setting up your little worlds at home. It really is such a fun activity and the simplest scenes can provide so many learning experiences and above all: happy times. (Do have a look at my little collection of small world play ideas here on the blog!)
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